Transgender Day of Remembrance

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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.

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. Language in the service below uses expansively gendered language; adapt as is fitting for your context.

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 Light Dawns on a Weary World Hymn 79, Glory to God Hymnal

Prayer of Confession

One: Baptism marks our connection to each other, and to God. It is an outward sign of an inward reality, a reality that comes with a promise that our community will see us and raise us and love us as God loves us. It is a celebration of our place in the community, and it is a sign that God’s grace is given to us even when we do not have the capacity to ask for it. This abundant grace is a balm to the wounds of scarcity.

All: Yet, we acknowledge the church has rejected this grace, denying the baptism of so many. We lament the ways church has upheld systems of oppression that put a price on human life, denied people of their names and God-given identities, and has forced so many to make the unholy choice between living in a community of faith and living into who they are.

We confess there are times when we have chosen the path of scarcity, even when you are  calling us to abundance. When we have rejected your grace, denied our own belovedness. Forgive us.

One: We invite you to speak the names of those whose identities have been dishonored, whose baptisms have been denied by the Church that was called by God to love them.

Sung Response Kyrie Eleison Hymn 577, Glory to God Hymnal
As names of those taken in 2019 are being spoken, remove water from the font.
Be sure to check for updated information prior to November 20.

One: We give gratitude for those who did not shy away in the face of overwhelming scarcity. We give gratitude for those who have been taken too soon, yet whose impact is still felt.

All: We give thanks, O God, for these our saints, who modeled abundance throughout history, who fiercely claimed who they were and lived into that fullness, and whose legacy has shown the world new ways of being.

One: Give us courage to claim our baptism, even in the face of scarcity that seeks to erase our humanity.

All: Remind us that your grace is abundant, even while we are finite.

One: We invite you again to speak those names, not in lament, but in celebration.

As names are being spoken again, pour water back into the font.

Assurance of Pardon

One: Beloveds, know that you are beautiful. Know that you are seen, and know that you are loved beyond measure by a God of infinite abundance.

All: Amen.

The Passing of the Peace

One: The Peace of Christ be with you.

All: And also with you.

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

  • Isaiah 56:1-8
  • Genesis 32: 22-31
  • Isaiah 43: 1-4
  • John 11: 1-16

Second Reading options

  • John 20: 11-18
  • Acts 8: 26 – 40
  • Romans 8: 35 – 39
  • Galatians 3: 25 – 29
  • John 11:17 – 44

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 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 eaiser 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.


Option 1: Still I Rise, by Maya Angelou

Option 2: Dark Testament Verse 8, by Pauli Murray This poem is by Pauli Murray, a queer historian, attorney, poet, activist, teacher and the first African American woman to become an Episcopal priest.


Hymn As Colors in the Sky Hymn 12b, Songs for the Holy Other


Written by Jess Cook except Confession sequence. Copyright More Light Presbyterians, 2019

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