Content warning: violence, hate crimes, and transphobia
November 20th, Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR), stands as a pivotal chapter in our collective awareness. Started in 1999 by transgender advocate Gwendolyn Ann Smith to hold vigil for Rita Hester, a Black transgender woman who lost her life as a result of transphobia and anti-trans violence. While transgender visibility has increased significantly over the past two decades, transphobia has continued to harm and take the lives of transgender individuals for simply existing.
According to a 2021 study by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law, transgender individuals are over four times more likely than cisgender individuals to experience violent victimization. This year, at least 36 transgender and gender-diverse individuals have been murdered across the country, with the actual number likely higher due to underreporting or misreporting.
TDOR prompts reflection not just on lives lost but also on the distinct challenges faced by transgender individuals, including those experiencing homelessness. In Austin, our local Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) data reveals the unique struggles of this community, emphasizing the crucial need for inclusivity, tailored support systems, and a commitment to addressing the vulnerabilities of transgender individuals experiencing homelessness.
Austin/Travis County HMIS Data Insights:
- Transgender and gender non-conforming clients are more likely to be living unsheltered relative to all people experiencing homelessness in Austin/Travis County
- A higher proportion of women experiencing homelessness in Austin/Travis County are transgender, relative to men
- Among those experiencing homelessness in Austin/Travis County, transgender people are nearly 10 times as likely to be living with HIV or AIDS relative to cisgender people
- Transgender people experiencing homelessness have nearly 130% the chronic homelessness rate of cisgender people experiencing homelessness
- Transgender people experiencing homelessness have nearly 150% the chronic illness rate of cisgender people experiencing homelessness
*This data is from people experiencing homelessness in Austin as of October 2023 who have completed Coordinated Assessments
On this Transgender Day of Remembrance, let us mourn those we have lost and also channel our empathy into tangible action. The transgender community in Austin requires more than acknowledgment; it necessitates comprehensive support systems, accessible healthcare, and initiatives addressing the unique challenges faced by unhoused individuals.
Transgender individuals experiencing homelessness are not just statistics; they are individuals with unique stories, dreams, and the right to dignity. The fight against homelessness is a collective responsibility, and by understanding and addressing the specific challenges faced by transgender individuals, we move closer to a more compassionate and just society.
2023 Austin TDOR Vigil
If you or someone you know requires help or support:
LGBTQ+ National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
Trevor Project Lifeline: 1-866-488-7386
Trans Lifeline: 1-877-565-8860
LGBT National Hotline: 1-888-843-4564
Trans & Gender Diverse Organizations
LGBTQ+ Grief Group Online
Hospice Austin has started an online Monthly drop-in grief group for the LGBTQ+ community. This drop-in group is for adults in the LGBTQ+ community who are grieving the death of a person in their life at any point after the loss. There is no cost to attend, and no pre-registration is required. You can find more details here.