Speech to Coventry Uni about TDoR 2016

Transgender Day of Remembrance is held every year on November the 20th. Tonight (18th) I had the opportunity to speak at Coventry University about TDoR ahead of this year’s commemorations. I’ve decided to publish my speech, so please find it below.

Aimee Challenor speech to Coventry University LGBTIQA+ Society TDoR Event

18th November 2016, Coventry, United Kingdom.

[CN: Discussion of murder, suicide, transphobia]

I’d like to thank the LGBTIQA+ Society for welcoming me to Coventry University this evening. I’d also like to thank all of you for coming. It’s a bit surreal really, this time last week I was sat up there where you are, listening to one of my favourite authors in the annual peace lecture, and now I’m stood here where he was, talking to you.

We’re here to recognise and discuss Transgender Day of Remembrance which will be recognised this Sunday the 20th, all across the world, including Coventry, we have an event at the Central Methodist Hall in town on Sunday from 4 until half past 6. Transgender Day of Remembrance has been commemorated since 1999, always on November 20th, in memory of Rita Hester who was murdered in 1998.

Aimee Challenor speaks at Coventry University ahead of TDoR. [Photo credit: Baloo Challenor]

Aimee Challenor speaks at Coventry University ahead of TDoR. [Photo credit: Baloo Challenor]

This year has been a turbulent year for trans rights. From the Women and Equalities Parliamentary Select Committee report on Transgender Equality, listening to a lot of evidence from all across our community, and those that work with us, before making a report and a whole list of recommendations. To House Bill 2, the so-called bathroom bill, in North Carolina which restricts our rights when using businesses, most notably going to the bathroom. We’ve also seen two really nasty, divisive political campaigns, both of which demonised equality and human rights.

Sadly, this year we see a rise in the number of people we remember on Transgender Day of Remembrance.  This year we remember 295 people murdered just for being themselves, an increase on last years 271, and 2014’s 226. We also remember the countless number of trans people who sadly take their own lives each year. Statistics show that nearly half of trans youth and a third of trans adults attempt suicide.

Transgender Day of Remembrance is important because it highlights the risks, abuse, and terrors our community faces each and every day, not just from the general populace but also from institutions and government bodies. It’s important because it brings us together to reflect, to mourn, and to make sure that these people are remembered.

It’s important to note that a disproportionate amount of the people we’re remembering are trans people of colour.

We’re also seeing a horrific increase in the amount of hate crime happening in the UK. Between 2014 → 2015 police recorded 605 transphobic hate crimes, almost double the amount reported in 2011 → 2012 (310).  Following the divisive Brexit debate earlier this year, the charity Galop recorded a 147% increase in hate crime against LGBT+ people between July and September.

The statistics show that the failure to understand and respond to the basic needs of trans people, including basic rights, is leading to widespread loss of life and distress amongst our community.

As a society, we need to work harder to challenge transphobia. In the UK particularly we need to redouble our efforts to battle discrimination, in schools, in our workplaces, and in the media. We don’t have to remember far back to see the media attacking trans people, it was only halfway through October that the Daily Mail attacked the charity Mermaids. Of course, the Daily Mail is the same paper that caused the suicide of openly trans teacher Lucy Meadows in 2013.

I want to thank, and applaud my fellow trans people who have joined us tonight, being trans is not easy, and you’re all awesome. Please, keep up the fight.

  • We need reforms to our system in the U.K.
  • We need to allow trans people under the age of 18 to legally change their gender
  • We need to give non-binary people recognition and equal status in law
  • We need to put an end to the medical, quasi-judicial system of going in front of a Gender Recognition Panel and move to a system of self-declaration

Of course, I could go on. There are many changes to be made, which means there is a lot of work to be done, but this isn’t exactly radical, nor some leftie plot, in fact even the Women and Equalities Parliamentary Select Committee says that the NHS is, and I quote “letting down trans people: it is failing in its legal duty.”

When you leave here tonight;

  • Remember the 295 trans people who were murdered just for being themselves,
  • Remember the countless number of trans people who were driven to suicide because of transphobia,
  • Pledge that you will take steps to tackle transphobia, and support the trans community,
  • Promise us that you will stand by our side as we fight for our basic human rights and dignity.

Please attend Coventry Pride’s TDoR event on Sunday, we have a diverse range of speakers, and it promises to be a very moving event and remember, everyone is fighting something in their lives that we know nothing about, so be kind, always

I will end this talk, as I usually end similar talks, by quoting the words of Leelah Alcorn, a 17-year-old trans girl who sadly took her life in December 2014 after being forced into conversion therapy by her parents, and facing very severe transphobia on a daily basis. “Fix Society. Please.”