Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) was observed on 20 November 2021, as a moment to keep in our memory those trans people whose lives were ended because they dare to live their truths. First commemorated in 1999, TDOR was founded to honour the life of Rita Hester, a black trans woman killed in an act of transphobic violence. Since then, anti-trans violence has continued to claim record numbers of trans lives annually. In 2021 alone, at least 375 trans people have been murdered. This has been exacerbated by the rising levels of fascism, cultural conservatism and religious fundamentalism that direct violence towards trans people.
To counter the forces driving anti-trans violence, we must find ways to safeguard trans people, beyond TDOR. Beyond mourning the trans people who have lost their lives, it’s critical that we work to create a world in which trans people can live and thrive. We must hold space to uplift trans health, livelihoods, creativity, joy, resilience and healing. As a fund for young feminists, FRIDA recognises the urgent need for funders to centre trans people as the experts on what they need in order to thrive as well as to move more and better resources to support trans people, particularly those at the margins such as young, black, indigenous and sex worker trans people.
This TDOR, we learn from two FRIDA staff members who are advancing justice for trans people on the importance of trans representation within philanthropy and what more can be done by mainstream feminist movements to protect trans people beyond TDOR.
A note on the participants:
Denny Mwaurah (she/they) is a Finance & Admin Officer at FRIDA and Davina Rojas (she/her) is the Transition Strategy Consultant at FRIDA.
- As a trans person working within philanthropy, what’s the significance of this representation to you?
Davina: I feel the representation of trans people in philanthropy spaces is definitely a step forward in connecting the trans activist movement with resources, especially resources that are flexible and that acknowledge the value of care for trans lives, since being alive is already a movement fight for us. As a Guatemalan trans woman working in FRIDA, I feel deeply inspired and motivated to encourage trans collectives and groups in the Global South to apply for funding and to challenge impostor syndrome in our communities, since we are used to believing resources are mostly directed to developed countries and to mainstream movements. Our lives matter and there’s work in philanthropy being done that recognizes that. This also pushes me to keep advocating for trans participation and recognition in philanthropy spaces, especially those related with human rights and gender issues.
Denny: I take it as a privilege and active duty to represent my community within philanthropic spaces and wish that more of us are continuously given the opportunity to do so. Working within philanthropy has helped me to ensure that the voices of Trans, Intersex and Gender non-conforming (TIGNC+) people are being heard; that our needs are being prioritized and included as a part of the action points being addressed within philanthropy; and advocating for more resource allocation towards the support of TIGNC+ persons. The more of us that are representing our community within philanthropy, the more we are able to safeguard our collective interests by providing guidance and accurate interpretations into the social economic justice and changes we need and that the resources allocation decisions being made have progressive and positive impacts in the lives of TIGNC+ persons.
“I take it as a privilege and active duty to represent my community within philanthropic spaces and wish that more of us are continuously given the opportunity to do so.”
- How can funders show up for trans and nonbinary communities?
Davina: Funders can show up by acknowledging that trans lives are important and sustaining them is first and foremost, since it is core in sustaining the movement. Funders can also show up by having programs or strategies that are sensitive and specific for our communities. I think there’s a great opportunity area of work in philanthropy to support trans sex workers, since many of us are sidelined to informal economy, I think supporting the groups of trans people working in sex services or informal economy is very important, as not all of us get to access education and other professional development opportunities. Also, that would be a way of honouring past trans women of color in sex work that have been at the spearhead of the LGBTIQ fights and movement.
Denny: They can help by intentionally directing funding towards initiatives that have direct positive impacts, holistically, on the lives TIGNC+ persons; and have been created and are led by TIGNC+ communities. We need to move from a programmatic mind set of funding projects that fit into funders own agenda and perceived needs of our community. The state of our intersectional lived realities can be found within our communities’ collective stories and research generated from within our communities that reflect where we need to be directing our funding efforts – socioeconomic change, security, non discriminatory policy and human rights equality that ensure the necessary protection of TIGNC+ persons and provide them with unencumbered equal opportunities. Funding TIGNC+ movements should be a significant priority for funders. Grouping our community as part of a greater funding strategy towards the LGBTIQ+ community still leaves us marginalized as greater amounts of funding still go towards mainstream LGB support. An intentional resource mobilization and funding decision model that is specifically geared towards TIGNC+ support is a necessity.
“Funders can show up by acknowledging that trans lives are important and sustaining them is first and foremost, since it is core in sustaining the movement.”
- Do you think mainstream feminist movements are doing enough to support and honour the lives of trans and non-binary people? What more should mainstream feminists movements be doing in support of trans rights?
Davina: I think there is always space for growth and improvement for any support towards gender and human rights issues. I do think mainstream feminist movements have been working very much for legal recognition of gender identity, which is important but I think that legal path is very likely to end up being as assimilationist as the marriage equality movement. There are way more support areas beyond gender identity legal recognition (which usually only applies for non-immigrant legal citizens and for non-indigenous cultures) like trans people in informal economies, sexual health and reproductive rights for trans people, transition rights, decriminalization of sex work and depathologization of trans identities. I worry that mainstream feminist movements may miss the fact that the use of pronouns or legal recognition may be the least of worries for trans sex workers or immigrants whose daily life is at constant physical risk.
Denny: We have began the journey of understanding that TIGNC+ person are our feminist siblings and form an integral part of the feminist movement. We are being included more and more into mainstream feminist organizing that has created some space for that enables visibility of TIGNC+ persons. However more can be done within the movement to amplify our voices to society within this space. Adding equality in human rights, the holistic socioeconomic well being and health of TIGNC+ folks as part of their fundamental priorities would help in accelerating the much needed positive actions towards change we wish to see happening in our lives. This would ensure that we are not left behind while progressive social change is occurring. Ensuring that spaces within the feminist movement are also a safe space for trans*, intersex and gender non conforming folks however they identify themselves as by providing equal opportunities/platforms for representation and affirming us as a part of the movement would also really help in building solidarity with TIGNC+ community within the feminist movement.
“Funding TIGNC+ movements should be a significant priority for funders. Grouping our community as part of a greater funding strategy towards the LGBTIQ+ community still leaves us marginalized s greater amounts of funding still go towards mainstream LGB support.”
- Why do you feel it’s important to honour trans lives, resilience and work beyond this day of remembrance?
Davina: I feel it’s important to honour the lives of trans people that have been victims to transphobia and bigotry, as a way of keeping memory alive, as a way of connecting with our transcestors, carrying on with their legacy, remembering the disruption they had the strength to embody and to live by. Beyond this day of remembrance, it is needed to keep their spirit alive since they paved the way for many of us and since everyday there are still trans people battling presently to stay alive and to keep being themselves. Everyday is a fight for us, so everyday deserves to be celebrated in that regard.
Denny: Our stories of survival, resilience and finding joy amidst the hardships we have faced over generations of systematic prejudice and discrimination are a teaching into our common human history. Remembering our stories, the good and the bad; and acknowledging our existence honours the lives of those who are here now and those who have been before us. We wish this space can be used as an avenue for coming together as a society to celebrate our diversity, for collective healing, bring attention to the inequalities we face and their consequences while providing hope to all of us of a more inclusive, compassionate and equitable society where we are all equal and #translivesmatter.