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Community mourns losses during transgender day of remembrance

Editor’s Note: This story contains mentions of violence.

Community members gathered around the Grotto on Monday evening for a prayer service in remembrance of those who lost their lives due to anti-transgender violence. PrismND and the Gender Relations Center (GRC) co-sponsored the vigil.

Molly Doerfler, PrismND president, led the memorial in mourning for the 32 known transgender people who lost their lives to acts of violence based on gender identity in 2022.

“These victims, like all of us, are loving partners, parents, family members, friends and community members,” Doerfler said. “They worked, went to school and attended houses of worship. They were real people who did not deserve to have their lives taken from them.”

According to Doerfler, 2022 has seen an uptick in legislation that does not uphold the dignity of transgender and gender non-conforming persons.

“In addition to praying for those who lost their lives, we pray for quality of life for the living and an end to discrimination,” she said.

Doerfler encouraged community members to participate by coming forward to light a named candle to place by the Grotto.

“Tonight, we will read the names of those who have died and light a candle in their memory to proclaim the importance of life, the value our people bring to society and the human dignity that all people have,” she said.

Thirty-two lost names and stories were then delivered aloud, starting with Regina Allen.

Brianna Chappell, Notre Dame student government director of LGBTQ+ initiatives, was one of eight student speakers sharing the epitaphs of those murdered in acts of anti-transgender violence.

Kathryn ‘Katie’ Newhouse was a 19-year-old Asian American neurodivergent transgender woman,” Chappell stated. “She was an Illinois native who had a passion for hiking, sightseeing and advocating for trans rights. On March 19, 2022, she was killed by her father in Georgia before he died by suicide using the same weapon.”

Raymond “Ray” Muscat, Chappell continued, was a 24-year-old grocery worker described by coworkers as a kind soul with a glowing smile.

“On May 8, 2022,” she said, “Muscat was shot and killed by his girlfriend in Independence Township, Michigan.”

After the last name, Kenyatta “Kesha” Webster, was called, prayer intentions were offered by sophomore Elijah Mustillo for the souls of all those murdered this year, and in years past, as a result of anti-transgender violence.

Following intentions, Mustillo invited those gathered to join in praying the Lord’s Prayer. Then, everyone shared a sign of peace.

Arlene Montevecchio, GRC director, closed out the memorial at the Grotto, thanking student leaders of both PrismND and the GRC.

Montevecchio directed students to “safe spaces” on campus —naming PrismND, the GRC, campus ministry and the University Counseling Center (UCC) as “folks on campus who want to provide a safe and inclusive community here.”

Before concluding, Montevecchio urged the audience to remember the victims names that were just read off and cautioned about the continual dangers of anti-transgender violence.

“Some of these cases involve clear anti-transgender bias. In others, the victims’ transgender status may have put them at risk in other ways, forcing them into unemployment, poverty or homelessness,” Montevecchio said. “These deaths also highlight the intersections of racism, sexism, homophobia, biphobia and transphobia. May all of us continue to work for justice, peace and love in our world, today and every day.”

Contact Peter Breen at pbreen2@nd.edu.