Vigil held in remembrance of transgender victims

Members of the community show respect for the transgender men and women that have lost their lives in 2019.

OSKALOOSA – PFLAG Oskaloosa held a vigil on Nov. 20 to remember the transgender men and women that lost their lives to acts of anti-transgender violence in 2019.

This is the fourth year that PFLAG Oskaloosa has help the vigil on Transgender Day of Remembrance. A day that honors the lives of transgender people who lost their lives due to acts of violence.

President of PFLAG Oskaloosa Chad Farner said he doesn’t know if participating in vigil gives the lives of those lost meaning, but it gives their deaths a little more meaning.

“This is the fourth year that we’ve had a Transgender Day of Remembrance vigil at this spot,” Farner said, standing in the bandstand. “It’s such a tragic thing to read the names of people who we’ve obviously never met, but to know that they were killed for no other reason than being different. I don’t know that it gives their lives any more meaning, but at least makes their death have a little bit of meaning to have their names read and to think of them.”

One thing Farner would like the Oskaloosa community to understand and take away from the event is that we are all human.

“I think people just need to recognize that whether they’re in the LGBT community or not, we’re all people,” he said. “We all should be able to express the lives that we were meant to have. From a religious point of view, God loves us all and we should be open to accepting everybody.”

Farner says it’s important for him to lead and be apart of PFLAG because of how appreciative the community and because this is a way for him to carry out his church’s ‘open and affirming’ message.

“It was important for me for a couple of reasons our church, five years ago, became open and affirming and this was one way that I could take that message that our church was carrying and bring it out into the community,” he said. “It’s been gratifying over the years to have events like this and certainly we’ve had more uplifting events. I have had people come up to me in the store or in the community and say, ‘we really appreciate you doing this.’ They might have a friend or family member who’s in the LGBT community, they might even be members themselves and just appreciate the fact that the group exists and is vocal and visible.”

Approximately 18 people walked from the St. Paul Congregational Church United Church of Christ to the bandstand. At the bandstand, they stood in a circle calling out the names and reading messages from family and friends of the transgender people whose lives were short-lived. So far this year at least 23 transgender people have lost their lives.

Of the 23 names called out at Wednesday night’s vigil, 22 were African American women and the other a Caucasian man. During the vigil, Farner spoke out and said it’s impossible not to recognize how many of the victims were black women.

“It’s impossible to hear all of that without recognizing how many were black. How many were women. Perhaps invisible, and hopefully tonight we make them more visible and give some meaning to their meaningless death,” he said.

Oskaloosa High School student and member of the high school’s Gay-Straight Alliance Club Gracee Wells said those numbers were ridiculous as race shouldn’t be a factor and no one should lose their life because they are transgender or for being who they are.

“It’s ridiculous,” she said. “For one, the black thing should not even be like a thing, let alone be killed for being who they are. Black women are already put down which shouldn’t be a thing, but just because they’re trans doesn’t mean that they should lose their lives.”

Wells said it was important for her and her friend to make it to the vigil to show that young people care and fight just as hard for the rights of the LGBTQ community.

“I wanted to make it a point that like young people still care and that we’re not okay with it. That we’re still here and we’re still like fighting for rights that are not necessarily given,” she said.

PFLAG is the first and largest organization that advocates for friends, families and members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community. PFLAG Oskaloosa has been around since 2015 and hosts a support group on the third Tuesday of every month at 6 p.m. in the Fellowship Hall on the lower level of the St. Paul Congregational Church United Church of Christ.

Tiffany McDaniel can be reached at or on Twitter @tmcdaniel_osky.

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