Stockton Commemorates Transgender Day of Remembrance

Em McHugh, '22, of Kalediscope spoke about hope and the importance of being there for the next generation during their remarks for Nov. 20's Transgender Day of Remembrance.

Galloway, N.J. — Stockton University students were invited at a Nov. 20 event to take a moment and learn more about Transgender Day of Remembrance, a nationally commemorated holiday that is meant to remember and honor the lives of transgender individuals lost to violence.

The event in the Michael Jacobson Board of Trustees Room included brief remarks during a free breakfast and featured artwork and poetry created by trans Stockton students. Various organizations also tabled and offered resources to students, including the Women’s Gender & Sexuality Center (WGSC), Counseling & Psychological Services, student organizations Active Minds and Forensic Psychology Club and the off-campus program Kaleidoscope, which is an extension of the Center for Family Services that exclusively serves LGBTQ+ individuals in New Jersey.

Van Nhi Ho, the coordinator for LGBTQ+ initiatives for the WGSC, hosted the event for the second year with two goals in mind — to continue creating safe and brave spaces for transgender students on campus and to educate the campus community on the violence that the transgender community faces. During the event, Ho shared troubling statistics from the Human Rights Campaign that demonstrated such violence: 

people in a group
of transgender victims were people of color
woman standing
of victims were Black transgender women
of victims were killed with a gun
person standing in front of another
of victims have a known killer and were killed by a romantic or sexual partner, friend or family member
signature with a slash through it
were misgendered or deadnamed by authorities or the press, leading to their chosen identities being potentially erased or forgotten

According to Ho, reading such statistics and hearing the stories of transgender individuals being discriminated against and even murdered isn’t meant for people to feel bad — it’s meant to inspire change. She reminded the audience that, as Stockton students, the power to be agents of change rests with them.

“Transgender Day of Remembrance is not just about mourning the lives lost. It's a call to action, an opportunity for us to reflect on the challenges faced by our transgender siblings and to envision a future of inclusivity, respect and understanding,” Ho said. “In empowering and supporting our transgender peers, we are not only enriching our lives but contributing to the vibrant tapestry that is our college experience. So, let's not just remember today as a day of death, but let us commit to taking meaningful action. I want us to engage in conversations that challenge our ignorance, be an ally in times of need and actively contribute to a campus culture that uplifts and empowers everyone.”

The theme of power continued during remarks from both President Joe Bertolino and Em McHugh, a representative from Kaleidoscope who graduated from Stockton last spring. 

President Joe during his remarks

A student looking at the artwork during the event

Van Nhi Ho during her remarks

A faculty member looking at the artwork during the event

As a "proud member of the queer community," Bertolino said he has been grateful for the WGSC and student organizations like Pride Alliance and the Queer & Trans People of Color Society for offering resources and hosting events like last month’s flag raising, vigil for queer lives and clothing swap that positively impact students in the LGBTQ+ community. He hopes that students continue to work to make Stockton an inclusive campus for all.

“It can be difficult and painful to go through certain transitions, but at the same time, it can be celebratory and empowering. We want to make sure that we are helping our community members and our students to be safe, and we want to celebrate and be empowered with them,” Bertolino said. “If you see someone in need or struggling, or if you see just an opportunity to engage in a conversation with someone who could potentially be an ally, use that power to speak, educate and support. At the end of the day, we want to ensure that folks in our community are treated with dignity, respect, kindness, compassion, civility, and we want to ensure that the folks belong and that they feel heard and seen.”

Despite the solemn nature of the day, McHugh found a ray of hope. They discussed their role at Kaleidoscope, where they meet with many LGBTQ+ youth who are trying to understand their identity and find a community on a daily basis. According to McHugh, it’s those youth that inspire them to continue their advocacy.

“There have been days where I have wanted to stay in bed after watching the news, yet I still rise, and I see those kids because they help me realize how important my life is. To these kids, they don't see an adult who cries over every sad news story; they see a proud, trans, queer adult who is living and someone who was able to make it out of high school and create a career where they are able to surround themselves with other trans and queer people. They see what life could be like for them,” McHugh said. “On days of struggle, remember this: you matter, even to kids you will never meet. Your life is an act of defiance against a world that does not want us to be here.” 

Jennifer Rios (left) is one of the students who were able to make lifelong friendships and connections through programs like Oct. 24 and Oct. 25's Transcendence Clothing Swap.
Jennifer Rios (left) is one of the students who were able to make lifelong friendships and connections through programs like Oct. 24 and Oct. 25's Transcendence Clothing Swap. Photo by Susan Allen.

Galloway, N.J. – Students didn’t just have a chance to meet their advisor on Preceptor Day — they also had an opportunity to participate in multiple Oct. 26 events organized for October’s national LGBTQ+ History Month.

During “Honoring the Lives and Identities of the Queer Community,” which included impactful speeches and a vigil for queer lives lost, a common theme among speakers was the importance of allyship.

Van Nhi Ho, the graduate coordinator for LGBTQ+ initiatives for the Women’s Gender & Sexuality Center, started off the speeches by defining what it means to be an ally to the queer community.

“In an allyship, you don't just step in when it's convenient or to say something just because you're asked to: You proactively are an ally to this community, not just when it's popular or when it's easy to show off to people on social media. It's an actual role to play actively in your life, and I think that in itself is a very powerful thing to remember, especially as students, that we can use our voices and be allies to multiple communities,” Ho said. 

– Story by Loukaia Taylor

– Story by Loukaia Taylor

– Photos by Lizzie Nealis