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Annual Trans Day of Remembrance Held in Montgomery County

On Friday, November 16, 2018, Montgomery County held its 8th Annual Transgender Day of Remembrance and Resilience (TDOR) at VisArts Center in Rockville Town Square. This also marked the 20th anniversary of the Remembering Our Dead Project founded by Gwedolyn Ann Smith. The Project, as well as others like it, are still critical today - providing recognition of those we have lost each year.

Over 150 people attended the free event that included an address by James Stowe from the Montgomery County Office of Human Rights and continued with a number of artists and activists from Montgomery County and the District, including: Jaan Williams, Elizabeth K. Graham, Dominic Manzella, Achim Jeremiah Howard, Diedre Gray, Tamika Spellman, Onika Williams, Xemiyulu Manibusan Tapepechul, Victoria M. Rodríguez-Roldán, and Nelwat Ishkamewe. Apart from Stowe, all the speakers and artists were part of the local trans community, and organizers prioritized lifting the voices of local transgender activists of color.

Throughout the evening, artists shared their stories. Elizabeth Graham recounted a dream about her deceased mother finally being able to call her by the name, Elizabeth. She and Dominic Manzella then performed a musical selection that was the last piece she and her mother had ever played together. Achim Howard spoke to his experience living with HIV as a trans person, and then shared the heartbreaking story of Kai, a trans man serving a life sentence for defending himself from transphobic physical assault. Tamika Spellman shared a story of watching one of her trans-sisters dying after being shot in a targeted hate attack. Deirdre Gray played a piano solo and Xemiyulu Manibusan Tapepechul shared her poem, “Prayer to Siwanawal.”

The program finished with a reading of the names after the presentation of a painting by Nelwat Ishkamewe. The painting featured stars that commemorate each of the trans people murdered in the US since the last Transgender Day of Remembrance. Globally, 369 transgender folks were murdered worldwide. In the US alone, 29 transgender lives were lost due to transphobic violence. As in previous years, transgender women were disproportionately murdered, making up 83% of this year’s victims.

The newly formed MoCo Pride Center, along with the Office of Human Rights, helped to bring this year’s TDOR to life, helping to ensure it was an event to honor the memory of the lives lost and allow grieving in a safe, welcoming, and beautiful space. “It’s important that we continue to evolve and elevate MoCo’s annual TDOR,” says Ezra Towne, Chair of the MoCo Pride Center Board of Directors, “and MoCo Pride Center spent considerable time organizing and fundraising for the event.”

Through the fundraising efforts, $1200 was given to local transgender activists and organizations – nearly three times as much as in previous years. Part of the money went toward stipends to the speakers and performers. “All too often, trans activists, artists, and organizations are asked to donate their time and creative labor,” explained Towne, “it’s unfair to expect oppressed folks to speak their truths on a volunteer basis over and over again.”

Additionally, a collection of $280 was taken for HIPS at the event. MoCo Pride Center then matched 50% of the collection bringing the total money raised for HIPS to $420. HIPS provides compassionate harm reduction services, advocacy, and community engagement to sex workers in the region. “We chose HIPS as a beneficiary of this event because we recognize that trans sex workers are at a higher risk for being victims of violence,” continued Towne, “According to one study, 62% of murdered trans people are sex workers.” HIPS provides an intersectional approach to harm reduction for all individuals and communicates to those engaging in sex for money.

For more information about the 2018 Montgomery County Trans Day of Remembrance or to get involved with future events, contact the MoCo Pride Center at


About MoCo Pride Center

Established in 2017, the MoCo Pride Center is a 501(c)(3) organization designed to serve the LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer) community and its allies in Montgomery County, Maryland. We strive to be the leading organization for LGBTQ resources and advocacy in our county. Our mission is to organize, support, educate, and provide outreach to the LGBTQ community and its allies.

The MoCo Pride Center will be built to:

  • Promote dignity and respect for all individuals;

  • Encourage authenticity and honesty in self-expression;

  • Connect community members and create a network of support for youth, adults, and families;

  • Organize and engage the LGBTQ community and our allies to build a movement to advance the rights, dignity and respect of all members of our community

Follow us on social media at @mocopridecenter For questions or comments, please email

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