By Aadit Tambe
A total of 284 candles were lit Thursday night in honor of transgender individuals who lost their lives this past year.
The University of Iowa Trans Alliance held the Transgender Day of Remembrance Vigil at the Danforth Chapel to honor those who lost their lives to anti-trans violence.
Transgender Day of Remembrance was founded by Gwendolyn Ann Smith, in 1999, and since then, has been recognized internationally each year.
The UI Trans Alliance is a student organization is focused on connecting transgender students and allied students with each other and on forming a basis for activism and awareness, said Sean Finn, the founder of the group.
Speakers from the Alliance and volunteers from the audience paid tribute by reading the names of each who had died.
“The values of our university affirm the worth of each individual in all of their uniqueness,” UI President Bruce Harreld said. “That means we recognize not only that transgender community members must be equally valued, but they also must be recognized and celebrated for the individuality and the unique perspective [they] bring to their education, to the community around us, and to society as a whole.”
Organizing such an event is a good step forward; however, there is a long way to go, Finn said.
“This week is important as it creates awareness about a gender, and not a sexuality,” said Jennifer Jones, the coordinator of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Resource Center.
Learning about other genders and meeting with people who identify as those would help people connect on campus, Jones said.
Apart from organizing events that honor individuals of non-binary genders, in order to promote diversity, it is important to create more spaces such as the LGBTQ Resource Center, Jones said.
In spaces such as these, individuals get a safe space to be themselves and interact with other individuals identifying with the same gender.
“I think events like the vigil are extremely important. Even within the marginalized queer community, transgender individuals face added challenges that most cisgender people do not think about,” Jacob Heid, UISG LGBTQ+ senator said in an email to *The Daily Iowan*. “I think that these events help normalize the transgender experience while at the same time honoring those who died for simply being themselves and recognizing that we have a long way to go.”
The event ended with attendees creating a collage from post-it notes to recognize, honor, and show support to transgender individuals who lost their lives because of anti-trans violence.
Harreld said he stands with all those who believe in a society that makes the world safe for everyone and embraces each person’s unique self and identity.