In wake of a spike in hate crimes nationwide, one group is now calling for peace and understanding. Many in the transgender community continue to live in fear and are frequently the target of violence.
During a gathering for National Transgender Day of Remembrance in St. Pete Sunday, lives lost to violence this year were remembered, while a message of hope and the need for education was shared.
Twenty six names were read one by one on the steps of St. Pete City Hall. They were the names of transgender people who have been murdered in the US in the past year, representing just a fraction of the nearly 300 trans murder victims around the world.
"It always hits home because we all always know it could be us next," said Aaron Munoz, a transgender man with Out & Loud Florida.
Many in the LGBT community know while 295 trans murders is a lot, the number is probably much higher because identities are often misrepresented. That happened in May, when Mercedes Successful of Haines City was killed, and police initially reported her death as being a man's murder.
"We're all just people. We are all different orientations, different religions, different colors just like everybody else. And if more people understand that, we will see the hate crimes decrease," said Munoz.
So while candles were li and heads bowed Sunday night to mourn those lost, there was also an important message shared about moving forward.
"There is hope in every person here, open to working towards the future--a future that values diversity, acceptance, and the importance of life," one speaker said.
Educating friends, neighbors and the community is key to overcoming the obstacles they face.
"Together, we're an unstoppable force," another speaker said.
The goal is keeping more trans people safe, both from potential self harm and violence inflicted by others.
"I know that just like with anything, eventually a change will come," said Aspen Love, a transgender woman.