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Rita Hester
(November 30, 1963 - November 28, 1998) U.S.A.

Rita Hester

Murdered activist

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Rita Hester was a "renowned and infamous" trans activist in Boston, according to Reverend Irene Monroe. In 1997, after the brutal murder of another trans woman of color in Boston, Chanelle Picket, as her murderer, William Palmer, used the "trans panic" defense at trial, Hester told a local gay paper that she was "afraid of what will happen if he gets off lightly. It'll just give people a message that it's okay to do this." Palmer received the lightest possible sentence: two years for assault and battery.

On November 28, 1998, two days before her thirty-fifth birthday, Rita Hester was found in her apartment, stabbed twenty times in the chest; she was alive, though she died of cardiac arrest upon arrival at the hospital. Hester's murder, reopened in 2006, remains unsolved.

"What was different around Rita Hester," trans advocate Nancy Nangeroni recalled, "was the reporting was egregious." In the days following Hester's death, as the national press continued respectfully to cover every detail of Matthew Shepard's recent murder, not even New England's gay and lesbian press could be bothered to respect Rita Hester, instead referring to her as "he" and placing her first name in quotes. The mainstream press, to the extent they covered the murder, was far worse. Boston activists fought back and, slowly, style guidelines for reporting on trans issues began to change.

Moreover, in the wake of Rita Hester's death, Gwendolyn Ann Smith, a San Francisco computer programmer, decided that, "if the media was going to ignore or misrepresent these cases," she would create an accurate chronicle herself. Smith first created The Remembering Our Dead project, and then decided there should be an annual day of remembrance for Hester and other trans individuals lost to violence. In November 1999, Smith organized the first Transgender Day of Remembrance, an event that now is marked annually on nearly every continent.

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Source: http://lgbt-history-archive.tumblr.com/

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