LYNCHBURG, Va. (WFXR) — At least 37 transgender people have been killed so far this year at the hands of anti-trans violence, most of them Black and Brown trans women.
That is up from at least 27 known cases in all of 2019.
Friday, Nov. 20, marks Transgender Day of Remembrance to honor those killed.
Onna McKlennon, a school bus driver in Amherst County, said, “This is stuff that my school bus children gave me over the years,” she said, gesturing towards a wall full of drawings and letters in her home.
McKlennon is also an artist who filled every inch of her walls with her drawings. In addition, she’s a trans woman, who says she’s known she was a woman her entire life.
“See, I’m 60. I’m into my early 60s now, and through my life, I assumed it wasn’t possible.”
She started transitioning about five years ago.
“I began to transition in small ways, pierced ears, changing my clothing, doing a little bit of makeup, and getting a little more confidence, and finally I was confident enough to start to go out in public, worried to death about it.”
Worried, in part, because of the disproportionate levels of violence trans people suffer.
“I’ve had people laughing at me and treating me with disrespect,” said McKlennon. “People turn their backs to me and won’t speak to me.”
She says when she came out, she was supported by her superintendent. Now, she speaks in front of the school board as they work to adopt nondiscrimination policies to protect trans staff and students and help put a face to the issue.
“It was my responsibility to let them know who they’re talking about, who they’re dealing with.”
The community group Refuge is hosting a virtual event Friday with music and personal testimonies in honor of Transgender Day of Remembrance.
“It’s important because many people forget these things happen,” said Chris Badgett, a co-organizer of Refuge, “that people lose their lives just from being themselves.”
For McKlennon, it’s an important day.
“To give them the attention we can to give their lives meaning to us, having lost too many people, too many trans people of color.”