Students and faculty bowed their heads over flickering candles around the Reflecting Pond on Friday as they remembered the transgender individuals around the world who have been killed in the last year.
The Transgender Day of Remembrance was created to recognize those killed due to anti-transgender violence and suicide, said Emily Kutik, a junior information technology major, as she introduced the event.
The event is nationally recognized, but at UCF, the vigil was organized by the Multicultural Student Center.
The goal of the event is to raise awareness of hate crimes against transgender individuals, and to provide a place for people to mourn for those who have lost their lives.
The first to speak was Karen Michelle Schrader, a public speaker and diversity trainer for the inclusion of LGBT individuals.
Schrader spoke of the violence against transgender individuals, especially against transgender women. She said 25 have been killed in the U.S. this year alone, with hundreds more killed around the world.
Last year, the number was 12, which marks this year as having the largest increase in these deaths since the numbers started to be recorded in 2008.
In fact, Schrader said that out of the 167 countries that report this data, the U.S. has the third-highest rate of violent crime against transgender individuals, with the second being Mexico and the first Brazil.
She ended on a call to the action for the guests at the event, urging them to become part of the change to raise awareness about transgender rights. She suggested petitioning the university to require mandatory training for its law-enforcement officers on how to deal with transgender individuals, as well as including that training into the courses of future medical personnel.
“Society changes when people are willing to stand together,” Schrader said.
After Schrader spoke, Kutik and Mel Essick, a junior animation major, read the names of hundreds of transgender people who had lost their lives in countries all around the world, from Brazil to Japan.
“It’s an important part of my personal experience as a trans individual because I’ve been fortunate to not really encounter this sort of violence and hatred other trans individuals face, and I feel like it’s a necessity for me to stand up on their behalf,” Kutik said, when asked about what it meant to speak at the event.
Kutik wasn’t the only one who said she felt the need to be involved.
Rhi, a junior art major who didn’t feel comfortable revealing her full name, said that she spoke out for transgender students because she knew how lonely it could feel without a community.
“Even if you think you’re alone, your life still has meaning,” Rhi said. “These aren’t just names on a list."
She urged any student who is struggling with these feelings to come to Pride Commons, where there are people who can understand what they’re going through.
“It’s good to find people,” she said. “That’s what life’s about.”
Deanna Ferrante is a Senior Staff Writer and Watchdog Reporter for the Central Florida Future.