LGBT Center hosts vigil for transgender awareness week

Students came together Tuesday night in the CSU Ballroom to commemorate transgender people who have lost their lives to violence in 2023. 

Trans Day of Remembrance is celebrated on Nov. 20 while the week before is known as Transgender Awareness Week. The holiday started in 1999 after Rita Hester, a transgender woman, was killed violently in Australia in 1998.

After a few videos were shown explaining the history behind Trans Day of Remembrance, students then went on stage and read the names of the 25 victims with a moment of silence held for each of them. 

Director of the LGBT Center Zeke Sorenson said they wanted to host the vigil to acknowledge the spike in violence against transgender people. 

“It’s important to host events like this to bring attention to that so we can start to have conversations of how we can do better and we can combat a lot of that negativity,” Sorenson said. “Unfortunately, we as a human society, when we’re faced with things we don’t understand, we don’t always react in the best way. If we’re having these discussions and not being mindful of how we’re talking about gender and people’s identities, that’s going to influence how people think and treat people who want to just exist and be seen.”

Junior Lily Martin is a student worker at the LGBT Center. Her brother is transgender and she wanted to attend to show her allyship to the LGBTQ+ community. 

“Getting to hear other opinions was really helpful because it helps me understand his world a little better and helps me become a better ally,” Martin said.

Before the names were read off, Sorenson spoke on the statistics of transgender violence across the nation. Out of the 25 transgender and non-conforming lives lost in 2023, 88% of the victims were people of color with 52% of the victims being black transgender women. More than 47% of the victims with a known killer were killed by a romantic partner, friend or family member.

Sorenson said with all the anti-trans rhetoric in legislation, it’s important to talk about gender and acknowledge and respect each other’s identities. 

“We’re a community that is more visible than we ever have before, so we need to continue to have those conversations and encourage people to try and understand if they’re having a problem understanding,” Sorenson said. “That’s not always easy to do, but we are living in a time where that is happening more and more.”

Martin said she feels disheartened to see people she loves getting attacked by the legislature that’s passed. 

“10 years ago, my brother never wanted to stay in Minnesota and now he and his wife will stay because it’s the only place they feel safe. Knowing they’re sacrificing cities they love because they aren’t safe has deeply affected me, especially knowing that I could move there and be fine, but they wouldn’t feel safe visiting,” Martin said. 

Martin said asking questions and what people’s pronouns are is an easy way to show support.

“Just because somebody looks a certain way doesn’t mean they’re going to identify that way,” Martin said. “Asking is the most important part because so many people are happy to educate, but when assumptions get made, people get hurt.”

Sorenson said one of the best ways to support transgender people is to take time to understand the history and have tough conversations. 

“At the end of the day, remember these are people behind issues and not to let the issues foreshadow the fact that these are human beings. The way we talk about things matters,” Sorenson said. 
Throughout the week, the CSU display case between the bookstore and the LGBT Center will show photos of the victims along with tips on how to be a better ally. Sorenson said if students are looking for support, they can reach out to them either in the LGBT Center or via email at

Header Photo: Students gathered in the CSU Ballroom Tuesday night to honor transgender people who were violently killed in 2023. Their photos were displayed while students held electronic candles during moments of silence for each of the victims. (Dylan Long/The Reporter)

Write to Emma Johnson at

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