We remember the lives lost for choosing to live freely, and we celebrate how far we’ve come today.
On the 20th of November every year, we remember and celebrate the lives of all transgender people that have existed throughout history.
We remember the lives lost for choosing to live freely, and we celebrate how far we’ve come today. So today, we’re going to introduce you to 10 transgender individuals, whose lives have been lost, to keep in your minds today.
Marsha P. Johnson
Born on the 24th of August 1945, Marsha P. Johnson was a prominent LGBTQ+ activist in the 1960s and 70s. Although it is widely disputed whether or not Johnson was a trans woman or a drag-queen, she exclusively used she/her pronouns and the term transgender became more widely used after her passing. Many believe that Johnson was the first to throw a brick at the Stonewall Riots in 1969, but whether or not this is the truth we know that she was definitely on the front lines defending her community. Marsha P. Johnson was found dead on July 6th, 1992, floating in the Hudson River. Although initially ruled off as a suicide, many of her friends believed it to be more than that. Her sacrifices, battles and victories forever changed the course and lives of the queer and transgender community ❤️
Dora Richter and Karl M. Baer
Dora Richter and Karl M. Baer were the first two individuals to undergo gender affirming surgery. Dora Richter (born in 1891) was a trans woman who received her first gender-affirming surgery from Dr Erwin Gohrbandt in Berlin, 1922. She went on to receive a variety of gender-affirming surgeries over the following decade, up until her death at the hands of Nazi troops in 1933. However, for the decade in which Richter received this care and support, she was welcomed into the ‘Institut fur Sexualwissenchaft’ (translated to the Institute for Sexual Science) and given a housekeeping job by Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld - a queer researcher who delved into transgender identities and provided livelihoods and support for said individuals. Hirschfeld also completed the first gender-affirming surgery on a trans man in 1906. Karl M. Baer (born in 1885) was assigned female at birth, though it is believed that he was born intersex. He began to publicly identify using he/him pronouns in 1904 and underwent his gender affirming surgery 2 years later. Baer passed away in 1956, and not much is known of the aftercare of Baer’s surgery, nor any other patients of Hirschfeld’s as most of his medical journals were burned by the Nazi’s. Richter, Baer and Hirschfeld have gone down in the transgender community history for their pioneering steps in gender-affirming care ❤️
Rita Hester was born on the 30th of November, 1963. She never had a particular period when she ‘came out’ as such and was remembered to have always been called Rita by her friends and family. Although she was not always necessarily accepted by some of the older members of her family, Hester lived a beautiful life of travel, fun and independence. Her gruesome murder on the 28th of November 1998 took America by storm, and in light of her memory we began to celebrate ‘Transgender Day of Remembrance’ to honour all the beautiful trans lives lost throughout history ❤️
In 2023 the world celebrated the world’s first openly transgender singer to win a Grammy award, Kim Petras. However, did you know that there was a transgender artist who won a Grammy over 50 years prior? Wendy Carlos won three Grammy awards in 1970, as well as receiving nominations in following years. She did not announce her transgender status / identity until the late 1970’s, so at the time of her Grammy wins she was not an openly trans artist. Carlos is still alive today, living a quieter life at the fabulous age of 84! ❤️
I’m sure many readers will recognise this name and recall the case from earlier this year. Brianna Ghey was a 16-year-old transgender girl who was murdered by two fellow teenagers in Chester Park. Her death sparked an influx of trans rights vigil’s in her honour across the country, and the grief stricken LGBTQIA+ community showed their respect and sorrow for this life lost too soon. Her death reminded many of the ever-rife transphobia that still exists within our society today, but Brianna’s parents took this tragedy and turned it into several trans mental health programmes and support services in her memory ❤️
Born on the 13th of March 1959, Loren Cameron was a trans man who used his photography skills to capture the beauty of the trans experience. He would often photograph himself and other trans individuals in the nude to portray the real-life experiences and day-to-day living of the average transgender individual. His most famous piece of work was his book called “Body Alchemy”, which contained much of his work. Cameron passed away on November 18th 2022, committing suicide at the age of 63. His groundbreaking work into body acceptance in the 1990’s will always be remembered and embraced by the community he was so proud of ❤️
Pre-transition, April Ashley served in the Merchant Navy and waws dishonourably discharged after a suicide attempt. She went on to legally change her name to April and began to undergo gender-affirming surgeries and started her career as a model. Unfortunately, April was outed for being a trans woman in 1961 by the Sunday People newspaper which led to the collapse of her career and marriage seemingly overnight. Despite all this, April went on to receive an MBE in 2012 for her ‘services to transgender equality’ and had an exhibition in Liverpool run in her honour from 2013 to 2015. April Ashley passed away at age 86 in December 2021, after a life of hardship and triumph ❤️
Doski Azad was the victim of an “honour killing” by her brother. She was a Kurdish woman living in Iraq as a make-up artist. Her family had turned their back on her and threatening her since she came out as transgender, leaving her to support herself since she was a teenager. She was shot by her brother on the 28th of January 2022, amidst the rampant volume of honour killings that occur in the Kurdistan areas. Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be much information as to whether or not Azad’s brother was convicted of his crimes, and due to the transphobic laws that persist in Iraq it is unlikely he ever will. But Doski Azad will live on in our hearts forever ❤️
Jeffrey “JJ” Bright and Jasmine Cannady
JJ and Jasmine were two transgender siblings who were killed in February 2021. JJ was a trans male 16 year old, and his sibling Jasmine was a non-binary 22 year old. Both JJ Jasmine worked at a LGBTQ+ youth charity support group alongside their work and school called PRISM – Pride, Respect, Inspiration, Safety, Mentoring. The two were shot and killed by their mother in their family home, which HRC reported made them the eight and ninth transgender related murder’s in the year 2021. Their joy and love will never be forgotten by PRISM or any of their community ❤️
Jesús Ociel Baena
Jésus Ociel Baena was Mexico’s first openly non-binary magistrate and provided the queer community in Mexico with a beacon of hope. They were the first for many things in their country, such as the first to receive a non-binary passport and the first to receive a non-gendered professor title in electoral law. They were found dead on the 13th November 2023 at the age of 38, after having received countless death threats due to their gender and representation for the queer community. This is still a very recent case, so whilst there are accusations flying around about suspects and murderous intentions, nobody has been charged or convicted with their killing yet. Baena never let anyone tell them what to do or who to be, and the were often found in the most colourful outfits waving their rainbow fan. Their work and legacy will hopefully inspire many more like them, and they have forever changed queer history in Mexico and the wider world ❤️
Whilst we want to celebrate the wonderful lives of transgender individuals, it is important to remember the struggles and losses also experienced by the community. The transgender community is 4 times more likely to be the victim of aggravated assault, hate crimes, and death at another’s hands than cisgender people, with the majority being trans people of colour and trans women. That’s not even to mention those in the community who take their own lives, with trans suicide attempts being approximately 7 times more likely that the general population. If we want things to change we have to be aware of these devastating statistics and losses, which is why we celebrate Transgender Day of Remembrance – to remember those we’ve lost too soon and to honour their legacy.
I hope this article taught you something new and interesting, and helped you to realise that the transgender community has been prevalent throughout all of history and will continue to be! ❤️
If any of the information has been triggering for you, there are some services linked below that you can turn to for support. All the resources used to inform the writing of this article have also been linked below. Thank you, and Happy Transgender Day of Remembrance! 🏳️⚧️💙💗🤍