Public Advocate Pushes City To Officially Recognize Transgender Days Of Visibility And Remembrance In Council Hearing

October 26th, 2021

Press Release

Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams spoke at a City Council hearing convened Tuesday to discuss his resolution to officially recognize Transgender Day of Remembrance, November 20, and Transgender Day of Visibility, March 31, as holidays within the City of New York. Both Transgender Day of Remembrance and Transgender Day of Visibility are marked around the country, and specifically in New York, with vigils, protests, forums, and other actions and events, but the days are not currently formally recognized by the city.

"Each year remains a reminder that we all have to collectively work to seriously redress the unique and violent experiences of transgender and gender non-conforming New Yorkers," said the Public Advocate to start the hearing of the Committee on Cultural Affairs. "Now more than ever, increased visibility and organizing for trans lives remains crucial to address the discrimination and systemic issues Transgender Day Of Visibility raises awareness of... this resolution must be accompanied by continued collaboration with our trans New Yorkers to achieve equitable housing, workforce development and education opportunities, and safety in this city."

He highlighted the need for the city to go beyond recognition of these days and take action, saying, "Recognizing the violence trans New Yorkers experience means we must commit to ending them. Uplifting the work and impact of trans New Yorkers means we must commit to expanding opportunities for the work and impact to be greater. We in New York have led the country in legal rights and services for transgender New Yorkers, but this should not invite complacency in our roles as leaders to find and address gaps in our duties."

The Public Advocate's full testimony is below.

TESTIMONY OF PUBLIC ADVOCATE JUMAANE D. WILLIAMS

TO THE NEW YORK CITY COUNCIL COMMITTEE ON CULTURAL AFFAIRS, LIBRARIES, AND INTERNATIONAL INTERGROUP RELATIONS

OCTOBER 26, 2021

Good Morning, my name is Jumaane D. Williams, and I am the Public Advocate for the City of New York. I want to thank Chairperson Van Bramer and the Committee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries and International Intergroup Relations for holding this hearing on these three significant bills.

I am proud to sponsor Reso 1487, recognizing November 20 and March 31st as Transgender Day of Remembrance and Visibility respectively in the City of New York. This resolution has been the collaborative effort and work of our partners at the Office of the Public Advocate who consistently work with us to engage in every way we can to address the plight transgender New Yorkers experience. This resolution, a symbolic request, must be followed by a continued commitment from all our elected leaders to advocate for the trans community, particularly as we’ve seen the enactment and introduction of the most anti-trans legislation in our nation's history.

In 1999, trans advocate Gwendolyn Ann Smith organize a vigil to honor the memory of Rita Hester, a Black trans woman in Boston, now remembered as ​an ebullient, glamorous, person, following her violent and unsolved murder on on November 28, 1998. Over two decades later, what we now know as transgender day of remembrance, or TDOR, annually gives name and history to the many transgender people worldwide who have similarly and tragically been murdered or died. Every year on November 20, organizations and organizers across the city gather to remember the lives of those we have lost each year. Each year remains a reminder that we all have to collectively work to seriously redress the unique and violent experiences of transgender and gender non-conforming New Yorkers.

We cannot say enough that without the leadership and organizing of so many trans people the civil rights of all our communities would not be where we are now. Yet, in response to the lacking positive recognition of this impact, trans activist Rachel Crandall launched International Transgender Day of Visibility. Now more than ever, increased visibility and organizing for trans lives remains crucial to address the discrimination and systemic issues TDOV raises awareness of. Earlier this year, President Biden followed suit in recognizing TDOV. While this is the opportunity to do so in New York, this resolution must be accompanied by continued collaboration with our trans New Yorkers to achieve equitable housing, workforce development and education opportunities, and safety in this city.

I will be the first to say that neither our partners or myself are satisfied with the work here, and believe our commitment must follow the passage of this resolution accordingly. Recognizing the violence trans New Yorkers experience means we must commit to ending them. Uplifting the work and impact of trans New Yorkers means we must commit to expanding opportunities for the work and impact to be greater. We in New York have led the country in legal rights and services for transgender New Yorkers, but this should not invite complacency in our roles as leaders to find and address gaps in our duties.

Thank you to all the members of the our Black trans women roundtable here at OPA and our partners who constantly show us what it means to support and uplift New York’s transgender, gender non-conforming and non-binary community.

Thank you Chair Van Bramer and the Committee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries and International Intergroup Relations for your time and equal commitment to creating a safer and more uplifting New York for transgender and gender non-conforming people. I am grateful to sponsor this resolution and even more excited for the positive change to come. Thank you for holding this hearing and for the time.

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