November 20 is recognized around the world as the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance. In preparation, the preceding week is acknowledged as Transgender Awareness Week. This week provides an opportunity to learn about transgender people, highlight their contributions throughout history, and advance advocacy towards eliminating discrimination and violence that impact the transgender community.

Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) was founded by transgender advocate Gwendolyn Ann Smith, initially as a vigil to honour the memory of Rita Hester, a transgender woman who was killed in 1998. The vigil commemorated all transgender people lost to violence that year and began an important memorial that is held annually.

Transgender Awareness

Every student, staff member and community member in our schools should experience a safe, supportive and welcoming environment. Education and representation are important tools in challenging harmful ideologies and creating spaces that allow all people to identify as and express their authentic selves. This is especially true for students who are impacted by multiple marginalizations. These students could be navigating race, creed, neurovariance, disability or newcomer identities for example as well as being transgender.

While this might be new learning for many of us, let us all be reminded that transgender people have always existed. This is not a new identity but rather a community that has been continually erased and rendered invisible, reclaiming its right to live openly. Transgender pioneers such as Lucy Hicks Anderson, Chevalier d’Eon, and Jackie Shane charted a course for today’s transgender role models like MJ Rodriguez, Vivek Shraya, Brian Michael Smith and Lucas Silveira.

For Transgender Day of Remembrance, we invite you to learn and lead lessons about the transgender community and their history.