Transgender Day of Remembrance: Megan Pendleton reviews progress toward transgender justice at Emory

The following remarks were delivered by Megan Pendleton, assistant director of the Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Life, Nov. 19, at Emory’s Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR), celebrated Nov. 20. (Pendleton is pictured below. Photo: JB Brown)

The annual nationwide observance honors the memory of transgender people whose lives were lost in acts of anti-transgender violence that year. Trans Awareness Week takes place Nov. 13-19. Pendleton prepared her remarks in collaboration with Danielle Bruce-Steele, director of the Office of LGBT Life.

Transgender Week Awareness logoAssessing the past

Today we have gathered to celebrate life, to bask in the power of our community, to hold the light up to ourselves and ask how else can we stand in for our siblings. We’ve come together to take stock of where we are and to create the future we all deserve. 

I believe part of taking stock is acknowledging where we’ve been. Emory has come a long way in its journey of supporting and accepting trans people.

In 1997, Emory started acknowledging the voices of trans people and added the “T” to the institutional lexicon. In 2007, the university’s inclusion of trans people grew from the addition of gender identity and gender expression to the equal opportunity and discriminatory harassment policy.

With the help of student government, Emory introduced a gender-inclusive housing policy in 2014 that has now been expanded to include options for first-year through fourth-year students. Earlier that same year, we asked for the stories of trans people in focus groups and in meetings and over coffee, and we worked with students to create trans-supportive spaces in the Office of LGBT Life, including the Transforming Gender Discussion Group.

Since the expansion of health insurance benefits to include trans-related care, students have dictated their paths and their journeys and, beginning in January 2015, Emory staff and faculty have been able to do the same.

Emory also hosted the WoMegan Mendletonrld Professional Association of Transgender Health (WPATH) international conference at the Emory Conference Center in 2011. A former president of WPATH and current Emory endocrinologist, Vin Tangpricha, has worked with other Emory faculty and physicians to establish the Gender Center at Grady Hospital. 

In the past few years, we’ve seen the creation of a comprehensive chosen-name policy that allows students to specify the names appearing on nonlegal documents – and a graduation name policy for use on diplomas, in the Blue Book*, and at commencement ceremonies. (Pendleton pictured above. Photo: JB Brown)

More recently, we’ve seen this option extended to the card office, allowing an Emory community member to have their chosen name on their Emory ID card.

Additionally, in acknowledgment that our identities don’t exist in a vacuum, the card office has increased programming and support for queer and trans students of color with monthly mixers and our most recent QTPOC** Unconference experience.

Planning for the future

In the coming weeks we’ll host a focus group for trans and gender-nonconforming students to allow us to continue listening to their needs and adjusting our practices as necessary. We’re also working with Student Health Services to streamline processes by which students can access hormone replacement therapy and university housing to finetune the gender inclusive housing selection process.

Finally, we continue to work with campus partners to identify and designate gender-inclusive restrooms. We are far from perfect and, while there is more work ahead, we acknowledge our past and current shortcomings. Thus, it is our goal to fortify our support for trans students and continue building a community in which trans folks can thrive.

With liaisons in Student Health Services and Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), we know we can’t do this work alone. We need allies and accomplices. While we slowly but steadily make progress school by school at Emory, we cannot ignore the events swirling all around us in this city, this state, this country, and this world.

This evening, we remember 331 known trans people, most of whom were trans women of color, who lost their lives to violence over the course of the past year.

We have seen trans folks targeted at the highest levels of government. We are appalled by attempts to erase trans, gender nonconforming, nonbinary, and intersex people, and we are fearful of the unforeseen consequences of a hostile administration. Yet, in the face of these threats, we also see small but significant progress at Emory and nationally.

In this political climate of unpredictability and uncertainty, I challenge all of us to remember that trans people, trans women, trans folks of color have always been here, have consistently led movements for justice, and deserve our continued fight. The Office of LGBT Life at Emory remains committed to that fight.

While we celebrate successes and acknowledge the obstacles that are already here and are surely yet to come, I implore you to challenge us, to push us, and to encourage us in building a stronger community for and with our trans students, staff, faculty, and alumni. We all have work to do, and I am grateful for the members of the Emory community with whom I work alongside.

Tonight, let us not forget the 331 names of our siblings lost. Let us speak them. Let us keep their images alive. Let us keep their light burning.

Learn more about Trans Awareness Week:
Visit the Office of LGBT Life website:


* Electronic Blue Book Student Portal
** Queer Transgender People of Color