DES MOINES, Iowa — Transgender Day of Remembrance began as a vigil to honor the memory of Rita Hester, a transgender woman who was killed in 1998. Now, it's a worldwide event, honoring all trans people who lost their lives to violence during the year.
The first time Iowan Cecilia Martinez observed Trans Day of Remembrance, they were still in college.
"Going through, reading all the names, and just the stories was really impactful. And then just as the years have gone on, unfortunately, you know, keep having to, you know, go through it every year," Martinez said.
Martinez is a nonbinary trans person—they're one of approximately 7,400 trans people in Iowa, according to the Williams Institute. And one who's spending their day in reflection.
"Being gone doesn't mean that your impact isn't still around, but you need people to remember you for that to happen," Martinez said.
According to the Human Rights Campaign, at least 32 transgender or gender non-conforming people were murdered in 2022, with the majority of victims being people of color. Since 2013, when the Human Rights Campaign began tracking trans murders, they've recorded more than 300 trans people killed, and issues with anti-trans violence run even deeper than that.
"Being targeted for acts of violence, harassment, discrimination, assault, stalking, all of those things that individuals experience, we know that the trans community experiences them at exponentially higher rates," said Becky Tayler, Executive Director of Iowa Safe Schools.
But in the face of those threats, trans Iowans have a message for their fellow community members.
"We are in the same neighborhoods, we're in the same workplaces [...] I think people just still want to think of these communities as being completely separate when there really is so much more that connects us than there is that is different between us," Martinez said.
Hate crimes against LGBTQ people as a whole were up 51% in 2021 compared to 2020, according to a report by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University.