Diana McIntosh realized she was different at a young age.
“This was back in the 1950s; transgender wasn’t even a word,” McIntosh, a transgender woman, said.
“I am 67 years old and it has been a struggle all my life to be who I am,” she said. “My slogan always is we are going to win people one at a time. You don’t try to make the whole community accept everything all at one time, but you teach people individually.”
Wednesday was the Transgender Day of Remembrance, and McIntosh was one of those who attended a vigil that night in front of the Mountainlair to honor the at least 22 transgender people who lost their lives to hate crimes in 2019.
The WVU LGBTQ+ Center hosted the vigil to bring the community together and spread awareness of the inequality those within the community face in their everyday lives.
Cris Mayo, LGBTQ+ Center director and WVU women’s and gender studies professor, said of those lives taken, 20 were black, transgender women.
She said this statistic shows a correlation between other forms of unacceptance beyond just gender identity.
“Very clearly we have a problem with the intersection of racism, anti-trans violence and misogyny in this country,” Mayo said. “An additional person was a trans white male and an additional person was a black, gender non-conforming person.”
Madison Wedge, a junior communications studies student, said a big part of it for her is not being afraid to represent who you are and what you believe it.
Wedge said many of LGBTQ+ friends were afraid to attend events like the vigil, she feels it is important for her to represent them as well.
“It is a little scary I guess being out there and being yourself,” she said. “It is reassuring being in the community though and knowing that for every person that disagrees with you, there are two more people that are there to comfort you.”
The vigil has become an annual event intended to remember lives taken due to hate crimes, and Mayo said the event aims to help make the world a more accepting place.
“What we want to show people is that we are a community that mourns the people we have lost to hate, but that we also celebrate the fact that we are here to try and make the world better,” Mayo said. “We really want to challenge the kind of bias that is leading to, trans women especially, being killed, but any trans person or gender non-binary person as well.”