Minnesota events will honor transgender people killed this year across U.S.

Nov. 20 is Transgender Day of Remembrance, when people around the world honor transgender, nonbinary and gender-nonconforming people who have been violently killed

Trans rights are human rights sign
A demonstrator holds up a sign during a march to mark International Transgender Day of Visibility in Lisbon, Portugal, March 31.
Armando Franca | AP

On Thursday, Minneapolis City Council Member Jason Chavez announced an honorary resolution observing Transgender Day of Remembrance.

“Transgender Day of Remembrance is also observed as Transgender Day of Resilience to celebrate the resilience and power of trans and gender-nonconforming people still living, fighting for their safety and protecting each other,” Chavez said during the council meeting. “Transgender and gender-nonconforming people deserve the resources and protections necessary to be celebrated in life, not only death.”

In 2020, Gov. Tim Walz officially recognized Transgender Day of Remembrance for the first time in Minnesota. On Nov. 20, Minnesota joins other states and countries in honoring the memory of transgender lives lost to anti-transgender violence.

Why Transgender Day of Remembrance matters

Transgender Day of Remembrance was founded in 1999 by Gwendolyn Ann Smith in memory of Rita Hester, who was killed in 1998. Since then, it’s been a day to memorialize the transgender and gender-nonconforming people who are murdered every year. Transgender people are far more likely than cisgender people to be the victims of violence. 

The Human Rights Campaign reports at least 32 transgender and gender-nonconforming people have been violently killed in the U.S. in 2022.

“Most of the victims were Black trans women, a tragedy that reflects an appalling trend of violence fueled by racism, toxic masculinity, misogyny and transphobia and the politicization of our lives,” Tori Cooper, director of community engagement for the Transgender Justice Initiative, said in a Human Rights Campaign report this month.

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The proclamations from 2020 and 2021 state Minnesota celebrates the lives of transgender, gender-nonconforming, and nonbinary Minnesotans. While Minnesota’s proclamation does not specifically name Two-Spirit people among those it honors, the Human Rights Campaign does. Two-Spirit is a traditional Native American third-gender identity.

Notably, Human Rights Campaign tracking shows no transgender people have been killed in Minnesota since at least 2015. Among known transgender people killed in Minnesota is Krissy Bates, who was murdered by her boyfriend in a downtown Minneapolis apartment in 2011.

Celebrating transgender resilience

Alongside remembrance is the resiliency of the transgender and gender-nonconforming community, which has made headway in Minnesota government and policy. 

Andrea Jenkins made history in 2017 when she was elected to the Minneapolis City Council, becoming the first openly transgender Black woman to be elected to public office in the United States. Since January she has been the council’s president.

Leigh Finke will be the state’s first openly transgender legislator in the Minnesota House of Representatives. She won state house district 66A this month with 81 percent of the votes.

A woman poses for a photo at an election night party
Leigh Finke poses for a photo during her primary election night party at Bang Brewing in St. Paul on Aug. 9.
Ben Hovland | MPR News

Another positive for transgender people in Minnesota is the law around legal names. Those in the transgender and gender-nonconforming community can change their name legally in Minnesota on their birth certificate and license fairly easily.

The Human Rights Campaign list does not include suicides, but that is another big concern within the community since 82 percent of transgender people have considered it and 40 percent have attempted, according to data published in 2020. Thankfully, there is a network of Minnesota therapists specifically for LGBTQ+ people that was established in the 1980s. There is also an executive order restricting conversion therapy in Minnesota since conversion therapy greatly increases the odds of transgender and gender-nonconforming people attempting suicide.

Many attend vigils on this day, but there’s more that you can do to honor and remember through education, respecting pronouns, and volunteering at transgender organizations such as OutFront, National Alliance on Mental Illness, and the Minnesota Transgender Health Coalition.

More Transgender Day of Remembrance kindles sadness, celebration

Transgender Day of Remembrance events in Minnesota 

Some college and university campuses are holding a vigil early on Nov. 18.

The following vigils will be held on November 20.

Resources for LGBTQ Minnesotans