By Samantha Bartholomew
There were many ideas on display throughout Transgender Awareness Week, however, chief among them was freedom to celebrate.
“We’re here to celebrate each other and ourselves,” Darby Osnaya, the event’s organizer, said. “We are all beautiful people with beautiful stories.”
Transgender Awareness Week kicked off Nov. 18 with an event put on by Royalty on the Roof, a growing annual event at Riverside City Hall’s Grier Pavilion celebrating the lives and success stories of “our transgender family and community.”
“We are all royalty,” Osnaya said. “Some of us are just waiting to earn our crowns.”
The event included entertainment that featured and honored the talents and passions of the Inland Empire’s outspoken transgender community.
“There are hurdles at every turn for the transgender community, from coming out to simply living,” Osnaya said. “Tonight is about living your most authentic self.”
Being transgender is a topic that’s been making headlines lately for numerous reasons. However, living life as a transgender individual is a struggle many people don’t understand and the struggles have only increased under the Trump administration.
“We need politicians that serve everybody,” Osnaya said. “We need new blood coming into politics.”
This event was followed by a screening of “The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson,” a documentary that paints a poignant portrait of the transgender woman noted for throwing the first stone in what we now know as the Stonewall riots.
“We need to remember those that paved for the community,” event attendee Mykal Gabon said. “Because it was they who fought to get us to where we are now.”
Finally, the week concluded with the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance Nov. 19.
TDOR was launched in 1999 after the brutal murder of Boston’s Rita Hester, a crime that to this day remains unsolved. Even in death, Hester’s victimization continued as news areports consistently misgendered her and used her name in quotes.
Though Hester was not the first person to be a victim of transphobia and violence, her death became the catalyst for the launch of TDOR in San Francisco on the one year anniversary of her death.
According to the Human Rights Campaign, at least 23 transgender people were killed in 2016. The number increased to 25, the highest number of gender identity based deaths ever recorded in a year.
In a research report released in early November, the FBI found that hate crimes against transgender Americans rose 44 percent last year, making up 105 of the 124 reported gender identity based crimes.
After a year that has seen continued violence against transgender people, the LGBT community and its allies came together later this month to honor those who lost their lives and celebrate the work that’s being done to advocate for trans people across California.
“TDOR is about mourning those who have been taken from us through violence, transphobia and hatred, and it is a way of recognizing the loss that those lives represent to our community,” said Nicole Cozier, HRC Director of Diversity and Inclusion.
For RCC student Hannah Brewer, who came out to an unsupportive family in 2009, the event is about more than a community mourning.
“It sends the message that violence against transgender people is not OK and should not be accepted,” Brewer said. “Transgender people existed before this event and will continue to exist after this event and are part of your campus community.”