‘It’s not safe for them’ Locals remember transgender people killed this year

Posted at 10:06 PM, Nov 20, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-20 23:51:52-05

NORFOLK, Va. - Transgender people in our community say they're afraid for their lives.

They say when they walk out the door, they never know if they'll be targeted.

So far in 2019, 22 transgender people have been killed nationwide.

"To walk in a trans woman's shoes, you have to be strong," Nyonna Byers, a transgender woman, says.

She has had to be strong her whole life.

"When I decided to transition, I don't even remember when I decided - as I can recall, I was always a woman."

Society, however, has not always been kind to the men and women just trying to be who they are.

The majority of the 22 individuals killed this past year have been African American women.

On Wednesday, dozens of community members gathered to honor their lives during the Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR).

Stacie Walls, CEO for the LGBT Life Center in Norfolk, says, "We want to celebrate their memories and we want to celebrate who they are, and yet we want to call attention to the fact that this should not be happening."

When people arrived, they were given the option of wearing a blue or red name tag. The red indicated that they did not want their photo taken.

Many folks said a reason they would not want their photo taken is because they are afraid of being fired or being subjected to violence in their neighborhoods.

"It's not safe for them. It's not fair," Walls says.

As speakers shared personal stories and looked out into the crowd, they were faced with 22 seats covered by the transgender flag.

It served as a reminder of the violence and discrimination men and women face every day.

"A lot of transgender women of color have been through so much trauma. When you have been through so much trauma, it kinda, you know, weighs on your self-esteem. It weighs on your life, period," Byers says.

On Wednesday, people were able to put that pain aside, even just for a little while.

They focused on love, support and healing while also learning how to be better advocates and allies for trans people.

Walls says she wants people to know that they are not alone and that there is a community in Hampton Roads to support them.

Byers agrees, "If we come together as one, we'll be a force to be reckoned with."