As the sun began to set Nov. 20, about 50 people gathered outside the Asheville Civic Center. Bearing white candles and paper banners, they marched, silently and reverently, to the Vance Monument as part of the worldwide Transgender Day of Remembrance, which honors murdered transgender people.
“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,” notes Sam Soper, founder/president of Just Us For All, which co-sponsored the local event with Alliance, a UNCA student organization.
“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, says Soper, people could do a better job of accepting the transgender 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. People just aren’t educated on it; it’s something people just need to be exposed to and learn about.”
UNCA freshman Matthew Turpin, the community-outreach coordinator for Just Us For All, said he had to prepare himself for the emotional experience of participating in the Transgender Day of Remembrance.
“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 cover it up, like the news 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.”
As a gay man, Turpin says he sees great value in such events. “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.
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