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South Dakotans Mark Transgender Day of Remembrance

Vigils will be held in Rapid City and Sioux Falls for the Transgender Day of Remembrance. (Ted Eytan/Flickr)
Vigils will be held in Rapid City and Sioux Falls for the Transgender Day of Remembrance. (Ted Eytan/Flickr)
November 20, 2017

RAPID CITY, S.D. – Monday is Transgender Day of Remembrance, a somber anniversary that recognizes transgender people who've lost their lives in the past year, including a South Dakota transgender woman murdered in January.

The day of remembrance began in 1999 after the killing of a transgender woman in Massachusetts.

This year, advocates for the transgender community will be honoring 25 people who lost their lives, the highest number ever recorded for the remembrance.

Terri Bruce, a transgender man, says that's a large and frightening number for such a small community, especially in South Dakota. He sees Monday as a day of reflection.

"And it's also a day to remember that we can't live any other way,” he stresses. “We have to be who we truly are, and we do it despite the violence that might be perpetrated against us."

The Black Hills Center for Equality is holding vigils Monday in Rapid City and Sioux Falls.

In recent years, anti-transgender "bathroom bills" have circulated in state legislatures across the country.

Last year, the South Dakota Legislature passed a bill requiring students to use the restrooms and locker rooms that matched their sex at birth.

Gov. Dennis Daugaard vetoed it, calling the measure "a solution in search of a problem."

But Bruce says these bills, whether they pass or not, have a damaging effect on the transgender community.

"The legislation, all the anti-transgender rhetoric, absolutely plays into how big the target is that's on our backs," he states.

Bruce says education is the best approach to greater understanding.

"That's hearing from a transgender person what it means to be transgender, and giving people a broader understanding of all the variabilities in humanity,” he explains.

“You know, there are over 7 billion people on the planet and to me, that means there are over 7 billion ways to be a human being."

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - SD