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Today's Transgender Day of Remembrance Honors the Dead

By Joseph Erbentraut in News on Nov 20, 2009 6:20PM

2009_11_20_tdor.jpg The gruesome murder of 19-year-old gay man Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado in Puerto Rico last week has shone new light on the potentially life-threatening dangers facing those who do not easily slide into our society's conventions of gender. He, and 161 others murdered due to anti-transgender violence and prejudice, are memorialized worldwide today as part of Transgender Day of Remembrance.

Mercado was decapitated, dismembered and burned upon murderer Juan A. Martinez Matos's discovery that the "woman" he was propositioning for sex was actually male. In defense of his actions, Matos is reportedly expected to claim a case of "gay panic," i.e. the claim his violence was the result of "a moment of temporary insanity." Speaking on the case, police investigator Angel Rodriguez said, "These types of people, when they enter this lifestyle and go out into the streets know that this could happen." It is not, as of yet, being investigated as a hate crime.

Other victims memorized this year include names like Tyli'a "NaNa Boo" Mack, 21, who was stabbed to death in broad daylight blocks away from a transgender support center in August. Paulina Ibarra, 24, was stabbed later in the same month in her East Hollywood, Calif. home. Andrea Waddell, 29, was strangled before her flat in Brighton, U.K., was set on fire in October. Jeva Padilla, 23, was tortured with burns and mutilated genitals before being shot 40 times in Santiago, Dominican Republic. The gruesome crimes - many left unsolved - span nearly every continent and speak to the transgender community's undeniable position as the most vulnerable component of the LGBT community.

In commemoration of the lives of those lost, Chicagoans are gathering in candlelight vigils today (Friday), including one at the University of Illinois at Chicago's East Campus Quad, 750 S. Halsted, 12:30-2 p.m. and another at the University of Chicago's Bartlett Quad, 5600 S. University Ave. The Day of Remembrance is also central to the Center on Halsted's Night of Fallen Stars, held Saturday at 5:30 p.m. The gala event will feature the talents of many of the city's best transgender performers.

Mercado's death is also being specifically memorialized with a vigil and march Sunday, Nov. 22, from 4-6 p.m., held in solidarity with similar demonstrations nationwide. The march will assemble at the intersection of Division & California before proceeding to the Humboldt Park Boat House.

Don't know much about transgender issues? These events offer a fantastic opportunity to change that. Educate yourself, get out and speak out against gender persecution.