City Hall flag-raising commemorates Transgender Day of Remembrance

Trans man and community advocate AJ Scruggs, 31, speaks at the flag raising at City Hall. Photo by Laura Smythe

The trans flag was raised into the air at City Hall on Wednesday afternoon to commemorate Transgender Day of Remembrance, an annual observance that honors trans people who have died from anti-trans violence. 

About 40 people attended the ceremony, including city officials and trans organizers, activists and allies. 

“I get sick and tired of sometimes repeating myself over and over or going to marches over and over and being disappointed when I find out that my trans siblings are being murdered or committing suicide because of who they are,” Joniece Greer, a trans woman and community engagement specialist at Mazzoni Center, told the crowd. “But the work that we do, and the work that my trans family does, we’re doing it to make it better for us and to deal with how society views us. We are strong, resilient and courageous.”

At least 22 trans and gender-nonconforming people have been murdered in the United States in 2019, according to the Human Rights Campaign. The majority of them are women of color, including Philadelphia’s own Tameka “Michelle” Washington, a trans woman who was shot to death in North Philadelphia in May. 

“We say their names today to honor their memory and recognize that this is an epidemic that we must work together to end,” Mayor Jim Kenney said Wednesday. “Acts of violence and hate against someone because of who they are is never acceptable.”

Kenney added that LGBTQ allies have a responsibility “to stand with and up for” trans and nonbinary people and center marginalized folks in the conversations addressing the issues they experience. 

Trans activist Gwendolyn Ann Smith started Transgender Day of Remembrance in 1999 with a vigil honoring the memory of Rita Hester, a trans woman killed in 1998, according to LGBT media organization GLAAD.

AJ Scruggs, a community advocate and trans man, implored the crowd Wednesday to remember that the flag being raised represents “a human life that was taken.”

“Siblings are losing their lives. Our trans masculine folks are losing theirs as well,” said Scruggs, 31. “Remember those who we lost and remember that you have a fight to fight. Remember your task.”

Marcuz James, a 31-year-old North Philadelphia trans man, told attendees that trans people often have to be heroes for themselves, as well as others in their lives.

“As a trans man of color, it’s been ultimately difficult to operate in the city in general; it’s been difficult to operate in life in general,” he added. “When you look at us, I think that people don’t always understand what they see and that’s OK. I don’t need you to understand what you see, but I do need you to respect the same life that you have is the same life that I have. The same 24 hours a day that you have is the same 24 hours a day that I have, and what I do with this life is very, very important to me.” 

The William Way LGBT Community Center will hold an event commemorating Transgender Day of Remembrance on Nov. 20 at 6 p.m.

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