GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Five people were killed in a shooting at an LGBTQ+ nightclub in Colorado Springs on Saturday.

It happened the day before Transgender Day of Remembrance. Americans honor this day by remembering thousands of transgender people who died because of violence against them.

It started in 1999 with a vigil to honor Rita Hester, a transgender woman who died in 1998. Her death came weeks after someone murdered Matthew Shepard — a student in Wyoming who was gay.

Shepard’s death started a national discussion on hate crimes against gay people, but Hester’s murder did not get the same response.  

Members of organizations around the country use this time to raise awareness about the need for inclusion and support for transgender people.

The Michigan Organization on Adolescent Sexual Health focuses on supporting the health and well-being of young people, including transgender youth.

MOASH also came up with a guide for schools’ staff and teachers to educate them on how to enhance the treatment of transgender and nonbinary students sharing the same space with them.

(Courtesy Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

One issue found is that teachers often address students by their legal name instead of their preferred name. The guide says using the preferred name not only shows students respect and that they matter and can also protect their mental health and prevent suicide.

Parents in Michigan have raised concerns to various school boards about books based on gender and sexuality.

MOASH’s youth advisory council facilitator Vic Gipson said banning these books tells transgender students their identity is wrong.

“Aside from my gender identity, I’m also a disabled person. I know the first accurate portrayal I saw of myself and my disability was in a book. It was really hard to find books when I was younger that were comprehensive for my age range about my disability. But that book helped me to learn that I was not alone and that there were other people like me out there,” said Gipson.

(Courtesy Trans PULSE Project)

Students need support at home too. MOASH’s program coordinator Shane Shananaquet said children who have that support grow up to be much happier and healthier.

“I think that having that support has led me to where I am now. I definitely would have not been able to have this job. I would not have been able to go to school and learn the things that I’m learning and be as passionate about the things that I do have I not had that support,” said Shananaquet.

Organizers with MOASH say it can be a long journey, but it takes education and asking questions in a respectful way to get there.

You can find more information on supporting transgender youth in the MOASH’s guideline “Supporting Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Students.”