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PrismND and Gender Relations Center sponsor vigil honoring transgender victims

| Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Notre Dame’s Gender Relations Center and PrismND — a student organization committed to serving the LGBTQ+ community at Notre Dame — co-sponsored a vigil Monday night at the Grotto for Transgender Day of Remembrance.

The event began after bells rang out from the Basilica above, and Notre Dame junior Gabe McKenna, president of PrismND, stood to speak.

“We gather here tonight to honor the memory of those murdered in acts of anti-transgender violence,” McKenna said. “In 2021, we lost at least 48 transgender people [nationally] to acts of violence.”

McKenna stressed the victims’ humanity, speaking of them as people with families, jobs and communities.

“They were real people, people who did not deserve to have their lives taken from them,” McKenna said.

Liam Price | The Observer
Students gathered at the Grotto Monday night in honor of the national Transgender Day of Remembrance.

McKenna then began naming the 48 transgender lives lost, at times seemingly choking up as they read off their backgrounds and the memories of loved ones.

As McKenna and other members of PrismND read the names and stories of all 48 victims, people lit “Transgender Day of Remembrance” candles, each labeled with a victim’s name.

For each victim, the speakers highlighted the immense human dignity that the person held in their lives through stories, stressing their lives were more than just a tragedy.

McKenna shared the story of Tyianna Alexander, also known as Davarea Alexander, a 28-year-old Black transgender woman shot to death in Chicago on Jan. 6.

“Friends of Tyianna posted that she had good energy and a beautiful light,” McKenna said.

Notre Dame senior Erin Markel spoke of how Mel Groves, a 25-year-old Black transgender man who was fatally shot in October in Jackson, Mississippi, was an active member of his community and “a plant scientist at Alcorn State University who loved agriculture and animals.”

After McKenna and fellow students were finished describing the lives of all the victims, McKenna led prayer petitions praying for the transgender community.

“We pray for the souls of those who were murdered this year and in the years past as a result of anti-transgender violence, that they be wrapped in the loving embrace of our merciful Lord and Savior,” McKenna said.

The petitions did not leave the perpetrators out of their prayers either.

“Let us pray for those who committed these acts of violence, that they might recognize the presence of Christ and those around them and seek God’s merciful love and forgiveness,” McKenna said.

The gathering then recited the Lord’s Prayer and offered one another the sign of peace.

Deborah Bineza, program coordinator for identity, intersectionality and inclusion at the Gender Relations Center, spoke last.

“While the details of these cases differ, it is clear that fatal violence disproportionately affects transgender women of color, particularly black transgender women,” she said. “Their deaths highlight the intersections of racism, sexism, homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia.”

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