This blog entry by ACLU of Montana LGBT Organizer Liz Welch originally appeared on

Today, we mark the moment of the ultimate prejudice toward fellow human beings with the Transgender Day of Remembrance, an annual observance on November 20 that honors the memory of those whose lives were lost in acts of anti-transgender violence.

“The Transgender Day of Remembrance seeks to highlight the losses we face due to anti-transgender bigotry and violence. I am no stranger to the need to fight for our rights, and the right to simply exist is first and foremost. With so many seeking to erase transgender people — sometimes in the most brutal ways possible — it is vitally important that those we lose are remembered, and that we continue to fight for justice.” – Transgender Day of Remembrance founder Gwendolyn Ann Smith

We also honor those who pioneered transgender activism. HuffPost Gay Voices lists 51 significant pioneers who brought awareness to the masses.

In remembering those who have died just for being who they are, we must also pledge to work for acceptance for gender expression and identity. Montana is not immune to transphobia and in some instances, transgender violence.  In April of 2012, a transgender woman in Missoula was allegedly sexually assaulted by a man and physically assaulted upon his discovery of her non conforming gender status.  While working on nondiscrimination ordinances, the question presented itself about the consequences of transgender persons using the public restrooms and are emotionally charged discussions. And, of course, Montana offers no protection on a statewide level for any LGBT citizen.

I admit that I didn’t fully understand the intricacies of transgender issues until I started as LGBT Organizer. It wasn’t that I didn’t accept it, but I hadn’t fully realized what people go through in their transition.  

Reading Bobbie Zenker’s book “Trans in Montana” and speaking with other transgender individuals has opened my eyes to the challenges and dangers of being transgender in Montana. I am grateful to them for their gentle guidance to assist me in greater understanding. I strongly encourage you to read Bobbie’s book for your own awakening.

It is imperative that we protect the transgender community in Montana.  It doesn’t take a leap of understanding to know that these are our friends, our co-workers, and our next door neighbors and deserve the same level of safety and security that we all expect and take for granted.

Please consider attending the hearing for nondiscrimination in Helena’s City County Building at 6:00 pm on December 3rd.  An ordinance providing for nondiscrimination protects  all LGBT citizens and is critical to providing a climate of acceptance and safety for transgender Montanans and those who visit our state capitol.