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History Humanities Nonfiction Social Sciences Theory

The Limits of Virtual Memory: Nationalisms, State Violence, and the Transgender Day of Remembrance

By Toby Beauchamp, 2007

In November of 1999, one year after the brutal murder of Rita Hester, a black transsexual woman in Boston, Massachusetts, transgender activists in Boston and San Francisco organized a candlelight vigil in Hester’s memory to raise awareness of anti-trans violence.[1] Hester’s murder came just six weeks after Matthew Shepherd was killed in Wyoming, a murder case that lit up the U.S. news media and drew international attention. In contrast, Hester’s death was overlooked in most mainstream media, and local news sources – even those self-identified as gay – repeatedly referred to Hester as “he” and insisted on using her birth name, putting “Rita” in quotes. Such media representation, along with minimal police response to Hester’s case, prompted the initial memorial on the first anniversary of her death.

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