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Transgender Day of Remembrance at Fort Lewis College honors a threatened community

Clark Adomaitis
Students, faculty, and community members gather at Fort Lewis College to honor those members of the transgender community who were lost this past year.

Students and faculty gathered at Fort Lewis College in Durango to honor the living and lost members of the transgender community.

2021 was the deadliest year on record for transgender people, according to Transrespect vs. Transphobia Worldwide, an organization that reports on human rights for trans people worldwide. Globally, 375 transgender people were murdered. Of those murders, 47 were in the U.S. The vast majority of them happened to people of color.

“Not a lot of white faces, not a lot of male faces," said Jude Harrison, a trans man and family doctor in Durango. "That the lack of privilege is what you see here. And the lack of privilege is not innate to who any of these individuals are. It’s innate to a society that creates that.”

Harrison organized the event at Fort Lewis.

According to Fort Lewis’ Student Engagement Services, up to 35% of the student population at Fort Lewis identifies as LGBTQ. Around 9% are transgender, gender non-conforming, or non-binary.

In 2001, Frederica Martinez, Jr., who identified as Two-Spirit, was murdered in Cortez. Martinez was a member of the Navajo Nation. At that time, Martinez was the youngest person to die of a hate crime in the U.S.

However, Martinez’s murder was not charged as a hate crime, because crimes against gender identity and gender expression were only legally recognized by the state of Colorado as hate crimes in 2009.

Durango has an LGBTQ+ safe space called the Rainbow Youth Coalition. RYC hosts weekly events to support LGTBQ+ youth and allies. Every Wednesday afternoon, RYC hosts “Tea Time,” a support group for transgender and gender-expansive youth. “Empower Pride” is a mental health support group for victims of crime. It's held Thursdays from 5:30 PM to 7:00 PM.

Clark Adomaitis is a Durango transplant from New York City. He is a recent graduate of the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY, where he focused on reporting and producing for radio and podcasts. He reported sound-rich stories on the state of recycling and compost in NYC.
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