Vigil held to remember hate crime victims

Jordan Emont/Hatchet photographer
Jordan Emont/Hatchet photographer

This post was written by Hatchet reporter Shannon O’Reilly.

A small group of students gathered in Kogan Plaza on Wednesday night to participate in National Transgender Day of Remembrance with a vigil hosted by Allied in Pride-GW’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning student organization.

The event was held in honor of two Georgetown students recently assaulted in suspected anti-gay crimes and Ty’lia Mack, a 21-year old transgender woman who was stabbed in a D.C. neighborhood in August.

“We have to be aware that these crimes are still happening,” said Michael Komo, the president of Allied in Pride. “This vigil gives all of us an important reality check.”

Komo began the event by explaining the history behind it and the importance of the night. Transgender Day of Remembrance is officially held on Nov. 20 and is celebrated worldwide.

The day was first celebrated in 1988 and started by Gwendolyn Ann Smith to honor the death of Rita Hester, a transgendered woman whose murder that year remains unsolved.

Komo told the Hatchet that last year the event was dedicated to Lawrence King, a fifteen-year-old boy who was murdered in California for being gay.

Though the wind prevented the lighting of candles, students took turns reading the names of transgender hate crime victims from incidents that have occurred in the past five years in the U.S.

Komo explained that they were reading these names “so we may never forget.” After reading the names, the group of about 17 people held a brief moment of silence and opened up a forum to share stories and reflect.

Komo opened up by talking about the progression in legislation with the recent signing of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act in October. The legislation expands the U.S. hate crime law to include crimes motivated by a victim’s gender and sexual orientation.

“We are protected but crimes like this still happen,” said Komo, who emphasized the importance of moving forward and addressed the LGBTQ’s current mission, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

The bill proposes prohibiting discrimination against employees based on sexual orientation or gender identity in non-religious workplaces with more than 15 employees.

The night concluded with a poem written by Leazabeth, a transsexual poet, called “Warrior.” Its themes echoed the vigil’s messages of acceptance and education.

Rachel Hersh, a freshman, attended this year’s vigil because she said it was a good cause.

“It is important to recognize crimes against the community,” Hersh said.

Hersh said she believes GW is doing very well in its treatment of the LGBTQ community so far. A member of Allied in Pride’s E-board, Hersh explained that setting up self-defense classes is just one of the different steps she and others are taking to make this community feel safer.

Devin Alston-Smith, a senior who is transgendered, has attended this vigil for four years in order to help create awareness, he said.

“I feel like people are supportive of the community but it is still important to get the message out.”

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