More than 60 people gathered on the coldest night of the year to remember.
They stood in the harsh wind, guarding the flames of their candles as the loudspeakers boomed the stories of 30 transgender people killed in hate crimes this year.
"I am Samantha Rangel Brandau from Milan, Italy. I was beaten, gang-raped and stabbed numerous times before being left for dead at the age of 30."
The event on Southern Methodist University’s campus Nov. 20 was part of the 10th annual National Transgender Day of Remembrance. The Remembering Our Dead Web Project estimates that two people a month, on average, are killed in violence against transgender people.
"Tonight we are here to pay homage to strangers, perhaps showing more love to them than they ever received in life," featured speaker and LGBT counselor Felishia Porter said. "We did not know them, yet we have taken time out of our lives to pause and remember."
In addition to honoring the dead, the event was intended to raise awareness of gender identity hate crimes.
"It’s important to me that we as a large community don’t forget," organizer Beth Richard said. "Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it. Well, repeating those kinds of pasts is something I don’t want to see ever again."
"This kind of hate to commit these kinds of murders does not happen over night. It’s propagated over generations," she said. "It is my opinion that the most effective response to hate is to embrace it’s antithesis — love — by loving ourselves for who and what we are.
"This is a time to wrap ourselves and each other in a blanket of compassion and tenderness while we are still alive to give and receive it," Porter said.
Richard also said the venue for the event was important.
"Things are getting better," she said. "When I was in college, it was something that just could not be talked about. But the youth in college these days have an avenue and have the resources and the ability to become who they are at an earlier age."
Karen Click with SMU’s Women’s Center echoed the sentiment.
"Southern Methodist University stands in solidarity with all those who gathered for this transgender day of remembrance and encourages our students, faculty, staff and larger community to reflect on the significance before us," Click said.
Similar events took place in Fort Worth at Agape Metropolitan Community Church and other places across the nation.
Overall, organizers considered the event an important success.
"When I think about these people who lost their lives in these horrific ways, my heart hurts," Porter said. "I wonder, did they know their worth? Did they experience the acceptance of a mother? A father? A friend? Did they ever feel love?
"That’s why we are here tonight to show them that love. And the message is strong."
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 28, 2008.