Transgender Day of Remembrance is a day when people and organisations around the world mobilise to counter the anti-trans violence we face every day.

Tonight I will stand in solidarity with our trans staff and students at the Transgender Remembrance Day Vigil.

I am the Inclusion Champion for members of our Essex community who are trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming. I am proud to represent senior colleagues and the University at the event. 22 years ago on 20 November the first of these candlelit vigils was led by transgender advocate Gwendolyn Ann Smith in San Francisco to honour the memory of Rita Hester, a transgender African American woman who was brutally killed in 1998. We’re here to commemorate all transgender people who have lost their lives to violence since Rita Hester. This important tradition has become the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance, taking place during the week of 20 November.

Last year this vigil was held over zoom. This year, it’s great to be able to hold it in person again, and to see so many friends and colleagues gathering to talk, remember, reflect, share stories and ideas, and support each other.

At Essex, we are proud to stand together as a community to remember and to mourn those who have lost their lives simply for being themselves.

As an institution and a community, we celebrate diversity, we actively promote inclusivity and we take a zero tolerance approach to discrimination and harassment. We want everyone joining us tonight to know that you are valued and supported.

It is a privilege to connect with other vigils up and down the country and across the world to condemn anti-trans hate, prejudice and violence.

Transgender Awareness Week

The Day of Remembrance is part of Transgender Awareness Week, when transgender people and their allies bring attention to the community by educating the public about who transgender people are, sharing stories and experiences, and advancing advocacy around the issues of prejudice, discrimination, and violence that affect the transgender community.

It is timely that this week I can share information about two new initiatives developed to support our trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming staff and students. One is focused on offering practical help, the other is designed to help us continue to make the changes we need to make as a University to advance our commitment to inclusion.

For practical help and support, we’ve launched a new fortnightly ‘Diverse Support Group’.  The inaugural meeting was on Wednesday 17 November from 6.30pm to 7.30pm via zoom. There will be more details in Essex Spirit and Essex Weekly before the next meeting, so please check this out.

We want everyone, regardless of who they are or how they identify, to feel they have a home at Essex. As part of this commitment, we have launched a new Working Group to support trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming students and staff on our campuses. The group is made up of staff and student representatives and aims to:

  • Support and promote the implementation of the University’s inclusion policies for the benefit of trans, non-binary and gender-non-conforming students and staff.
  • Provide a safe space to discuss issues and concerns as and when they arise.
  • Consider available evidence relating to the lived experience of trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming students and staff, highlighting issues and trends and suggesting action that may be required.
  • Help all members of our community in working to build relationships of trust and to promote inclusion on our campuses.
  • Consider what further actions might be required and propose these to the University.

While it is important to celebrate trans and non-binary awareness week as part of our calendar, our work to create a community where all our staff and students can learn and grow through challenge is an ongoing commitment.

What’s next?

We’re updating our Report and Support process and we would value your views. You can complete either our staff or student surveys to give us your thoughts. The University wants to celebrate our diversity of staff and students, promote inclusion, well-being, resilience and empowerment to enable every member to achieve their full potential. We work with Stonewall and others in a range of ways to help achieve this. We are currently consulting our University community on our relationship with Stonewall, so please follow the links and have your say.

We want you to be confident in who you are and to know you are supported. We offer help all year round when it is needed and sources of support, both on campus and off, are listed on our staff and student directory pages.

I will continue to represent and advocate for our community, as will Monica Illsley as LGBTQ+ Inclusion Champion. I hope in two years’ time to be reflecting on the progress we’ve made, as my colleague Madeline Eacott, the University’s Race Inclusion Champion, did in her recent blog.

We’ll be reporting on the progress of our new working group next summer. I promise to keep talking to members of our community so I can best represent your views and I will keep working to make Essex a place for all of us, not just when the spotlight is on us during trans awareness week, but 365 days a year.