Edinburgh's independent student newspaper

Trans Day of Remembrance vigil held in Bristo Square 

A group of people at the vigil
Saturday 4th December 2021 16.53

CW: trans and non-binary discrimination, murder, suicide

Friday the 19th of November marked Transgender Day of Remembrance when the lives of those lost to transphobic discrimination and violence were honoured. 

The University of Edinburgh’s Trans and Non-Binary Campaign along with other University-based queer groups joined together to host a vigil in Bristo Square to remember those lost. 

In front of the festively decked Teviot Row House displaying the colours of the trans pride flag, Trans and Non-Binary Liberation Officer, Jaime Prada hosted the vigil in memoriam, but also as a celebration of the living community. 

A trans pride flag sewn together with scraps of fabric donated by the community and allies also ran down the steps in Bristo. 

Prada started off the vigil with messages of support for Edinburgh’s trans and non-binary community: 

“Any single time that you need someone, you can just look around and there is always going to be someone listening.” 

Crowd of people at the vigil
People gathered in Bristo Square for Trans Day of Remembrance vigil.
Photo courtesy of Kate Woraker

They then passed the mic to the Trans and Non-Binary staff representative, Sonja, who shared “fragmented thoughts” on the day. 

Prada highlighted the high rates of trans and non-binary violence in the Global South, noting that the media is “very focused on the US, very focused on the Global North.” 

A memorial of trans lives lost in the UK this year was then orchestrated by reading the names aloud and sharing comments from family and friends: 

  • Jane McQueen, Manchester 
  • Nila Gupta, London 
  • Leeze Lawrence, Stirling 
  • Sophie Gwen Williams, London 
  • Milo Turner, Plymouth

A minute of silence followed as a symbol of respect and remembrance. 

President of PrideSoc, Ida then shared their poem ‘Constellations’ written to mark the day. 

The vigil concluded with participants being given an opportunity to sign the flag as a visual symbol of all those who are there for support in Edinburgh. 

People signing the transgender flat at the vigil
Signing of the trans flag in support and solidarity. Photo courtesy of Kate Woraker

To follow-up the vigil, Jaime started a forum in Teviot with guests such as Rector Debora Kayembe and EUSA Sabbatical Officers. 

Poems, notes and topics of debate and discussion were shared about issues the University is currently facing with regards to trans and non-binary rights. 

A prominent topic of discussion was the ongoing ‘academic freedom’ debate where certain topics that can be deemed harmful to the rights of marginalised groups are discussed under the clause of ‘freedom of expression’. 

The Student spoke to Jaime Prada regarding their final thoughts on the event, asking about the significance of holding the vigil at an institution such as the University of Edinburgh: 

“Historically this institution hasn’t necessarily been engaging with student voices and student activism and I do think that we are at the core of the values at the University… Having spaces like this … it gives a chance for all of us to have a formal discussion … on things that we need and as trans people.

“We haven’t had that chance until this moment, there has never been something like this where we break that separation between staff and students, where we can come altogether and discuss things that are really affecting our lives on a daily basis, and they do hear us.” 

Jamie Prada speaking at vigil for Trans Day of Remembrance
Jamie Prada speaking at the vigil. Photo courtesy of Kate Woraker

We also asked Jaime for comment on the ongoing ‘freedom of expression’ debate, they told us: 

“We should change the framing of what we understand as freedom of expression, sometimes what is being defended as academic freedom has been known to go against the rights of certain marginalised groups - that is not academic freedom.

“Academic freedom is not for you to push forward a discourse and a narrative that completely diminishes our experiences and undermines our stories and completely invalidates us.

“There are a lot of people hiding behind the academic freedom façade that are promoting hate speech and I do think there is a need for our institution to be stronger in preventing things like this.”  

Photo courtesy of Kate Woraker