The Unitarian Universalist Service Committee advances human rights through grassroots collaborations.
Rest in Power: Honoring Trans Lives on the Trans Day of Remembrance
By UUSC Staff on November 18, 2022
*Warning: this post includes descriptions of and links to graphic information about anti-Trans violence and bigotry.
Melissa Núñez was a 42-year-old trans activist from Honduras. Because she knew that she faced persecution and violence in her home country, she came to the United States seeking refuge. But U.S. authorities denied her plea for asylum and deported her back to Honduras in December of last year. There, she was killed on October 22 for being who she is and expressing her gender identity. The people who murdered her were wearing hoods.
Melissa is one of 367 trans people whose names and stories are recorded in the Trans Lives Matter resource: a project to help communities honor and commemorate the annual Trans Day of Remembrance on November 20. The project’s organizers invite faith communities and congregations around the country to read the names aloud of trans people whose lives were taken, in ways both direct and indirect, by transphobic violence around the globe.
In honoring the Trans Day of Remembrance last year, UUSC’s partner the Queer Detainee Empowerment Project (QDEP) reminded us of vital truths: November 20 is not only a time to mourn; it is also a time for trans, nonbinary, gender-nonconforming and other LGBTQIA+ people to “take a breath, and allow ourselves to celebrate being alive.” This day is not only about loss; it is also about celebrating the dignity and power of trans people.
QDEP’s words on the 2021 Trans Day of Remembrance also reminded us that Transphobia is intersectional and structural. It is intersectional because trans people hold many identities, and the violence they experience is inseparable from patriarchy, misogyny, anti-Blackness, racism, settler colonialism, and other forms of oppression. The violence is structural because it is perpetrated through policies and systems as much as through individuals.
Melissa’s story as well reminds us of these truths. The people who killed her did not act alone. Her murder was facilitated by a U.S. government that systematically excludes, criminalizes, cages, and deters people seeking asylum—particularly immigrants and refugees of color. Anti-asylum policies like Title 42—recently struck down by a U.S. district court—and the deeper patterns of racism and exclusion that underlie them make the U.S. government—and ultimately all of us—complicit in her death.
Anti-trans violence happens in every country and every part of the world. In these varied contexts, it intersects and overlaps with other forms of violence: the systematic devaluation of women’s bodies, anti-Black violence, and the persecution and criminalization of sex workers. When society’s power structures send the message that some lives are worth less than others and some human beings belong at the margins, individual acts of terror and violence result.
Because this violence is intersectional, the only way to overcome it is to work in solidarity across our identities. And because it is structural, it can only be resisted by changing the systems that make it possible. In recent days and weeks, we have celebrated some progress toward ending Title 42 and restoring some protections for refugees from Honduras and elsewhere. But the deeper causes of these policies remain behind. Your work and voices are still needed.
Below are the names of 10 trans people who lost their lives in the past year in countries where UUSC works—including the United States, where our home office is based. Each of their deaths was intersectional and structural. Each of their lives was beautiful and powerful. They will not be forgotten. In keeping with our allies’ request, we urge you to share and read aloud their names and the names of other trans people on this Day of Remembrance and beyond.
29 Sep 2022
León, Guanajuato (Mexico)
25 Sep 2022
Iguala de la Independencia, Guerrero (Mexico)
24 Sep 2022
Conchagua, La Unión (El Salvador)
21 Sep 2022
Jackonville, Florida (USA)
Age 42 (born 28 Sep 1979)
6 Sep 2022
Ciudad de Guatemala (Guatemala)
Age 35 (born 20 Sep 1988)
29 Aug 2022
Milwaukee, Wisconsin (USA)
27 Aug 2022
Detroit, Michigan (USA)
2 Jul 2022
Ciudad de Guatemala (Guatemala)
29 Jun 2022
Memphis, Tennessee (USA)
12 Jun 2022
San Pedro Sula, Cortés (Honduras)
Shot and run over