Atlanta honors Transgender Day of Remembrance with vigil at City Hall
As Atlanta celebrates Transgender Awareness Week, advocates say resources for the community here are growing but still not enough.
At a vigil at Atlanta City Hall on Friday, a coalition of advocacy, community and health organizations gathered to remember and celebrate trans people known to have died so far this year from targeted attacks. Community leaders also emphasized how visibility is one important step to increasing Atlanta’s resources.
“At the end of the day it’s not our job to live in fear, because we’re tasked with an assignment,” said Toi Washington-Reynolds. She’s the executive director of the Trans Women of Color Healing Project, which provides community and care to trans women in rural Georgia communities.
“I like to do the important work on what was important to them, and building on that so we can build legacy,” she said.
The night after the vigil in Atlanta, a 22-year-old gunman opened fire in an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colorado, killing five people and leaving 18 injured.
So far in 2022, at least 32 trans people have been killed, with at least two of those deaths in Georgia. And according to a report by the anti-gun violence group Everytown for Gun Safety, known homicides involving trans people nearly doubled from 2017 to 2021.
In that time, community organizations have formed to build safety and visibility for trans people.
Quinton Reynolds is the executive director of one of those organizations — Game Changing Men in Newnan. He started Game Changing Men in 2021 to fill gaps in services for transmasculine people.
“We are often the last to get any resources,” he said. “On top of that, the societal barriers that are put on masculine identifying folks also fall on transmasculine people.”
Those barriers can look like navigating being open about emotions and comfortable with vulnerability as a masculine person. Reynolds’ organization has numerous support groups, educational sessions, workshops and health resources in addition to career development and job placement.
He said he hopes these resources help break down barriers for black trans men, especially by providing healing spaces to address toxic masculinity and promoting wellness for communities of color.
And this year, a new center for LGBTQ+ resources opened in Atlanta. In May, Destination Tomorrow — which started as the only LGBTQ+ center in the Bronx — opened its first location in the South.
Octavia Lewis is the chief advocacy and policy officer for Destination Tomorrow.
“Representation matters,” she said. “We can come together and we can get things done. This is only the start for us.”
She and several other speakers at the vigil emphasized the importance of celebrating, empowering and embracing trans people while they are alive.
“We want to take the power back and say, ‘Yes, while we are honoring those that we have lost, we’re also going to take this moment to remember those that are still fighting the struggle,’” she said. “We’re not going to wait for their pictures to be up on the video screen, or for us to just read their names in the paper, for us to acknowledge them.”
Investigators are still working to determine a motive in the Colorado Springs shooting and it’s unclear what the gender identities of the victims are, but the shooting came during Transgender Awareness Week and hours before Sunday’s International Transgender Day of Remembrance, when events around the world are held to mourn and remember trans people lost to violence.