In a statement this morning, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee proclaimed today (Thursday, November 20) Transgender Day of Remembrance Day in the city and ordered City Hall be lit in Blue, Pink, and White – the colors of the transgender flag.
“Today we remember those who died tragically because of hatred and intolerance,” Lee stated. “Those lives in the transgender community will never be forgotten. And, while much progress has been made in the last decade to advance transgender rights, sadly anti-transgender violence still exists. Greater awareness is needed to end the bullying, discrimination and violence.”
Lee pointed to progress in San Francisco toward ensuring equal rights for transgender people, including in education and healthcare.
“Transgender people are our family, our coworkers and our friends, and we recommit ourselves so that no one is denied basic rights that ensure safety and success in our city,” he said.
Danielle Castro, 39, a trans woman who lives in San Francisco, said she had the idea for lighting City Hall in the transgender flag colors when she was passing the building recently and noticed it was glowing in orange for the Giants baseball team. The city’s headquarters are also lit up for other occasions, like Christmas and breast cancer awareness.
“I see City Hall lit up with so many different colors” of the “things we celebrate together,” Castro, who works at UCSF’s Center of Excellence for Transgender Health, said. She’s also noticed flags raised at half-staff to remember people who’ve died. However, she said, “What I haven’t seen them do is really include us.”
City Hall does get lit up in rainbow colors in June for the LGBT Pride celebration, but Castro said there hasn’t been lighting specifically recognizing the transgender community.
She said she approached her friend Lucky Gutierrez, the San Francisco LGBT Pride Celebration Committee’s longtime office manager, with the idea of lighting City Hall, since he’s “well connected” and “a big supporter of the trans community,” and he took the idea to officials. Francis Tsang, a spokesman for Lee, confirmed that’s how the idea came about.
“To me, the significance of having City Hall lit up with the colors of the trans flag is they’re really honoring our lives and those who have been lost through transphobia,” Castro said.
She called the lighting “historic,” and said it’s “an important time to highlight the lack of awareness about the over 200 murders that happened this year and the thousands that have happened since the beginning of the Transgender Day of Remember movement.”
Castro hopes that “other places around the world that have stopped caring” about the transgender community “will think again and see how important it is because we’re not getting any resolution to the countless murders” or the abuse transgender people face in the criminal justice system, among other issues.
Transgender Day of was Remembrance was started by Bay Area Reporter Transmissions columnist Gwen Smith 15 years ago, a year after the 1998 killing of Rita Hester, an African American trans woman who lived in Massachusetts.
The often-somber occasion is observed November 20 to call attention to trans people who have been murdered in the past 12 months.
Events around the Bay Area are planned to commemorate the day.
In San Francisco, a Transgender Day of Remembrance event will be held today from 6 to 8 p.m. at the LGBT Community Center, 1800 Market Street.
The event will include community advocates Miss Major Griffin-Gracy and Jewlyes Gutierrez, both of whom were grand marshals at this year’s Pride parade. It will also include performances by trans youth, an altar created by El/LA Para TransLatinas, and a special Hawaiian chant by trans legend Kumu Tatiana Kaneholani.
Theresa Sparks, executive director of the city’s Human Rights Commission and a transgender woman, said in a statement that despite progress, “the transgender community remains vulnerable to the clutches of hate and intolerance often resulting in unspeakable violence and death.”
Sparks urged people to “be steadfast in giving voice to our fallen brothers and sisters who remain our heroes for having the resolve to stand firm in the face of bigotry, injustice, and death in order for those who follow may live their lives out loud and their truth to the fullest extent.”