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Hope, honor, pride on agenda for local observance of annual Transgender Day of Remembrance Tuesday

NORTHAMPTON — Members and allies of the local transgender community are invited to the annual observation of a day of remembrance Tuesday evening.

The event begins with a candlelight vigil at 5:30 at the Unitarian Society of Northampton and Florence at 220 Main St., followed by a program around 6 p.m. at First Churches, at 129 Main St.

The program will include music from Arjuna Greist, and the Pioneer Valley Gay Men’s Chorus, and a memorial for transgender activist Samantha J. Cornell, who died from cancer in October.

A reception with food and refreshments will follow.

The event, which began nationally in 1999, recalls members of the transgender community who died in the previous year through violence or suicide, said Genny Beemyn.

Beemyn, the director of the Stonewall Center at UMass Amherst, and a co-organizer of the event, said it was the murder of Rita Hester in Allston, Mass. in 1998 that spurred the community into action.

“It was the straw the broke the camel’s back,” Beemyn said.

Beemyn said in the past year 265 transgender people had been killed worldwide.

That number includes about 15 cases in the United States, according to Beemyn, an average of about one a month.

Beemyn said the actual number may be higher, due to variations in reporting techniques, and that it may not be obvious during early phases of violent crime investigations that a victim is transgender.

Acceptance is slowly growing, Beemyn said, as well-known transgender activists get more mainstream exposure, most notably Chaz Bono, who makes frequent talk-show appearances and was a cast member on ABC’s popular “Dancing With the Stars” program.

It’s that type of exposure that can eventually help transgender people reach higher levels of acceptance in mainstream culture and not just as comic relief or a punch line, Beemyn said.

More information is available by emailing northamptontdor@gmail.comor visiting www.facebook.com/events/290205784430190.

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