Cameron Breither moved to Ann Arbor from North Carolina because he knew it would be a place he could safely transition. Photo: Spectrum Center.

Transgender Day of Remembrance Events

By Crystal A. Proxmire

ANN ARBOR -

Since Transgender Day of Remembrance began in 1998, students at the University of Michigan have gathered to honor the lives of transgender people who have died at the hands of violence because of who they are.

Cameron Breither moved to Ann Arbor from North Carolina because he knew it would be a place he could safely transition. "I used to not feel comfortable being myself. Coming to Michigan helped. I came here for the graduate program for higher education because I really wanted to work at the Spectrum Center," Breither said. "I started transitioning in Michigan after I moved here last August. When I've left and gone back to North Carolina I've had problems; people refusing to serve me, being kicked out of bathrooms."

He says he hopes to stay in Michigan and to work on a college campus in a program that helps LGBT students. He is part of the advisory board at Spectrum Center and was part of the committee that planned this year's Transgender Day of Remembrance Ceremony, which will be Nov. 15 at the Ann Arbor Neutral Zone from 7 to 9 p.m.

Dr. Julie Simpson, director of the Spectrum Center, said the ceremony is a beautiful tribute. "There is a time where names are read because they were murdered because of how they identify. People are given an opportunity to voice what they want to say. We pass out roses and people come up to put in a vase and take a rock as a reminder. We want to remember those who were murdered."

After the solemn ceremony, there is a reception where people can connect and celebrate the acceptance of transgender people in their immediate community and college community. "When you hear about people who were murdered because of their identity, it's intense. We want to end with a celebration to show how we have moved forward."

For Breither the event is both educational and emotional. "As somebody who identifies as transgender myself I want to make sure people are aware of the community. Some don't know any transgender people at all, and some don't even know we even exist. This helps people understand.

"Last year there was a young woman who was murdered. When she [Shelly Moore] was murdered, it gave me a lot of anxiety as a transman. But it also helped me to open up conversations for people who aren't trans. People think that murders and violence against transgender people doesn't happen here. They think murders happen in other countries. You hear a lot about the ones in South America. But it happens here. It happened in Detroit, close to home."

In addition to helping plan Transgender Day of Remembrance, Breither is busy making the campus more welcoming for gender nonconformists. He is currently gathering data about all of the gender-neutral bathrooms on campus and is developing a smartphone app so that students can easily locate them.

Carrie Davis will be the keynote speaker for the Transgender Day of Remembrance event. "She has done a lot for the transgender community," Breither said. "She is the director of community services at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center in New York City and has a very long history of working with schools and government agencies on LGBT, especially T, issues. She's done a lot of great work and we're excited that she's coming.

All week long there will be a Trans Awareness E-Series where the Spectrum Center's ListServe will feature a transgender article each day during the week.

Nov. 13 Rev. Julie Nemeck will speak at the Inteweave Transgender Day of Rememberance Ceremony at Ann Arbor Universal Unitarian Church at 7 p.m. Dr. Nemecek serves on the national boards of Soulforce and PFLAG as well as the board of Jackson PFLAG. She is also on the advisory board of Trans Youth Family Allies and is an ex-officio member of the City of Jackson Human Relations Commission.

Nov. 14 there will be a Breaking Binaries Panel at the Michigan League from 8-9:30 p.m., which will feature several speakers on transgender topics.

Nov. 15 Davis will give a Transgender Day of Remembrance Talk at the U of M School of Social Work room B760 from 12:10-1:30 p.m. The lecture will be more educational in style. The main event will be at the Ann Arbor Neutral Zone from 7-9 p.m. the same day.

Other Transgender Day of Remembrance events across Michigan include:

* Nov 15, Ann Arbor, facebook

* Nov 16, Detroit, facebook

* Nov 18, Grand Rapids, facebook

* Nov 18, Kalamazoo College, facebook

* Nov 19, Oakland University, facebook

* Nov 19, EMU, facebook (featuring Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality)

* Nov 20, Traverse City,

http://www.lakesidecounseling.org/home/transgender-day-of-remembrance/

The international Transgender Day of Remembrance website lists 37 murders in the past year, though the number may go up as the list could be updated before the official day, Nov. 20.

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