Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR)

By Giuliana Giacco

*CONTENT WARNING* (Some of the information in the linked articles may be triggering to some; read with caution.)

Since 1999, November 20th has been known as Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) due to the tragic death of Rita Hester, an African American transwoman from Allston, MA. TDOR was established by Gwendolyn Ann Smith, a transwoman seeking to memorialize people who have lost their lives as a result of anti-transgender prejudice. Gwendolyn has devoted most of her adult life to being an advocate for the transgender community and honoring the individuals we have lost because of this violence. One of her most famous pieces of work is known as “Remembering Our Dead” which was a project founded in 1998 that soon gave Gwen the opportunity to create TDOR. This day originally started out as a vigil in memory of Rita Hester, but now, two decades later, TDOR is honored in hundreds of locations across the country.

Too often these stories go unreported, so to spread awareness about the lives that were lost, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) presents the names of those individuals as well as the fatal violence the transgender community has faced in 2020.

Trans-survivors face many obstacles, and resources, shelters, and other advocacy programs are available and ready to provide the support one may need after experiencing something as traumatizing as domestic or sexual violence. Transgender folks can find themselves to be at especially high risk. According to, 31-50 percent of transgender people have experienced domestic violence, compared to the general population at 28-33 percent.  REACH provides a variety of direct services that welcome survivors of any race, ethnicity, immigration status, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, religion, or income level.  REACH’s Community-Based Advocacy Program offers a similar range of services to domestic violence survivors. This program makes it possible for these survivors to get help when they need it most, whether that be finding long-term housing, support with legal issues, or access to other resources to help survivors and their families heal both physically and emotionally.

For survivors interested in a culturally specific program, The Network/ La Red is a survivor-led social justice organization that works to end partner abuse in lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, SM, polyamorous, and queer communities.  This organization helps strengthen surrounding communities through organized education and support services to those in need. For folks looking for a trans and non-binary support group in the greater Boston area, Boston Area Trans Support aka BATS can also be a useful resource. BATS is a support group that offers emotional support, weekly meetings in a safe environment, resources, and a sense of community to those seeking help.

For those hoping to attend a vigil this year, there are a few local areas hosting online events in order to remember, reflect, and honor the lives that have been lost.

  • LexPride is an organization located in Lexington, Massachusetts and was developed to improve their community and encourage full equality for LGBTQIA+ individuals, their families, and their allies. On November 20th at 7pm, LexPride, the town of Lexington, and a number of other organizations will be virtually hosting this event to honor the lives we have lost within the transgender and non-binary community.
  • Trans Resistance of Massachusetts works towards empowering the lives of trans individuals, especially trans people of color, in hopes of improving this community and obtaining the equality they so rightfully deserve. This year, Trans Resistance of Massachusetts will be holding an online event through Zoom on Sunday, November 22 at 6:00pm to memorialize those who have passed away as a result of transphobia.

To learn more about planning an event for your community, please visit