Pride holds vigil for international transgender deaths


by Blake Carlson, Special to The Simpsonian

INDIANOLA, Iowa — Simpson College Pride hosted a vigil Nov. 20, recognizing those who died as a result of international transgender violence in observance of Transgender Day of Remembrance.

The event was the culmination of Transgender Awareness Week, a series of events aimed to educate the Simpson community about transgender individuals, the violence they face and how to actively understand and support them.

Cecilia Martínez, president of Simpson Pride, said the vigil was meant to humanize those who have died.

“A lot of trans people when they pass away or are killed, if their family is not supportive, they are buried with the wrong name,” Martínez said. “Saying their names and how they identified is very important.”

According to statistics provided by the Transgender Day of Remembrance website, a private website and the only known source documenting annual transgender deaths internationally, there were 284 deaths in the last year.

“Every single one is violent,” Martínez said. “But I did not feel like that is what we should focus on when reading the names. They are people. The focus should not be on how they died, just that they did not need to die.”

Mandy Brown, a member of Simpson Pride, hoped the event would make the community more aware of the lack of reporting and transparency surrounding transgender deaths. She cited the recent death of a transgender person from Burlington.

“I tried to find information about it, I tried to read police reports,” Brown said. “There’s like nothing. They do not even say who the person was. It is disgusting. It is utterly disgusting.”

This is the second year Simpson has participated in Transgender Day of Remembrance, and the vigil is made possible by support from the Religious Life Community.

“RLC has been incredibly helpful as a resource. It is a remembrance vigil, and a lot of times that does have an element of spirituality with it,” Martínez said.

Simpson Chaplain Mara Bailey and RLC interns assisted with the reading of the names, and Bailey was also available as a resource for students emotionally affected by the event.

In the awareness week leading up to the Day of Remembrance, Pride hosted events to inform and educate the community including a Q&A with the creative team from Des Moines Metro Opera’s production of “As One.” The opera follows the character Hannah, a transgender woman discovering her gender identity.

Both Martínez and Brown hope the series of events help the community feel more informed and comfortable interacting with their transgender peers.

“I will be the first to admit that I mess up pronouns all the time,” Brown said. “More important than the mistake is that the person does not expect you to be perfect. We just want you to try.”

For educational resources about transgender students, visit: