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‘People have been set on fire:’ A day of remembrance for transgender murder victims

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SEATTLE -- Communities across the world are remembering those who've lost their lives because of transgender hate or prejudice.

The Day of Remembrance began in 1999 to raise more awareness about hate crimes and violence against transgender people.

“People have been set on fire while they are alive, thrown into tires and kicked down the street and laughed at while they burned alive," said Astro Pittman, a student at Seattle Central College who organized the Day of Remembrance event on campus.

Dozens of people came out to Seattle Central College Tuesday for a day of remembrance, telling their stories, and honoring those who’ve lost their lives because they’re transgender. Julia is a member of the Sisters of the Mother House of Washington and remembers losing a friend back in 1996.

“Diane was her name and they found her under the viaduct. Victim of a hate crime with no suspects whatsoever," Julia said.

The Human Rights Campaign reports that at least 22 transgender people in the United States have been murdered so far in 2018, the majority of them young women of color.

“Eighty-six percent of the trans murder of the 102 murders in the United States between 2013 and 2017 were Black, Hispanic or Native. Of the 24 known deaths since last year, 92% of them were minorities.”

HRC says many acts of violence against transgender people go unreported. The report also says the victim’s gender is often not reported accurately by police or in the media but Pittman has a different take on it.

“Often times it's embarrassment from the families that don’t want the rest of the world to know that their family member is trans. So they gender them based on their gender at birth other than the gender identity that they live in every day," Pittman said.

Pittman says he'd like to build stronger bonds in the trans community to help combat misinformation.

The ceremony ended with a candlelight vigil where the names of this year’s victims were read aloud, their names written on wish lanterns, to honor them all one by one.

Other Day of Remembrance events were scheduled at Seattle's Langston Hughes Performing Arts Center, Trinity Community Church in Kent, and David Rogers Park in Queen Anne.

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