Rita HesterAge 34 (born 30 Nov 1963)
28 Nov 1998
Boston, Massachusetts (USA)
TDoR list ref: tdor.info/28 Nov 1998/Rita Hester
Rita was stabbed 20 times in her apartment two days before her 35th birthday. She died in hospital.
Her death inspired the "Remembering Our Dead" web project and the first Transgender Day of Remembrance Vigil held in San Francisco in 1999. Since then, the Transgender Day of Remembrance has been observed every 20th November.
For the transgender community in Boston, it was as if the sun had suddenly gone out.
“Rita was renowned and infamous,” Reverend Irene Monroe, a speaker at the 1998 vigil for Hester, told The Daily Beast. “Everybody knew her, especially in the trans community and in the African-American LGBTQ communities.”
Monroe recalls that Hester’s mother Kathleen took the microphone at the vigil and said in a faltering voice, “I would have gladly died for you, Rita. I would have taken the stabs and told you to run. I loved you.”
The procession began at the Model Café in Allston and ended outside of Hester’s apartment building, where Kathleen and her children kneeled together and recited the Lord’s Prayer. There were tears, Monroe says, but also anger, and fear that a recent rash of transgender killings in the area would claim more lives.
The fear was justified.
Her murder is still unsolved.
There were no signs of forced entry, nothing was stolen from her apartment, and there are no suspects, only rumours. It is possible that her assailant is still alive and it is only cold comfort to consider that, as time goes on, it has become harder and harder for him to avoid the name and face of the woman he killed.
I won’t forget Rita Hester. It’s why we have TDOR.
And I won’t forget the vigil we held for her in 1998 because I am still haunted by the words of Hester’s mother.
When she came up to the microphone during the Speak Out portion of the vigil at the Model Cafe where Rita was known, Hester’s mother repeatedly said in a heartbroken voice that brought most of us to tears, including myself “I would have gladly died for you Rita. I would have taken the stabs and told you to run. I loved you.” As the vigil processed from the Model Cafe to 21 Park Vale Avenue where Rita lived and died, Hester’s mother again brought me to tears as she and her surviving children kneeled in front of the doorway of Rita’s apartment building and recited, and many of us joined in unison with them “The Lord’s Prayer.”
In remembering Rita, let us keep vigil — its Latin root “vigilia” means “night spent watching” — against hatred and violence.