Standing in solidarity: Community holds vigil for Transgender Day of Remembrance

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Flo Turcotte holds a candle for the vigil during the Transgender Day of Remembrance at Depot Park Wednesday night.

"La Joha" González Leal, 26, Maracaibo, Venezuela.

Beaten. 

Kiki Fantroy, 21, Miami, Florida.

Shot. 

Nina Surgutskaya, 26, Kursk, Russia. 

Strangled or hanged. 

Juliana Ferreira, 22, Mandaguaçu, Brazil. 

Stoned. 

Eighteen pages. More than 300 names. 

For about 30 minutes, a hush fell over Depot Park. Candles flickered in palm-sized jars and loved ones huddled in the cold while the names, locations, dates and cause of death of transgender people killed around the world in the past year were read aloud. 

More than 50 people gathered at the park Wednesday night to mourn those who lost their lives to anti-trans violence this year, in honor of Transgender Day of Remembrance. 

The annual event, organized by Alachua TranQuility Community Group and the Pride Community Center, is typically held at Bo Diddley Plaza. However, it was relocated to Depot Park this year, said Kane Barr, one of the co-organizers of the event. 

Barr, 31, participated in his first Trans Day of Remembrance when he moved to Gainesville back in 2014. Over the years, he said he’s noticed an increase in visibility and recognition of the day within the community.

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Carmen King, 55, and Christopher King, 58, stand in solidarity Wednesday evening as the names of transgender people who have lost their lives to transphobic violence are read aloud during the Transgender Day of Remembrance at Depot Park. The King’s said they have a transgender daughter who lives in Holland.

Barr stressed the importance of recognizing the suffering of different groups because it affects everyone, he said. 

“It's very important that local elected officials, and even state and national officials take part in the community and in various different communities who are suffering and find ways to alleviate pain and suffering,” he said. 

Both before and after the candlelight vigil, local trans people and activists shared poetry, stories and messages of hope and unity with the crowd. 

Local organizations set up tables around the park, offering information and various resources to those in the transgender community. Some, such as Florida Name Change, provided legal services to trans people in attendance. 

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Volunteers light candles for the vigil during the Transgender Day of Remembrance at Depot Park Wednesday night.

Mayor Lauren Poe shared a proclamation on behalf of the city of Gainesville and offered his support. He said everyone should be reminded that this violence is not normal. 

“We also remind ourselves that one day, we will come together in fellowship on an evening like this and have no names to read because our work will be done,” he said.

The Rev. Christe Lunsford, a trans-masculine and non-binary minister at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Gainesville, said they participated in Wednesday night’s vigil with about 15 of their congregants, some of whom are also transgender.

Lunsford, who began transitioning five years ago, said they “bucked the system” by having their presentation not match their identification as a form of social justice.

“So many black women and women of color are killed, and it's more important to me to spend my money getting them safe documentation than me having safe documentation,” they said. “Because I walk with privilege in the world.”

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Audience members listen Wednesday night as Natalia DuPree, president and founder of the Unspoken Treasure Society, gives a speech during the Transgender Day of Remembrance at Depot Park. The Unspoken Treasure Society was founded to educate and empower transgender people of color.

Unfortunately, the number of transgender people who took their own lives or who were buried under false identities weren’t included in the list read aloud during the vigil, as they’re still unknown, Lunsford said.

“It's hard to know that over 300 people were killed for being who they were,” they said. ”If you're living your true self, you should be able to do that in the world.”