CUPE Ontario is proud to mark November 20 as Transgender Day of Remembrance, a day of recognition created by trans activists to commemorate those two-spirit, trans and non-binary people who have lost their lives because of hatred, discrimination and state-sanctioned violence.
At CUPE Ontario, we mourn those needless deaths and those whom we have lost, and we also use the occasion to mark role of labour in ensuring that transgender people live life as their authentic selves. On November 20, we commit to redoubling our efforts to ensure that we have full equality and liberation for transpeople in our lifetime. As a movement, we recognize that the rights of trans folks are inextricably bound up with our defense of the rights of workers, their families and their children. Because our members experience this reality, we incorporate it as part of our work on behalf of all working people.
On Transgender Day of Remembrance, we note with pride that CUPE has always been at the forefront of creating space for queer communities in our union, and that CUPE Ontario was the first to open its internal organizing committees to representation of trans folks. Ours is also one of the unions that has had greatest success in bargaining gender affirming care leave in our collective agreements, and CUPE Ontario’s collective agreement with COPE, its staff union, has included this leave for more than a decade.
And although a place and a voice for the trans community is long established in our union, outside it we are witnessing a new pattern: a series of targeted attacks on transgender people, perhaps the most ferocious in many years. Across the world, the far right has stoked the flames of hate against trans people, spreading misinformation about a vulnerable group and creating dissent about it to advance their own agenda.
In response, CUPE Ontario has been taken a strong role in defending students in schools from anti-trans hate. When the “1 Million March 4 Children” held anti-trans demonstrations across the country, our union played a fundamental role in the counter-protests, as CUPE’s National Executive Board helped lead the counter-demonstration in Ottawa. And following the CLC’s convention in May, when delegates unanimously passed an emergency resolution about defending trans rights and fighting hate against 2SLGBTQI+ people, CUPE Ontario passed similar resolutions at its convention, including one that established anti-hate “flying squads” to support the important work being done to fight hate in communities.
The principled stand we took attracted vitriol and backlash from the far-right. But these reactions did not and will not deter us. Even as the premier of Ontario and his supporters use trans hate as a wedge issue for its own political purposes, CUPE Ontario will continue its fightback, because our job as a union is to help members unlearn the discriminatory practices that keep us from overcoming the things that separate us.
To join us in that fight, locals are encouraged to use CUPE’s bargaining resources, including Bargaining Beyond the Binary, to help enshrine the rights of transgender workers in collective agreements. Locals and members can also join community events, like those at the 519, to mark the day.
Transgender Day of Remembrance calls our collective attention to the problems we face and it tells us that, no matter who or where you are, this is an issue we must all care about.