Artificial candles flickered in the dim auditorium. Placed on a table covered with a pride flag, each candle stood as a symbol honoring the life of a transgender individual killed in the United States this year.
Aneesa Wermers, vice chair of the GLBTQ+ Leadership Council (GLC) and LSEHD ’23, made their way to the podium to share a statement from the chair of GLC.
“Tonight we hold this vigil to express love and compassion in the face of indifference and bigotry across the country,” Wermers said. “Tonight is a night of remembrance, love, and hope.”
GLC hosted the vigil on Sunday, International Transgender Day of Remembrance, to pay tribute to those who have died as a result of anti-transgender violence. The vigil followed soon after a shooting at an LGBTQ+ nightclub in Colorado Springs on Saturday night.
At the opening of the vigil, Wermers read from a statement acknowledging the Colorado Springs shooting and its impact on the queer community.
“Queerphobia continues to be present, and this was yet another example of the harm that continues to hurt trans folks,” they read.
Wermers told the audience the vigil is a place where members of the LGBTQ+ community and allies can gather together to honor the memory of those who have died from anti-transgender violence.
“Vigils like these allow people to process their grief, but it also shows the power of love that can be built within the space,” they said.
Members of GLC took turns speaking at the podium, telling the stories of transgender individuals who have been killed since January. Then, they read aloud the names of all the victims in the United States this year and lit a candle for each one.
H Edwards, MCAS ’26, shared a poem from his best friend, who is transgender, titled “You Get It.” The poem uses cloud imagery, something that Edwards said is very special for him.
“It’s very important to me because I have this thing where I believe that when trans people pass away they become like the really pretty pink clouds in the sky,” Edwards said with tears in their eyes.
Jo Li, GLC intersectionality coordinator and MCAS ’25, also got up to share two poems—one he wrote last month titled “I’ll never be my father’s son” and another titled “For Marsha P. Johnson” by Qwo-Li Driskill.
“I was particularly moved by the poetry shared at the vigil and the way the students were actively supporting one another throughout the event,” said Emily Egan, campus minister for Arrupe.
Egan said she came to the vigil to express her support and solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community at Boston College. Hearing students read the names of those who died this year was particularly touching for her.
“The act of remembering those who someone else tried to erase is a beautiful, though painful, form of resistance,” she said.
Edwards said he appreciated having a space to mourn those who died.
“I don’t believe in souls, but it felt like every candle was like a little soul in front of us,” he said.
Claire Mengel, MCAS ’26, said seeing these candles allowed them to sit with the gravity of the situation.
“It was very powerful to take the time to recognize all the lives that have been lost, and equally powerful to come together as a community and celebrate our joy,” Mengel said.
Dealing with grief is just as important as celebrating queer joy, said Deborah Yang, general coordinator of GLC and LSHED ’23. This vigil, they said, serves as a space to do that.
“We sometimes try to push so much for queer joy that we don’t really allow ourselves time to just sit in sadness or really accept the reality that some things are still hard,” Yang said.
While the vigil is important in creating spaces for dialogue and LGBTQ+ recognition, Yang said they were “dissatisfied” with the low attendance. According to Yang, it is essential for students to come to these events and be aware of how their peers may be struggling.
For Wermers, holding events like the vigil is also important for making the LGBTQ+ community more visible at BC.
“Having these spaces available shows that we are not going anywhere and that should be worth celebrating,” Wermers said.
In a closing address, Wermers reminded the audience that this vigil is not only a time to remember those who have died and to grieve together but also to find ways of expressing queer and transgender joy.
“There is love, there is joy that exists,” Wermers said. “[Queer phobia and hate] will never be okay. [They] should never be okay. … We all have the right to be ourselves and to live life to the fullest.”