As most of us will know, a TDoR vigil is usually a simple event where we read the names of our dead and remember what happened to them.
Often, all we know for certain about them is how little we know. The official TDoR memorial list released by Transgender Europe (TGEU) in early November doesn’t tend to tell us a great deal about each of them:
- Often (though not always) a name
- Sometimes their age
- How and where they died
- A (very) brief narrative describing what happened to them
- A little information about the source of the report (though usually not a link where we could learn more)
And that’s it – a whole life extinguished, with barely a few lines of text to tell their story. As each is only one among so very many lost lives the need for brevity is understandable – but I can’t help thinking that it doesn’t help us to connect with them.
Learning A Little More
Often it is possible to find out a little bit more about what happened from news reports or social media posts. Sometimes it is just their name or age (if those were not reported by TGEU), sometimes it’s a quote from a friend of family member— and occasionally it’s something far more personal — like something they have written, a blogpost or article about them or even a video of them doing what they loved.
Every piece of information tells a story, and I think we owe it to them to try to make at least some of that part of TDoR, somehow.
To do so often means doing a great deal of traumatic, painful research, but fortunately there are activists worldwide already doing just that. The news reports and other news sources they identify are collated and shared, along with relevant information that may otherwise be lost.
As a result of this we already know about most of those we will be remembering at TDoR vigils in November 2018. As expected, their stories are heartbreaking and make for traumatic reading.
However in doing so we have come to realise that blogposts aren’t at all ideal for presenting this sort of information. Hence for the past few months a dedicated database driven website has also been under development to present this information.
A first version of that site is now live at https://tdor.translivesmatter.info:
Although only data for TDoR 2018 and 2017 is included so far, that for previous years will be added eventually as time permits. At the moment the site is read-only and does not provide a way for others to contribute, but that should also change in due course.
However the site already provides a basic memorial slideshow facility which may well be suitable for a background display at a TDoR event, and you can selectively download all of the data (in CSV form suitable for opening in a spreadsheet) and photos for the displayed reports if you need to.
A companion Twitter account (@tdorinfo) has also been set up and should go live shortly.
Coming Sooner or Later
What we have so far is a start, but obviously there is scope to do a great deal more if needed. The sort of things I can see being potentially useful include:
- Direct editing of reports (this is being worked on already)
- A way for people to submit links, reports or corrections
- Downloading and printing of memorial cards (like the ones shown in the photo at the beginning of this article) for TDoR vigils
- Translations to other languages
For the technically minded, the site is running on a hosted CPanel Linux server which comes with PHP 5.3 and MySQL 5.5. Local scripts are mostly in Python, and the project repository is in Mercurial.
Maintaining a site like this (and especially the data behind it) is an intensive, psychologically demanding process, so how it develops will obviously depend on the volunteers who are willing and able to work together on such a grim project.
Any help with the project (whether on a technical, research, data collation or social media capacity) would be most welcome. If you want to help out or just offer feedback, please let me know.
I am very aware that there is a degree of risk associated with doing this. In particular, there are people out there who wish us ill, and will have no qualms about trying to weaponise information about the deaths of trans people against us all.
That said, our lives can be just as broken and messy as the rest of the population. As such the fact that some trans murder victims were killed by other trans people isn’t something we should shy away from or pretend does not happen.
Equally, site security is something we must take seriously and there is a conversation to be had about what data we should (as opposed to could) share about victims — especially given the amoral tactics of some transphobes out there.
However, all information shared to date has been taken from publicly accessible sources (mostly news reports and public social media posts). Some links quoted are to Closed social media groups, but (obviously) none are to or sourced via Secret groups.
Lest We Forget
But we must never forget that all of these details are just a means to an end.
TDoR 2018 is still over two months away, and even browsing through the reports that we already have is absolutely heartbreaking — but I think we owe it to them to try do at least that if we can manage it.
Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t say thank you to all of the activists worldwide who are working tirelessly to shine a light on all of the violence and try to make sure that those we have lost are not forgotten. You’re all amazing.
I’m an optimist, so I’m convinced that one day the endless trail of horror will finally end – but even when it does, I hope that we will all feel that we should keep remembering those we will have lost on the way there.
I think we owe them that, at least.
[This is an abridged version of a blogpost on Medium]