Danbury-area advocates host Transgender Day of Remembrance vigil

Photo of Abby Weiss
Left to right: Emily Denaro, organizer for Bethel CT Pride, Nora O'Neill, organizer for Bethel CT Pride, and Will Love, founder of the Danbury Area Justice Network. 

Left to right: Emily Denaro, organizer for Bethel CT Pride, Nora O'Neill, organizer for Bethel CT Pride, and Will Love, founder of the Danbury Area Justice Network. 

Abby Weiss/Hearst CT

This year’s Transgender Day of Remembrance was especially personal for Will Love. The Danbury native came out as non-binary three years ago and said the support they received from local trans advocacy groups helped them come to terms with their identity and overcome suicidal thoughts.  

“I just had to decide I want to live and want to be my authentic self - that person that, for so long, society has said is not acceptable and is not okay,” they said. 

They later founded the Danbury Area Justice Network and on Sunday, along with Bethel CT Pride organizers, they helped lead a Transgender Day of Remembrance vigil in front of The Danbury Library to help LGBTQ+ community members the same way others did for them.

Transgender Day of Remembrance began in 1999 to honor the memory of Rita Hester, a Black transgender woman who was killed in 1998. The annual observance commemorates all transgender, gender noncomforming and non-binary people lost to anti-transgender violence.

At the vigil, Love held a moment of silence for five people killed and the 18 injured at Club Q, a gay nightclub in Colorado Springs, on Saturday night. Love said the tragedy represents how the transgender community in the U.S. still faces a high risk of violence and why Transgender Day of Remembrance events are still necessary. 

“That’s why I do things like this. Because we can't even have our safe spaces anymore,” they said.

At least 32 transgender and gender-nonconforming people have been killed in the U.S. in 2022, according to a report by the Human Rights Campaign. Transgender people of color make up 81% of the known victims and trans women also made up 81% of the recorded deaths, according to the report. The Human Rights Campaign noted that the number of deaths is likely higher as many deaths go unreported or many victims are misgendered in reports. 

Love said because of the violence against the LGBTQ+ community, they feel the need to constantly monitor their surroundings and get anxious about their safety in public areas. 

"This isn't a lifestyle choice. I didn't choose to live a life where I have to worry about someone wanting to hurt me," they said. Growing up in Danbury, Love said they didn't have similar interests to many of the male students at school and they were targeted by their peers for being too "feminine.'

"There's always room to make places more safe, make them more protected and make them a safe haven," they said. 

In addition to violence, LGBTQ+ Americans were targeted in over 300 bills introduced by state legislatures in 2022. None of them were introduced in Connecticut, but Emily Denaro, co-leader of Bethel Pride CT, said issues facing the LGBTQ+ community in Connecticut are present.

Four out of 10 LGBTQ+ youth in Connecticut are dealing with housing insecurity, according to the 2021 Connecticut LGBTQ+ Community Survey: Needs Assessment Report. The Alliance Defending Freedom has been fighting to overturn a state policy allowing transgender athletes to compete in high school sports. The most recent gubernatorial race saw an appearance from a super PAC openly opposued to transgender rights. A “parental bill of rights” introduced by former candidate Bob Stefanowski supported limiting discussions about sexual orientation and gender identity in schools, though it offered no concrete policy changes.

“You always have to be vigilant because at the drop of the hat, you could have a different legislative body and you have to be careful that you have things put in place at a nonprofit level," she said.