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'It takes a lot to accept your transness and to live in your truth': Iowans observe Transgender Day of Remembrance

2021 is the deadliest year recorded for transgender people, with 47 recorded homicides.

DES MOINES, Iowa — Iowans celebrated Transgender Day of Remembrance Saturday as the U.S. crossed a grim milestone: 2021 is the deadliest year recorded for transgender people, with 47 recorded homicides.

"Transgender people are four times more likely to be the victims of a crime, including rape, sexual assault, simple assault, aggravated assault," said Veronica Fowler, Communications Director for the ACLU of Iowa. "They're even far more likely to be the victim of property crimes like vandalism of their homes."

Transgender people have a broad spectrum of experiences, but the term describes a situation where a person feels that the sex they were assigned at birth doesn't match their internal gender identity. The Williams Institute found there are over 1.4 million transgender people in the United States alone.

Alexandra Gray, a Des Moines resident, is one of them. She first came out as transgender when she was 35. She said support from her family played a key role in helping her come out.

"My dad, my two uncles, in the long run for me, their opinions were the ones that really mattered," Gray said.

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That acceptance is becoming more common. Pew Research found about 42% of Americans say they personally know a transgender person—and approximately 62% of US residents supported trans rights.

"Transgender people are our friends or family, our neighbors or ministers, and we just need to all treat each other equally with respect with dignity," Fowler said.

Gray said she was friends with multiple trans women who died to anti-trans violence. She took Saturday to remember their bravery and celebrate their memories.

"Rejoice in the resilience, rejoice in the determination," Gray said. "Rejoice because it takes a lot to accept your transness and to live in your truth and to walk in your truth. I would rather honor them as pioneers and as warriors and as leaders than as victims."

President Biden released a statement marking Transgender Day of Remembrance, which read in part: 

"Transgender people are some of the bravest Americans I know. But no person should have to be brave just to live in safety and dignity. Today, we remember. Tomorrow—and every day—we must continue to act."

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