A Service for the Transgender Day of Remembrance
Background: The Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) is observed annually on November 20. It was set aside to memorialize those who were killed due to anti-transgender hatred or prejudice. The event is held in November to honor Rita Hester, a trans woman of color whose murder on November 28th, 1998 kicked off the Remembering Our Dead web project and a San Francisco candlelight vigil in early 1999. Due to the interest in both the website and that original vigil, it was decided that an annual memorial to those killed due to anti-transgender violence or prejudice was necessary to help spread information about these deaths.
The Transgender Day of Remembrance serves several purposes. It raises public awareness of hate crimes against transgender people and those perceived to be trans. It publicly mourns and honors the lives of our siblings who might otherwise be forgotten. Through the vigil, we express love and respect for transgender people in the face of national indifference and hatred. TDOR also gives non-trans allies the chance to step forward with us and stand in vigil, memorializing those who have died by anti-transgender violence.
Notes for Planning the Service:
It is common practice to read the names of those murdered in the last year. This can be done by volunteers or by the worship leaders. Some TDOR services include the ways in which the people were killed – it is up to the worship leadership to determine whether this is appropriate for your setting. It is strongly encouraged that trans-identified people are part of the planning and discussion prior to the service. Regardless of whether or not the ways in which people are killed is read, it is important for the worship leadership to understand the brutality of the murders as physical manifestations of systemic racism and sexism. It is also important to recognize that those recognized on TDOR are not the only trans folks who lose their lives in any given year; many others lose their lives to suicide and drug addiction, which are also results of systemic oppression.
TDOR should also be a time to mark the resilience of the trans community. With that in mind, a TDOR service should focus not only on those lost and the systems which result in such violence, but also on the resilience of those individuals and the community as a whole.
If you are planning a TDOR service, we hope the service outlined below will be of help for you in the process. Visit our Worship Resources to download a PDF of the service.
A Service for the Transgender Day of Remembrance
CALL TO WORSHIP (From Matthew 5)
One: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kindom of heaven.
All: Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
One: Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
All: Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
One: Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
All: Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
One: Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
All: Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kindom of heaven.
One: We are the salt of the earth, the light of the world.
All: We will let our light shine before others,
and our shining will give glory to God.
Hymn O For a World Hymn 386, Glory to God Hymnal
Prayer of Confession
One: As the body is clothed in cloth
And the muscles in the skin
And the bones in the muscles
And the heart in the chest,
So are we, body and soul,
Clothed in the goodness of God. (from Julian of Norwich)
Yet, too often we turn away from this goodness that is in our very being.
Trusting in God’s faithfulness, compassion, and constant presence within and among us,
let us confess our sin before God and one another.
you knit our bodies:
All: Black bodies
One: Bodies created in love and meant to be loved.
All: Our trans bodies
One: Our bodies were created in love and meant to be loved.
All: And yet, we have upheld these lies:
Black bodies are deficient
Brown bodies are illegal
White bodies are superior
Trans bodies are fundamentally flawed
Queer bodies are over-sexualized
Only Cisgender bodies are natural
Only Straight bodies are normal
One: We have borne these lies from our thoughts, passed them on to our children,
sputtered them from our mouths, spat them at our neighbors.
We have turned them in upon ourselves and out against one another.
Like poison, they consume us, so that the truth that we are your beloved children is lost.
We refuse to believe that our own complicity is a form of violence.
Jesus died a brutal death on the cross because he refused to uphold death-dealing systems,
and yet we who profess him as our savior refuse to see the ways in which our participation
in such systems results in the murders of trans people.
Forgive us for our willful ignorance, and for our complicity in these systems even when they result in death.
All: Forgive us, O God, for believing these lies,
For internalizing them, and for upholding systems which reinforce them.
Forgive us for forgetting this truth: that our bodies
Were created in love and meant to be loved,
and that we are your beloved children.
Assurance of Pardon:
One: Beloveds, we have been created in love,
and we were created to be compassionate with our own bodies and with one another’s.
Do not let the sin of deception convince you that you were created for anything less.
Live as people who have died and been brought back to life,
Trusting that the God of the resurrection is the same God who lifts us up each and every
day, holding us individually and collectively.
Know that you are forgiven.
Know that you are loved, and be at peace.
Passing of the Peace
Response Kyrie Eleison (Lord, Have Mercy) Hymn 579, Glory to God Hymnal
Proclaim God’s Word (Readings will vary based on the audience/context. Select a reading from below that is appropriate for your setting.)
First Reading options
Second Reading options
Message/Sermon The sermon and overarching message of the service should both name the atrocities of the losses TDOR marks while also lifting up the resilience of trans folks. The biblical texts offer narratives of death, comfort, inspiration, inclusion, and resurrection.
Litany for those taken (please see the names of those lost on tdor.info)
Litany option 1:
Have a candle for each person killed. For each name read, light one candle. After the lights are illuminated and the names read, turn out the lights for a moment of silence. The candles should remain lit until after the service has ended.
Litany option 2 (requires space to create a spiral walk)
Prior to the service, purchase +/-300 white paper bags and LED candles. Set aside enough paper bags to match the number of known trans people killed in US the last year. Decorate each of these bags to commemorate one of the people killed. These bags will be the center of the spiral walk. Place a candle inside each bag. Once those bags are placed, continue to place the remaining bags to create a spiral walk out from the center (it may be easier to mark the spiral with tape beforehand). As the spiral is being constructed, gradually turn out the lights. Once the spiral is constructed, take a moment of silence.
One: We place the candles in a spiral to reflect the ripple effects of violence on transgender bodies, to demonstrate the cumulative impact of these senseless deaths, and to visualize our faith in the power of community to stand together against violence. The spiral leads us out into the world, our paths lit by those lost. We are charged to carry the light into the world, to ensure their lives are not taken in vain.
Reading option 1 Still I Rise, by Maya Angelou
Reading option 2 Dark Testament Verse 8, by Pauli Murray
Hymn Suggestion: As Colors in the Sky, Hymn 12b in Songs for the Holy Other.