Remembering Rita

| November 20, 2017 | 0 Comments

On November 28th, 1998, Rita Hester was stabbed to death in her Allston apartment, two days shy of her 35th birthday.

In life, Hester was a proud black transgender woman, a rock musician, and a dancer at a cabaret. She was well known in Boston as a vibrant part of the community, especially among other black and LGBT people. In death, she became a statistic. The average life expectancy for a transgender woman of color is just 35 years.

Rita Hester’s killer was never identified. In fact, the killer may very well be alive today, immune from the consequences of their actions. While the murderer remained anonymous, members of the community gathered at the Arlington St. Church in Boston to hold a vigil in her honor.

IMG_5905Over time, news of the vigil spread, and November 20th is now recognized as Transgender Day of Remembrance, observed in over 20 countries as a day to honor and mourn the transgender people who lost their lives in the previous year. The memorial is just as crucial now as it was 19 years ago. In 2017, 26 transgender people have been murdered in the U.S., and the year is not yet over; 17 of the victims were transgender women of color.

At the candlelight vigil, volunteers take turns reading aloud the names of the transgender people who lost their lives to violence. They pray for an end to the epidemic of murder, but that end is nowhere in sight.


Sometimes I can convince myself that I’m safe here, in one of the most liberal cities in one of the most liberal states. I tell myself that things are better here, that there’s no cause for fear. But then you listen to the seemingly endless list of names forever gone from this world, and somber reality comes crashing down.

Rita Hester wasn’t murdered in Texas, or Kentucky, or one of the other conservative places that seem almost backwards through progressive eyes. Rita was murdered in Allston. In our own backyard. In some ways, it feels a little special, that a movement started by our own community could have such a far-reaching impact on the world. Rita was the catalyst for a movement that was already growing everywhere else. But the sad truth is that it can happen anywhere, even here in our safe little bubble.

We’ve made progress; this past summer, Boston City Hall flew the trans pride flag in support of an anti-discrimination bill in the state government. We’ve had 19 years of progress, because we got lucky. The rest of the world hasn’t been quite so lucky.

Take the time to read through the list of unlawfully killed transgender people. Realize that this is still a problem everywhere in the world; on average, one transgender person is killed every three days. Remember Rita Hester and her impact on the LBGT community. Don’t let these victims die in vain.

Our sisters and brothers are dying. And they will continue to die, more than two every month, unless something changes.

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Category: Boston, featured, Politics, Reflections, Social Activism

Charlie Scanlan

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Charlie is a journalism major in the College of Communication.

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