Board honors those lost to violence on Trans Day of Remembrance

November 20, 2020

Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury and County Commissioner Jessica Vega Pederson led a moment of silence Nov. 19 for the 36 known transgender individuals who lost their lives in 2020 as a result of anti-trans violence. The Board observed the moment of silence before the regular Thursday board meeting in recognition of Trans Day of Remembrance on Nov. 20.

Transgender Day of Remembrance began on Nov. 20, 1999 as a vigil to honor Rita Hester, a transgender woman who was killed the year before. Since then, Trans Remembrance Day has been used to commemorate the many transgender individuals who have been killed in the years since Rita Hester’s death. 

In a statement, Commissioner Vega Pederson highlighted the disproportionate impact of anti-transgender violence on transgender women of color. She urged the County and community to continue to recommit themselves to “dismantling systems of hate and oppression that allow anti-trans violence to continue.”

“We must invest in our trans community so that they have the economic and social opportunities they deserve and we must protect our communities from acts of hate. As long as we have to recognize even one of these deaths, we are not doing enough,” Commissioner Vega Pederson said.

The rest of the Board joined Chair Kafoury and Commissioner Vega Pederson before the moment of silence to read the names of those lost, including Aja Raquell Rhone-Spears, who was killed in Northeast Portland in July. 

“While these names we read only represent the deaths we know of, the fact that we read more names today than we did last year is a poignant and grim reminder of the threat that the trans community continues to experience every day,” said Chair Kafoury after the moment of silence.

“It takes each and every one of us to make a choice to either be part of the work to build a world that fully embraces and sees the trans community for who they are, or uphold the status quo. There really is no middle ground,’’ Chair Kafoury said.. I know where I stand in this fight and I know where my fellow commissioners stand. Our board stands for the trans community and we today will honor today the memories of those who were taken from us by working for a safer, more just, and inclusive community.”

Because of the threat of COVID-19, many of this year’s vigils commemorating Trans Day of Remembrance will be held online. Additionally, Quest Center for Integrative Health in Southeast Portland will be holding free COVID-19 testing for queer and transgender individuals on Sunday, Nov. 22, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.