East Bay transgender remembrance vigil takes on new meaning after Colorado Springs Club Q mass shooting

CONCORD, Calif. (KGO) — Dozens of people gathered at Todos Santos Plaza in Concord on Sunday night for a vigil for Transgender Memorial Day, hosted by the Rainbow Community Center in Contra Costa County. Their goal was to honor transgender lives lost to hatred and discrimination.

“These are our family, friends and loved ones. Their candles are extinguished because of hate, violence, transphobia,” said Robyn Cuslits, chair of the center’s board of directors. “Every life lost due to hate, bigotry, violence is really a great loss for the whole community. And so it’s so important to be able to come together, cry together and share a community rather than being isolated and only .”

RELATED: Bay Area LGBTQ Advocates Say Colorado Springs Nightclub Shooting Likely Fueled by Anti-Gay Rhetoric

They lit candles and read the names of those who died. The mood was grim as they pushed towards a goal limiting the number of trans people who are killed or die by suicide.

“We go out to live because it’s so much better to be who you are,” Cuslits said. “To live your true self. To live authentically. And so all the discrimination, the hate speech, all that stuff, it really comes after life.”

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Following the mass shooting at an LGBTQ+ nightclub in Colorado Springs, Sunday night’s vigil took on another meaning. They want all the violence to stop.

“Last night I almost went to a nightclub,” said Kiku Johnson, executive director of the Rainbow Center. “I think about how often I have to worry about who’s next to me. Who’s watching me get out of a vehicle.”

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Many are calling for people to educate themselves on the struggles surrounding the transgender and LGBTQ community. They say the more aware people are, the less damage they will inflict.

“The progress that needs to happen is just awareness and education,” Johnson said. “That’s what prevents that. When people can feel they connect with who they are and who the community is.”

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