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tdor and ownership

tdor and ownership: So thinking about the commercial aspects of tdor, i’m now also thinking about concepts of ownership and credit.

This is partly informed by my post on ‘owning’ community derived ideas.

So it is a fairly established ‘fact’ that the trans day of remembrance was started by Gwen Smith, yes?

Okay. Quiz time though, can anyone remember without googling, the name of the Black trans woman whose death prompted the first TDoR vigil?

You know what the sad thing is? I can’t remember. I’m literally about to google for the name right now.

Wikipedia tells me the name is Rita Hester.

Rita Hester.1

Can anyone tell me why Gwen Smith’s name is mentioned in every single article about TDoR but not Rita Hester’s? Why is Smith’s name so closely connected to the yearly day of remembrance for all the trans women of colour who’ve been lost to violence, but not Hester’s? Why is it that Smith is allowed to continue to assert ownership over the day and its ‘brand’ and, yes, continue to profit from this?

These are rhetorical questions, of course. We know what the answer is.

But I want to point out that every single non-Black person who has ever written about TDoR and not mention Rita Hester has helped participate in this historical erasure. This includes me. I’ve written about TDoR and while I haven’t spoken of the history, I have spoken about the appropriation of Black and/or Latina trans women’s suffering by white ppl. And about the appropriation of twoc suffering globally.

All without mentioning the very first Black trans woman whose death became a stepping stone for one white woman’s claim to fame. Whose death has inspired a global day of recognition of all the twoc lost to violence. Whose death now provides a platform for cis people, white trans women, and trans men of many colours to consume the bodies of twoc and appropriate our struggles.

So. Yeah. I’m sorry Rita. And I’m sorry to the Black trans women in my life for my complicity in this situation.

The decolonization of TDoR must start with Rita Hester.

Fuck Gwen Smith.

Any and all discussions of the history of TDoR must centre the role that Rita Hester played in it all. Just as any TDoR even must centre Black and/or Latina trans women.


  1. sidenote: i'm actually surprised to see that Rita Hester has a wikipage but Gwen Smith doesn't. yay?