After looking at websites and news reports from the past year, Callis compiled a list of 26 names and short biographies of individuals lost that year to be read at UNC's Transgender Day of Remembrance.
These names were read and repeated back by attendees every 30 minutes during the “Say Their Names” event in the Pit Wednesday afternoon, which was hosted by the LGBTQ Center. Placards about each person were also displayed.
It was a somber experience for some, with one attendee emotionally asking that those lost to suicide be remembered as well.
“It’s not enough to say their names, we have to love and respect them while they are still living,” Tristen Burleson, a senior majoring in psychology and English, said.
One organization dedicated to promoting acceptance and love of the LGBTQ+ community — Free Mom Hugs — had members from the Chapel Hill branch in attendance.
“It’s so sad that there are so many trans people that have been murdered for trying to be themselves and be who they are, and it’s sad that they never got to have that experience,” Ellen Dershowitz, a member of Free Mom Hugs, said. “We like to be here in support of that organization and community because they deserve it — they deserve to have love, they deserve to have support.”
Burleson, who transitioned during his time at UNC, said that he believes people’s acceptance of trans individuals is conditional.
“I think it’s very much predicated on the kind of trans people they perceive you to be,” Burleson said. “I don’t think that’s OK. I don’t think you need to be perceived as cis or agreeing on certain things just to be respected — you should be respected because you are a human being and you deserve respect.”
Two other events were held on campus to mark Transgender Day of Remembrance.
Kavi Adé, a Black, trans, queer spoken word artist, performed some poems in the Union Auditorium. A candlelight vigil was also held in the Pit featuring keynote speaker Amir Rabiyah, a trans and two-spirited, disabled, queer, femme poet and writing coach.
Both trans activists discussed the systemic issues facing trans individuals, but also the resilience they have in continuing to live and fight for their rights.
Max Carter, a sophomore majoring in communications and studio art, said Transgender Day of Remembrance events are important to uplift the voices and honor the memories of trans individuals past and present.
“It’s important to not only recognize trans people after they are gone, but to give them platforms and spaces to speak and share their experience and work while they are still here,” Carter said.