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Transgender Day of Remembrance observed across Fresno

Friday was the Transgender Day of Remembrance, a day to pay tribute to transgender men and women who have lost their lives and advocate to end violence and discrimination against the community.

The Cross Culture and Gender Center set up a table in the Free Speech Area for awareness and information about the event. They also arranged a visual display that showed pictures of transgender individuals who were victims of hate crimes.

Krysten Cherkaski, student coordinator of Gender Programs and Services, was present to give out resources to educate students about what transgender means, the issues and more information about the event.

“We’re just trying to show that it’s an issue that happens on campus and in our own community,” Cherkaski said.

The senior, double majoring in philosophy and women’s studies, said she had informed students who were curious about their display and gave them resources to help them better learn and understand what it is about. Cherkaski said she hopes people can become more enlightened about the subject.

“I think people need to realize that you can be an advocate for causes that might not necessarily directly affect you,” Cherkaski said. “It’s a way to wake people up, and more people need to be involved with that cause, and more people need to develop that respect and that sensitivity to different experiences.”

Events for the 10th annual Transgender Day of Remembrance kicked off mid-November at Unitarian Universalist Church in Fresno where a memorial was held for transgender individuals who have been killed or committed suicide. The event included a rally, vigil and march for transgender rights.

Shortly after the tabling event, the student-run club, People Organized for Women’s Empowerment and Representation, aired a film screening of the documentary “Red Without Blue” in the Speech Arts Building. The film follows twin brothers who face many challenges and issues when one of them begins transitioning from male to female.The women’s studies department and P.O.W.E.R. organized this for students on campus in honor of Transgender Day of Remembrance.

After the screening, participants discussed the film.

Women’s studies professor Melissa Knight said,“I think it created more in terms of education. I think that it opened the students up that we’re here to a broader understanding of what it means to walk in their shoes. Listening to real people tell their stories and to see how those lives intersected the other lives in the family and community.”

Knight said she thinks the day of remembrance is important to have, but hopes soon that we won’t be a need for it in our society.

“Until we get to a point where people are not afraid of the violence that may come to them because of that from the outside world,” Knight said. “The loss of lives simply because of people being who they are is just unacceptable whether it’s suicide or homicide.”

After that, many supporters got together at the Fresno LGBT Community Center in the Tower District to march along with others toward Tower Theatre and shouted chants together on the way, such as “trans lives matter” and “transphobia has got to go.”

John Beynon, a professor of English at Fresno State, is the president of the LGBT+ Allies Network and has been involved in LGBT activism since the early ‘90s. He participates in many events to support the LGBT community, like the march.

“I always get a little excited when I get to do some chanting and marching and holding signs and that sort of thing,” Beynon said.

He said he was happy to help out a great cause and support the movement.

“It’s really important because as long as we have that kind of violence and that kind of loss, then it needs to be commemorated and there needs to be awareness brought to it,” Beynon said.

Spearheading the march was transgender activist Zoyer Zyndel who is currently a graduate student pursuing social work. Zyndel is also the chair for Trans E-Motion which organized the march. Zyndel said they had a lot of people show up to march and support, but they are always in need of more people to spread their message.

“We need them to advocate for our rights,” Zyndel said. “It’s not just a transgender issue; it’s a human issue. Injustice for one is injustice for all.”

Zyndel said there is something everyone can do to get involved, support the community and prevent violence against transgender people.

“What can we do is make a lot of noise,” Zyndel said. “That’s the solution. Make a lot of noise and get the support of people who can make serious decisions.”

Everyone marched and stood together in front of the Tower Theatre together with signs to show their support and passion. A few speakers, such as Karen Adell Scot spoke out to everyone at a vigil to remember those lost and discuss perspectives on the issue at hand.

Scot recently received national media attention after coming out two years ago as a transgender woman and worked as a teacher in Oakhurst. Scot is the founder and executive director of transcare, an organization that helps transgender individuals going through transition.

“We’re being dehumanized by the culture, making us seem as not human,” Scot said. “We deserve to live our lives like anyone else. We don’t deserve that. It’s wrong. It shouldn’t happen.”