City Council this week unanimously passed a first-ever resolution to honor the transgender community.
On Thursday, Councilman-at-Large Jim Kenney introduced a measure to recognize Nov. 17-23 as Transgender Awareness Week, the first time such a proposal has been made in Philadelphia.
Transgender Day of Remembrance is held annually across the nation Nov. 20, and last year, Mayor Michael Nutter commemorated the day with a first-ever city proclamation.
After the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation’s successful Transgender Awareness Week last year, local transgender activist Jordan Gwendolyn Davis approached Kenney about the city officially marking the full week.
“I just felt, given the achievements, as well as heartbreak, that has been experienced citywide, that it was too good not to pass up,” Davis said.
Although TAW is happening at the same time as the TDoR, the week should not overshadow the day event, Davis said, which is often used to commemorate those who have been murdered or violently attacked due to their gender identity.
“There is a lot of discussion about creating a message of empowerment and hope for the transgender community while recognizing the many losses that transgender people, especially those who are women and/or people of color, suffer each year,” she said.
The spirit behind TDoR is referenced in Kenney’s resolution.
“Philadelphia has recently experienced several anti-transgender murders, many of which remain unsolved,” the resolution states. “Diamond Williams, a transgender Philadelphian, was brutally murdered here earlier this year. The murders of transgender Philadelphians Kyra Kruz, Stacey Blahnik and Nizah Morris all still remain unsolved.”
The resolution continues to note that 41 percent of transgender people have attempted suicide and the community, especially transgender women of color, faces high rates of hate crimes.
But, the resolution goes on to note, TAW is a way to shed light on the strength of the transgender community, without taking away from the meaning of TDoR.
“In an effort to expand awareness of the transgender community beyond tragic headlines, Transgender Awareness Week was established to highlight the countless and invaluable contributions to society made by transgender people without distracting from the staggering levels of discrimination and violence most face on a daily basis.”
Davis, who also assisted with the crafting of the LGBT Reform Bill that Kenney sponsored earlier this year, said the resolution illustrates that the transgender community is part of the fabric of the city.
“Although there are still problems, and this resolution is ceremonial, we’ve had a lot of victories this year,” she said, citing the dropping of gender markers from SEPTA transpasses and Kenney’s reform bill, which included first-in-the-nation trans protections.
Kenney said his resolution is a way to highlight the accomplishments of the trans community, and honor all that the community brings to Philadelphia.
“The transgender population is so much more than heartbreaking headlines,” Kenney said. “Transgender people are innovators, activists, agitators, job creators, teachers and leaders. And Philadelphia thrives when they feel welcome and safe here.”
During the public-comment period Thursday, Davis said the local trans community has seen most triumphs and tragedies this past year — experiences that she said should inspire the community to stand up for its rights.
“Let us use these promises and problems, these challenges and tragedies, to take action and to make sure that, come hell or high water, we work to make respect for gender identity and authentic lives a peremptory norm in this city, “ she said.
During his own remarks to Council, Kenney said he intends for the resolution to show that the city treat all of its citizens equally.
“We are setting an example — all across the country — that we include everyone in our family in Philadelphia,” he said.
From our media partner PGN-The Philadelphia Gay News.