Vigil supports Transgender Day as violence echoes in Boston, U.S.

Vigil for Transgender Day of Remembrance at First Parish, Nov. 20, 2022. / Helene Newberg photo.Vigil for Transgender Day of Remembrance at First Parish.  / Helene Newberg photo

UPDATED Nov. 22: Approximately 75 people attended a candlelight vigil the evening of Sunday, Nov. 20, on the meetinghouse lawn of First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church to commemorate Transgender Day of Remembrance.

Kym Goldsmith, a member of Arlington’s LGBTQIA+ Rainbow Commission, opened the event by mentioning the fatal mass shooting that took place in a LGBTQIA+ nightclub in Colorado Springs the night before and the latest bomb threat made against the transgender health program at Boston Children’s Hospital just days earlier. 

“We still have a long way to go before LGBTQIA+ people can live their lives in safe, affirming spaces and communities without the threat of violence,” Goldsmith said. “That is why we are here tonight. It is clear that there is important work to be done, and I’m grateful we are all making a point to do it today and every day.”

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Transgender Day of Remembrance takes place annually on Nov. 20. The day is marked by events around the globe honoring transgender and gender-diverse people who have lost their lives to violence motivated by bias.

Transgender Day of Remembrance grew out of the reaction of greater Boston’s LGBTQIA+ community to the 1988 murder of Boston resident Rita Hester and the media’s reporting about the event, which included misgendering Hester in its coverage.

Goldsmith urged attendees to honor the memories of those who have lost their lives to antitransgender violence by taking action, noting that members of the town’s Rainbow Commission “do this by advocating for the transgender and gender-diverse residents of Arlington not just in November, which is Transgender Awareness Month, but every month of the year.” 

The Rainbow Commission worked with the Arlington Police Department to update department policy on interacting with gender-diverse people. [The commission has also partnered with administrators in Arlington Public Schools] to make APS a safer, more welcoming place for LGBTQIA+ students, caregivers and teachers.”                                        -- Kym Goldsmith, LGBTQIA+ Rainbow Commission member

“The Rainbow Commission worked with the Arlington Police Department to update department policy on interacting with gender-diverse people,” Goldsmith said, adding that the commission has also partnered with administrators in Arlington Public Schools “to make APS a safer, more welcoming place for LGBTQIA+ students, caregivers and teachers.” 

After advocating for years for improved professional development on LGBTQIA+ issues, Goldsmith added, districtwide training will be made available to all teachers and staff for the first time this school year. 

Select Board member Eric Helmuth, who is gay, told attendees that the town of Arlington welcomes and supports transgender residents. “We honor the courage it takes to speak and to live the simple truth about who you are,” Helmuth said. “And we will do our very best to make Arlington a safe and welcoming place.” 

That promise was echoed by the attendance at the vigil of town officials and employees, including School Committee member Paul Schlichtman; Teresa Marzilli, Arlington community outreach and engagement coordinator; Arlington Human Rights Commission Cochairs Christine Carney and Rajeev Soneja; and Human Rights Commissioner Melanie Brown. 

Pronoun poem

The vigil also featured a reading of the pronoun poem, “They,” by First Parish member Ruben Hopwood, a nationally known expert on gender-affirming health care. 

First Parish Rev. Erica Richmond closed the event by inviting attendees to reflect on the lives lost to violence. The vigil ended with a moving, one-minute tolling of church bells to honor all those affected by antitransgender violence.  

Afterward, LGBTQIA+ Rainbow Commission Cochair Lisa Krinsky said, “With politically motivated attacks on transgender and gender-diverse children, adolescents and their families escalating across the country, including here in Massachusetts, it is more important than ever for community leaders — including faith, education, law enforcement and political leaders — to publicly show their support of transgender and gender-diverse members of their community. We’re grateful to everyone who attended and who supports the daily work of making our community safer and more welcoming for everyone.” 

The event was organized by the LGBTQIA+ Rainbow Commission and co-sponsored by Arlington’s Human Rights and Disability commissions.  

 Nov. 8, 2021: Transgender remembrance; read blog history

This news summary by Susan Ryan-Vollmar, cochair of the Arlington LGBTQIA+ Rainbow Commission, was published Monday, Nov. 21, 2022, and updated Nov. 22, 2022, to add a link to more photos and to provide a more accurate estimate of the crowd size.

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