Trans Day of Remembrance is an important event which honours the lives of trans people that are no longer with us, and has done since its first vigil in 1999. Part of the day is remembering those who came before us and taking the time to learn about them, so as to respect their memory.
Here are five trans people who are sadly no longer with us, who you can keep in your thoughts this Trans Day of Remembrance.
Born in 1916 in Houston, Texas, Willmer was a gospel quartet singer, and was known as ‘Little Axe’. Willmer was a trans man, but little is known about his trans journey, as the fact he was trans was not known until after his death. However, this does suggest that he began identifying as trans when he was quite young, and it was a fact that only his family knew about.
Willmer began his career in the St Paul Gospel Singers in Houston with his brother as a teenager, before moving to Los Angeles together, and joining Southern Gospel Singers. Willmer joined several other groups throughout his career, becoming part of what is now known as the golden age of traditional Black gospel. His discography includes songs like Stand By Me/Hear Me When I Pray, which he recorded with The Fairfield Four, and I Never Heard A Man, which he performed with The Five Blind Boys of Mississippi.
Willmer was sadly killed in 1992, by his partner during an argument. He lives on through his contribution to traditional Black gospel, and the joy he brought through his voice.
Alan L Hart
Alan was born in 1890 in Kansas, United States. He wrote about how, as a young child, his grandparents supported his desire to be and present as a boy. However, when his family moved when he was 12, he was forced to present as a girl to attend school. In 1917, when he was 27, Alan contacted a doctor at the University of Oregon in order to pursue medical transition. He was able to get a hysterectomy, take testosterone and change his name.
Hart spent most of his career researching tuberculosis and is considered to be a legendary pioneer in the science world. He obtained a master’s degree in radiology and in public health. He spent the last six years of his life giving lectures and fundraising for medical research into tuberculosis treatment for people who could not afford it. Hart also spent time writing fiction. He wrote several short stories, including To the Faculty and The Unwritten Law on Campus, though he also published several novels, most notably The Undaunted, which was about a gay physician.
Hart sadly passed away in July of 1961 from heart failure. His ashes were scattered over Puget Sound where he and his second wife Edna had spent a lot of time. Hart’s legacy lives on through the Alan L and Edna Ruddick Hart Fund, which makes grants for research into leukaemia, and a cure.
Lucy Hicks Anderson
Born in 1886 in Kentucky, US, Lucy came out as trans as a young Black girl, telling her parents and adopting her chosen name. She was a very skilled chef and became a well-known socialite. In 1945, she was convicted of perjury, as it was said Lucy had lied on her marriage licence by saying she was a woman.
Lucy was also convicted of fraud for receiving the financial payments that wives of soldiers received, as her husband, Reuben Anderson, was a soldier. During her perjury trial, Lucy proudly said: “I defy any doctor in the world to prove that I am not a woman…I have lived, dressed, and acted just what I am, a woman.”
She was sentenced to ten years in jail, alongside her husband. Their relationship outlasted the intense scrutiny on her being trans, and they stayed together long after they were released from prison until her death in 1954. She will always be admired for the strength she showed during her trial.
Roberta was born in Croydon, England in 1918, and was both a fighter pilot in World War Two and a racing driver. She founded a motor racing team after the war and competed in events across the continent. After the war, she sought treatment for depression, and it was by talking to a psychiatrist that she realised that her “unconscious mind was predominantly female”, as she stated in her autobiography. Roberta is known for being one of the first trans people to openly go through a medical transition. She was also able to update her name and gender marker on her birth certificate to reflect who she truly was.
Roberta continued to be active in motor racing throughout her life, despite the fact her transition meant she was no longer allowed to compete in Grand Prix racing. She published her autobiography in 1954, in which she wrote about her transition and documented her career.
Roberta passed away in 2011, at the age of 93. Her fearlessness to be who she was in the climate she was in, especially in the passions she held, will always be remembered.
Born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1986, SOPHIE was a music producer, DJ, and songwriter. Producing music for the likes of Kim Petras, Madonna and Charli XCX, SOPHIE also released music – notably singles like Bipp and Lemonade.
SOPHIE came out as a trans woman in the music video for It’s Okay to Cry in 2017, which SOPHIE confirmed and discussed more in interviews after the video’s release. A representative for SOPHIE said that SOPHIE preferred not to use pronouns at all, but instead be referred to simply by name.
A pioneer of the hyper-pop genre, SOPHIE sadly died in Greece in 2021, at the age of 34. On 16 June that year, the International Astronomical Union announced that they had named a planet Sophiexeon after this trans icon. SOPHIE will forever be remembered through the music SOPHIE made, and the impact those songs had on the music industry.
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