LAST Friday evening, in the darkness of November, I took a moment to light three candles in the window of my small Glasgow flat. Around the world similar, solitary vigils took place to mark and honour transgender people whose lives were cut short through acts of transphobic violence and hatred.

This last year has been the most deadly on record for the trans community, though the number of trans people killed in 2020 is likely higher than we can even know. Even in death, we are often misgendered and misnamed.

This year, like every other, the list of dead contains a disproportionate number of trans women of colour.

Trans Day of Remembrance, or TDoR, began in 1999 on the anniversary of the murder of Rita Hester in the United States. Hester was killed in her home just ahead of her 35th birthday. Her killer was never caught. Since then, November 20 has been a day to reflect on the lives we have lost to bigotry.

With that in mind, Friday should have been a moment for quiet reflection; an opportunity to give thought to the victims of violence and to acknowledge that the fight for equality and justice across the planet has some way to go yet.

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Instead, organisations campaigning against equality in Scotland chose to mark the day by coldly attacking and undermining the lives of trans people.

Take for example the LGB Alliance, an organisation that encouraged its followers to pressure their MSPs into opposing a motion that would have acknowledged TDoR in the Scottish Parliament.

Other than the fact that the group dedicated their time to condemning a motion that recognised the victims of violent crime, they also got the most basic information wrong.

The Scottish Parliament wasn’t even sitting on Friday.

The organisation’s leader went on to seemingly dismiss the need for TDoR entirely by pointing out that no trans people had been killed in Scotland in the past year.

Thankfully, this is true – but while his solidarity for vulnerable communities may stop at the Border, ours doesn’t.

What he also failed to acknowledge was that hate crimes against the LGBT community are actually rising in Scotland and across the UK, while transphobic rhetoric continues to create the charged environment where violence becomes more likely.

There is uncomfortable reading to be done in areas around the instances of suicide and suicidal ideation in the trans community, however the LGB Alliance also took the time to dismiss key findings in this area by citing that one study done had a relatively small sample size. Unfortunately, there are similar studies with much larger sample sizes that repeatedly show the same results: that instances of death by suicide and suicide attempts are statistically higher among the trans community. A 2014 study among young people found that nine out of 10 transgender youths had considered suicide, while more than one in four had attempted to die by suicide.

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I draw attention to these figures not to shock but to make clear that there is a mental-health crisis within my community that is exacerbated by the hostile rhetoric used by our press and politicians – and that there is an ongoing effort to underplay those consequences and to dismiss the lived reality of trans people in Scotland.

Perhaps, however, the most shocking response to support for Trans Day of Remembrance came from the organisation We Are Fair Cop, a group with close links to the LGB Alliance that is made up of former police officers.

In response to a tweet from the West Yorkshire Police acknowledging TDoR which stated it was time to say no to hate, We Are Fair Cop responded with the hashtag #SayYesToHate. If there ever was one of those “are we the baddies?” moments, this should have been it.

Statistics around hate crimes are already unrepresentative of the true scale of the issue in Scotland, with many unwilling to report their experiences to the police. To see an organisation run by former police officers saying that hate is ok should give you an understanding of why.

Still, it was a marked improvement on last year’s TDoR, when an SNP MSP and Scottish Labour MSP invited a speaker who has compared transgender people to parasites to speak at the Scottish Parliament instead.

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At its core, much of the response to TDoR has big “but when is it International Men’s Day?” energy to it. Every year on International Women’s Day, this is inevitably the question asked by men across the internet, seemingly unable to comprehend that taking a day that acknowledges women does not in any way detract from the importance placed on other issues.

In that same vein, taking a moment to acknowledge the violence the trans community faces around the world does not, in any way, take away from efforts to curb racism, misogyny and every other intolerance that plagues our societies.

Gwendolyn Ann Smith, who organised the first vigil 22 years ago to mark the murder of Rita Hester, wrote in 2014: “Our killers would do their best to erase our existence from the world. And law enforcement, the media, and others would continue the job.”

The response to TDoR has unmasked a shameful refusal to acknowledge the reality for trans people in part, I believe, because it’s easier to argue that trans people should be denied access to safe spaces when you do not believe they have a need for one.

We must not let these groups erase our struggles to ease their own conscience.