Bristol’s transgender and non-binary community mourned the victims of transphobic violence at an emotional vigil on Wednesday evening.
The vigil commemorated Transgender Day Of Remembrance, an annual day of grief marked across the globe.
Mourners gathered at Bristol’s Anson Rooms to remember the 369 trans and gender non-conforming people murdered worldwide in the past year.
The ceremony began with the reading of the names of those killed, led in part by two transgender people from Brazil and the USA- two of the countries which have seen the highest rates of transphobic murder.
Poems and speeches from members of the trans+ community addressed the issues facing them and local organisations – including Bristol Trans+ Mindline – shared information on support services in the area.
The service marks the start of Trans Pride South West, an annual event designed to validate the experiences of transgender people in the area.
Sophie, who has been involved with the event since it began three years ago, spoke of the violence facing transgender people.
“TDOR [Transgender Day Of Remembrance] remembers the people who have lost their lives through murder for being themselves,” Sophie said.
“It’s not right that every year the numbers rise again. Hopefully, in the next couple of years, if not next year, the numbers will drop down.
“The main loss of life is with trans people of colour- they’re more prone to attacks than me being a white trans person. I don’t suffer the same issues as them, but I want to give them a chance to be themselves and support them.”
Sophie also spoke of the double-edged sword of trans+ awareness; that with increased awareness of transgender people comes increased possibility for abuse.
“It is picking up worse again on the abuse side of things but there’s also a lot more people who are being vocal and supporting trans sides.
“Ideally, everyone would be out and proud and being themselves. But optimism is a dangerous game – you’ll always get one or two people that won’t accept anything, or won’t learn, or open up and get on with people.
“To think that way is probably a bit harsh but the reality is, not everyone is going to accept everyone as they are. Willingness to learn from people is the only way to move forward.”
The event concluded with speeches and poetry from local transgender people and allies, including two members of the Order Of Perpetual Indulgence, a worldwide organisation promoting love, acceptance and joy by challenging gender stereotypes and working in the community.
Sister Venus Zuela said: “When somebody dies in any circumstances, how you respect them as a human is by remembering them, by paying respects, in any culture, all around the world.
“It’s so important to keep in mind all those people who we’ve lost to violence; in our souls, we keep them, we respect them, we see them.
“It’s very important to have these spaces, these gatherings to remember the fallen, but also the other gatherings that help those who are still fighting, still struggling.”
“It’s like the way this evening ended: mourn the dead, fight like hell for the living.”