All photos by Diego Lynch

New Yorkers gathered in Washington Square Park last night to mark the 17th Transgender Day of Remembrance and memorialize the 25 transgender people murdered in the U.S. so far this year. More violence has been reported against transgender people in 2017 than in any previous year.

“Say their name,” the crowd chanted, as the stories of victims were read. 

Nearly 18 percent of reported hate crime incidents in 2016 were due to the victim’s sexual orientation. The majority of those killed were people of color, and 80 percent of them were women.

“We should be vigilant and bring it to the attention of people,” said Ivy Acre, a member of Rise and Resist NYC, which organized the local vigil. “When there are active proposals of things that separate people… we should be aware.”

The advocates were using the occasion of the vigil to push for opposition to HR 2796, which limits categories of gender to “man” or “woman” where federal civil rights laws and agency regulations are concerned. 

Of the 25 killed this year, one person was murdered in New York. On April 25, Mx Bostick was found in Chelsea after being beaten unconscious with a metal pipe. Bostick died in the hospital on May 4.

“It took the police 30 minutes to respond,” said a person reading from a cue card which described the incident. The crowd then broke into chants of “shame.”

Not all of the murders are officially hate crimes. Ally Lee Steinfeld’s bones were found after being burned in an attempt to hide the body. According to the confessions of the three people allegedly involved in the murder the victim’s genitals were stabbed and their eyes gouged out. However, the prosecutor did not move to charge it as a hate crime. Hate crimes are more difficult to pursue because they require the prosecution to establish a motive.  

For the most part, the victims were shot to death. Although the 25 deaths in the United States make it an outlier in terms of violence, it is a distant second to Brazil, where there were 171 killings (more than half of the 325 deaths worldwide).

The Transgender Day of Remembrance has occurred annually since 1999. It started after the fatal Nov. 28, 1998 stabbing of Rita Hester in Boston. The LGBT community there had been outraged the previous year when a man who strangled a trans woman to death got off with two years imprisonment for assault and battery. The light sentence was the result of a “trans panic” defense, in which the perpetrator claimed his attack was part of an emotional response to discovering that she was transgender during a bedroom encounter.