Gone, not forgotten: St. Petersburg Transgender Day of Remembrance Vigil to honor lives lost in 2017

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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ST. PETERSBURG | St. Petersburg residents are preparing to honor 25 lives lost to anti-transgender violence in 2017, in what organizers of this year’s Transgender Day of Remembrance Vigil are calling “the largest number of murders to date.”

The claim is no exaggeration. In all of 2016, according to the Human Rights Campaign, advocates tracked at least 23 deaths related to known anti-transgender violence—two fewer than the 25 known lives lost in 2017 thus far.

The vigil is a part of the national Transgender Day of Remembrance, an annual observance on Nov. 20 that honors the memory of the lives lost in acts of anti-transgender violence. It first began in 1998.

“This is a day to remember, memorialize and honor those within the transgender community who have lost their lives due to hate and bigotry,” says local gender therapist Tristan Byrnes. “It’s a day to bring together the transgender community and its allies to bring awareness to this important cause and to end the needless loss of life.”

Byrnes is one of the organizers of this year’s vigil, which will begin at St. Petersburg’s Sunshine Senior Center on Nov. 20 at 6:30 p.m. Candle-clad attendees will trek from the center to a memorial on the steps of St. Petersburg’s City Hall. Organizers advised candles will be provided, but noted that attendees should bring their own, if possible.

The memorial will feature members of the transgender community, its allies and local leaders. Currently scheduled to speak are Tristan Byrnes, Gina Duncan, Rev. Elder Dr. Candace Shultis, Dayna Walker, Taylor Burts and trans youth Ren, with the memorial ending at 8 p.m.

“This is a time to honor the lives led by amazing human beings and to bring awareness to the unfortunate hate that surrounds us,” says 6S Boutique owner and vigil organizer Andrew Citino, “as well as the love and support that there is for trans people.”

In solidarity, Watermark honors the lives lost this year. May Mesha Caldwell, Sean Hake, Jamie Lee Wounded Arrow, JoJo Striker, Tiara Richmond, Chyna Doll Dupree, Ciara McElveen, Jaquarrius Holland, Alphonza Watson, Chay Reed, Kenneth Bostick, Sherrell Faulkner, Kenne McFadden, Kendra Marie Adams, Ava Le`Ray Barrin, Ebony Morgan, TeeTee Dangerfield, Gwenevere River Song, Kiwi Herring, Kashmire Nazier Redd, Derricka Banner, Scout Schultz, Ally Steinfeld, Stephanie Montez and Candace Towns each rest in power.

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