A group of students gathered in Barnard Observatory on Thursday night to hold a candlelight vigil in honor of trans individuals who have lost their lives. In 2018 alone, there have been 7 reported murders involving trans people. These peoples’ names were read aloud preceding a moment of silence.
The vigil, hosted by UM Pride Network and co-sponsored by Queer People of Color was put on in acknowledgement of Transgender Day of Visibility.
“The vigil tonight gives visibility to those who identify within the transgender community, a community that has faced many hardships in this society,” Brenna Paola, vice president of UM Pride said. “We light these candles because trans lives should be cherished.”
Malik Pridgeon, Queer People of Color executive director, said he hopes the vigil raised more awareness about the violence being targeted at the trans community.
“One of the reasons why they are targeted and murdered is because they don’t have a platform or a level of visibility,” Pridgeon said. “I think it’s important to have things like this so that there is some type of awareness raised around the issue and to let people know that trans lives do matter.”
For some individuals, the vigil hit a little closer to home because it acknowledged the violence against individuals in their own communities.
Beverly Malouf, who identifies as transgender, said she decided to attend the vigil to support her trans brothers and sisters and to help move the community towards a brighter future.
She went on to say that she believes the university could be doing a lot more to ensure that the LGBTQ community feels safe and welcomed on campus and in Oxford.
“Why isn’t there a support group for transgender individuals, for lesbian individuals, for gay individuals,” Malouf said. “Why isn’t there a group anywhere on campus where you can go and safely meet without fear of harm or anybody finding out?”
Malouf said many places lack the community support she is looking for.
UM Pride Network President Regan Willis, who also identifies as transgender, said the vigil was important because much still needs to change involving the LGBTQ community.
“There are many, many strides to be made in trans visibility, but I think that a common ground is definitely being aware of the murders that happen,” Willis said. “There are seven so far (this year), it blows me away.”
Willis said starting a conversation is the first step to changing the way society views transgender individuals.
“I think that’s definitely a first step that we can realize that it’s not ok and it’s going on and it can further progress the community and build awareness,” Willis said.