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Fargo-Moorhead Transgender Day of Remembrance service aims to honor lives lost, spread acceptance

The Transgender Day of Remembrance service hosted by Tristate Transgender will start at 7 p.m. Saturday at the First Congregational United Church of Christ, 406 8th St. S., Moorhead.

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Katrina Jo Koesterman is the President of Tristate Transgender and organizes the Transgender Day of Remembrance event coming up this Saturday. David Samson / The Forum
Forum Communications Co.

MOORHEAD — Katrina Jo Koesterman had known she was different since a young age, but she “remained in the closet” as transgender until she was 25 years old.

Before becoming the president of Tristate Transgender , Koesterman faced rejection and ridicule, and even death threats. The pushback about her being transgender still continues, but she hopes that services like the upcoming Transgender Day of Remembrance will help change public perception.

Since 1999, the Transgender Day of Remembrance has been held on Nov. 20. The services began across the nation after an African-American transgender woman named Rita Hester was found stabbed 20 times in 1998. She later died at the hospital of cardiac arrest.

“Locally, the rest of the cisgender and hetero community is more passive-aggressive in their disdain for us; there is not a lot of violence toward us,” Koesterman, now 36, said.

Anyone who considers themselves an ally to the transgender community can attend Saturday’s service, Koesterman said.

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“It’s a day about respect and remembrance for those we have lost. This year, we have over 400 names worldwide who have died or have committed suicide,” she said. “The list keeps getting longer every year.”

A report released Thursday by Human Rights Watch said that, as of November, 2021 was the deadliest year of anti-transgender violence in the United States. "Virtually every transgender person can recount instances when they have felt fearful for their safety and security in public," the report said.

Koesterman, a suicide survivor, hopes that one day there will be no need for a service to remember those who have faced violence from others and who have hurt themselves because of their gender identity.

“The first thing that is needed is education of our teachers, doctors and elected officials that transgender and nonbinary people are just that, people, and are deserving of equal respect and rights. Second thing is equal access to health care,” she said.

Many people struggling with gender dysphoria have a difficult time finding hormone replacement therapies or getting approved by insurance companies for gender confirmation surgeries, she said. Access to gender-affirming health care can reduce public visibility and thus help transgender people avoid harassment and violence, the Human Rights Watch report said.

“My mental health has improved greatly since I’ve come to terms with who I am, but I have also received a lot of pushback and hatred from more conservative elements in the local community. There also has been pushback among other members of the LGBT community,” Koesterman said.

“Not everyone is accepting in the LGBT community toward transgender individuals,” she added. "Some gay men think we transgender people are giving the community a bad image, and some gay women feel their spaces are being invaded by transgender women."

The Transgender Day of Remembrance service hosted by Tristate Transgender will start at 7 p.m. Saturday at the First Congregational United Church of Christ, 406 8th St. S., Moorhead.

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“Bring an open mind and an open heart,” Koesterman said. “Personally, for me, the service means a lot as a suicide survivor myself. It is an extremely important event to affirm my identity and to affirm the support in the community.

“We lost two local transgender individuals a few years ago due to suicide, and that was an emotional service that year. Thankfully, we don’t have anyone we know of this year, but it is still a difficult service because every year that list gets longer, and I hope that one day we won’t have a need for this service.”

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