Raising awareness, commemorating those we lost

DEFGLIS recognises Transgender Awareness Week and International Transgender Day of Remembrance—20 November 2021

Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) was founded by Gwendolyn Ann Smith in November 1999 to honour her friend Rita Hester, a transgender African American woman who had been murdered in an act of transphobic violence the previous year. The annual vigil, now celebrated internationally for over 20 years, commemorates all transgender people lost to bigotry and violence.

The 2021 TransRespect report tragically lists the names of 375 transgender people who are known to have been murdered across the world in the past year, the highest number since the EU-based organisation began recording data. In reality, this number is much lower than the true total, as the majority of names were recorded in countries with established LGBTQ+ networks that have the capacity to monitor and collect this data. Most cases of transphobic violence continue to go unreported.


“I am no stranger to the need to fight for our rights, and the right to simply exist is first and foremost. With so many seeking to erase transgender people — sometimes in the most brutal ways possible — it is vitally important that those we lose are remembered, and that we continue to fight for justice”

– Gwendolyn Ann Smith, Founder of TDOR


The days leading up to TDOR have also taken on special significance as the trans community reflects on their personal and collective struggles, and victories, from the previous calendar year. This is now known across the world as Transgender Awareness Week, and it aims to shed light on the experiences of transgender and gender diverse (TGD) people.

As many people within, or close to, the TGD community already know: the statistics on trans health and wellbeing are devastatingly grim. The most recent, peer-reviewed, national community survey of TGD Australian adults from a research team at the University of Melbourne found that the proportion of trans individuals experiencing mental health challenges was significantly greater than the general population. This is reflected by high reporting of depression (73%), anxiety (67%), self-harm (63%), and attempted suicide (43%). TGD people reported experiencing verbal abuse (63%), physical assault (22%) and domestic violence (14%), as well as discrimination in accessing employment (33%), healthcare (26%), government services (16%) and housing (10%).

Even though these figures are very concerning, transgender awareness week and transgender day of remembrance should not to be a lesson in statistics. Each TGD person has their own life and their own story that is precious and unique. Trans people are part of diverse communities across Australia, including within DEFGLIS.

For the DEFGLIS community, TDOR also presents an opportunity to remember those transgender and gender diverse Defence personnel who have served Australia throughout history. Many of these people served in silence, never being given an opportunity to live as who they truly were.

Whilst TDOR is a sombre occasion, it is also a very important one for the trans community. On 20 Nov 21, an online vigil was held to remember the lives lost to bigotry and violence this year.

Our work to prevent these catastrophic statistics has never been more important than now.

If this article has raised distressing issues for you, please reach out to any of the support services available: 

Beyond Blue | 1300 22 4636 | Online Chat | Email | https://www.beyondblue.org.au/

Lifeline | 13 11 14 | Online Chat | Text | https://www.lifeline.org.au/

Q Life LGBTI Telephone Counselling |1800 184 527 | Online Chat | https://qlife.org.au/

Open Arms Counselling Service |1800 011 046 | https://www.openarms.gov.au/

Sexual Misconduct Prevention & Response Office – SeMPRO | 1800 736 776 | E-mail

Defence Member & Family Support Helpline | 1800 624 608 | E-mail

ADF All Hours Mental Health Support Line (triage service) | 1800 628 036