Trans Day of Remembrance

My name is Nathan Barnett and I’m a trans man. I began my transition as I entered my first year of university a little over three years ago. I can still remember going to my orientation, writing “Nathan (he/him)” on my name tag, and feeling my heart pounding out of my tightly-bound chest. Even now, thinking about it, I can feel the anxiety. I was so visibly trans, something that is both a privilege and an extremely unsafe thing to be. 

Now, I work as a student leader on my campus and I’m very open about being trans (to the point that I’m usually surprised when people don’t know I’m trans). I have been extremely privileged to get where I am – I’ve had a good support system, I’m white, middle-class, in post-secondary. Many trans folks, especially those who are racialized or trans feminine, do not have these privileges. 


In Ontario alone, 20% of trans people have experienced physical or sexual harassment on the basis of being trans, and 34% have been verbally harassed. More than half of trans Ontarians have symptoms consistent with depression, and 43% have attempted suicide. Two-thirds of trans people have avoided situations for fear of being outed as trans, a number that rises to 83% for trans people who are out. 57% have avoided public washrooms. 21% have avoided emergency rooms because they are trans – and of those who did go, 29% did not receive the care they needed and 56% had a negative experience. The median income of trans Ontarians is $15,000 – well below the provincial poverty line. [1]


Trans Day of Remembrance is held every year on November 20th – the anniversary of the murder of Rita Hester, a trans woman who was killed in 1998 and whose murder has still yet to be solved[2]. To wake up every day as a trans person is an act of resistance and revolution. Trans Day of Remembrance is an observance of the people we have lost in the past year, as well as a celebration of those who are still here. 


As we finish Transgender Awareness Week and prepare for Trans Day of Remembrance, I want to offer some ways we can observe Trans Day of Remembrance, as well as celebrate and support trans people throughout the year:

1.  Attend a Trans Day of Remembrance vigil

Every year, different organizations hold vigils that include a name reading of those who have died within the past year as a result of transphobia. This year, of course, it looks different, with many vigils being held virtually. Research organizations in your area that are putting something together, and where there is something, attend. If you can’t find one to attend, go through this list of trans people who have died in the past year and have your own moment of silence and mourning:


2.   Consume trans media made by and starring trans people

Movies, books, TV shows, podcasts – whatever your preference, find media by trans creators. Often times, depictions of trans people are written by cis people and perpetrate harmful stereotypes about trans people – stereotypes that are often used to justify the violence done in real life against trans folks. I’ve listed some of my personal favourites here, but there are many different types of media out there.

Books (fiction)

  • Stay Gold by Tobly McSmith
  • Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas
  • Dreadnought by April Daniels 
  • Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller
  • I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver

Books (non-fiction)

  • Gender Outlaw by Kate Bornstien 
  • Trans Like Me by C.N. Lester
  • Gender Failure by Rae Spoon and Ivan Coyote 
  • Tomorrow Will Be Different by Sarah McBride 
  • Sissy by Jacob Tobia
  • All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson

Movies & Documentaries

  • Boys Don’t Cry* 
  • Tangerine
  • Saturday Church
  • Disclosure
  • Paris is Burning
  • Man Made
  • Life and Death of Marsha P Johnson


*Ok, so this one isn’t starring a trans person but it is generally revered as the trans movie so I feel obligated to list it. 


TV Shows

  • Sense8 
  • Pose 
  • The OA
  • Queen Sugar
  • Star Trek: Discovery


  • History is Gay
  • Queersplaining 
  • Call Me By My Name Project
  • Getting Curious with Jonathan Van Ness

3.  Donate to a trans person 


If you’re financially able, donate to a trans person’s survival or surgery fund. Trans people are more likely to live in poverty and experience financial precarity. And even with universal health-care in Canada, affirmative care – life-saving healthcare such as surgeries and hormones – is often only partially covered, with some necessary aspects considered to be “cosmetic”. This can be a debilitating financial burden to accessing lifesaving care.  

Whenever I get to this time of the year, I can’t really put my emotions into words. I am proud to be trans, and I love it — I love the community, the understanding I have of myself, the experiences and histories of being trans. But I’m also terrified. My community is being massacred; we are experiencing genocide. I read through the stats I mentioned above and I see real violence and death, and numerous other things even I can’t imagine. I stand where I am because of the people before me, and because I want to make the trek an easier path for those behind me. But trans people cannot change a system by ourselves. Trans Day of Remembrance is more than an observance of the countless lives lost: it is a mandate to do better for those still here.