Transgender lives honored

Carnations bearing tags with names or numbers of transgender persons who have been killed by violence this year throughout the world are displayed at Sunday’s Transgender Day of Remembrance Vigil: Honoring the Lives Lost in 2016 at the First Congregational United Church of Christ, 1425 N. Fifth St.

Three years ago, about a dozen people showed up for a local Transgender Day of Remembrance vigil. At the time, folks were scared to even walk into the gathering, fearing someone would be out in the night waiting to get them.

On Sunday night, more than 50 people attended the ceremony at the First Congregational United Church of Christ, but still people reported being terrified in general about being gay or transgender in a community that doesn’t always accept them.

On one hand, it’s encouraging that more people attended the heartbreaking ceremony, organizer Heidi Hess said.

On the other hand, even that people have to attend a service to honor those in the transgender community who were killed by hatred and violence, is a heartbreaking concept.

“Please know that you are loved and you are loved for just how you are,” Hess said. “I look forward to the day we don’t have to have this group.”

Twenty-four transgender people were murdered in the U.S. this year. On Sunday, local transgender allies read the names attached to a single carnation.

They include people like 28-year-old Rae’Lynn Thomas, who was always the “life of the party” or Diamond Goddess, 20, who was loved, kind and a leader for the LGBT movement, according to the website, lgbtq-

LGBTQ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community, per the website.

Local supporters also solemnly read the numbers of the transgender people worldwide who have been killed this year.

■ Pakistan: 5

■ Argentina: 10

■ Mexico: 51

■ Brazil: 123

■ South Africa: 1

■ El Salvador: 6

As the numbers of the slain continued, people hugged, cried and shared their stories. Some people reported discrimination and constant bullying.

Others talked about how they loved and supported their transgender or LGBTQ family and friends.

Jon Williams said he was overwhelmingly disappointed in having to have such a vigil.

“We should be able to look at our fellow Americans and celebrate diversity,” he said. “We don’t have to be the same. I’m disappointed that we have to keep reading names for people who are dying when their differences should be celebrated.”

Williams said he also is saddened that some people say they don’t feel the need to talk about transgender issues, because it’s not their own personal issue. That will not help people to accept one another.

Williams, who is black and a local drag entertainer, said he hears and endures transphobic and racist comments on a weekly basis in Grand Junction.

“We have to be aware that our neighbor is different and that’s not a bad thing,” he said after the ceremony.

For those who see somebody acting or saying racist things or treating someone badly who is gay or transgender, Williams suggested using some kind of visual or vocal disapproval.

“Somebody has to know that you think it’s wrong,” he said.

■ Transcend Western Slope is a support group that also welcomes significant others, family and friends to join their transgender and cross-dressing loved ones. For meeting times and places, contact the group via email at

■ For information on services for people in the LGBTQ community, visit Colorado West Pride,


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