As the sun started to set on Sunday Nov. 20, about 50 people gathered outside of the Asheville Civic Center for the Transgender Day of Remembrance. Holding white candles and paper banners, they marched in silence and reverence to the Vance Monument as part of this worldwide event that memorializes those who have been killed due to anti-transgender hatred or prejudice.
The event was co-sponsored by two local groups, Just Us For All and UNC Asheville Alliance. According to founder and president of Just Us for All, Sam Soper, participating in international event allows for a moment to not only remember, but to realize the importance of giving people proper respect while acknowledging differences and accepting them.
“A lot of people when they pass away from being murdered and being trans, they don’t have families or they lost the life that they once had when they were identifying as another gender,” Soper says. “Along with that goes that basically no one’s really paying them respect. There’s also just recognizing and looking at the amount of trans-phobic behavior in our society and how accepted it is in some ways.”
Even in Asheville, Soper says people can do better when it comes to accepting the trans community. “We still have tourists that come from out of town, we don’t have gender-neutral bathrooms and I get questions a lot about trying to use different pronouns,” Soper explains. “People just aren’t educated on it, it’s something people just need to be exposed to and learn about.”
For UNC Asheville freshman and community outreach coordinator for Just Us For All, Matthew Turpin, it was his first time participating in the Transgender Day of Remembrance. Before walking down to Vance monument, he prepared himself for an emotional experience.
“The transgender community is obviously underrepresented in society and the violence against them can’t go unnoticed,” he explained. “If we continue in our society to of cover it up, like on the news and not reporting it, or reporting it with the incorrect pronouns and not really giving respect to the person, then nothing will ever change and they’ll just continue to be like an outsider to society.”
However, as a gay man, Turpin says he sees great value in taking the time to remember those who have lost their lives due to trans-phobic behavior. “If we go to a remembrance like this and we realize that the violence is happening, we’ll also realize that, ultimately, we can do something to change that. While there’s not something that’s just going to happen overnight, through education and the realization and acceptance, violence will decrease,” he says.
If people would like to get involved with Just Us For All, the group meets every Sunday at 7 p.m. Just Us For All is an educational-based queer advocacy group.
Photos by Megan Dombroski