Tuesday, November 20th, we mark the Transgender Day of Remembrance by celebrating victories in the advancement of trans rights and by recognizing how vigilant we must remain in the face of increasingly vocal hate and intolerance.
This year, for the first time in Ontario’s history, CUPE Ontario’s own Susan Gapka, a long-time social activist in Toronto, became the first trans person ever to be presented with the key to the city. Her work on the advancement of trans rights and as a prominent housing advocate have made a significant difference in the lives of so many.
History was also made this fall, when a young, openly transgendered woman was elected as a school board trustee in Ottawa. With the election of Lyra Evans, the lived experience of a trans woman will now help shape the debate on school policy at a leadership level. As CUPE Ontario members, we can take pride in knowing that CUPE activists played an active role in getting Lyra elected.
While the recognition of Susan’s work is so important and the election of Lyra is a great victory, there is still so much more to do to ensure transgender people are safe and free from harassment, violence and hate.
The Transgender Day of Remembrance is observed, around the world, on November 20th to memorialize those who have been lost to the continued violence faced by the transgender community and was founded after the tragic murder of African American transgender woman, Rita Hester, twenty years ago today. Racialized and Indigenous transgendered people continue to experience disproportionate levels of violence. Human rights organizations, particularly in the US, have noted an increase in hate crimes against Transgendered people since 2016.
While the province of Ontario now officially recognizes the Transgendered Day of Remembrance, upon getting elected earlier this year, Premier Ford immediately cancelled our province’s sex ed curriculum that included teaching young people to understand issues of gender identity – taking us backward in the fight for an inclusive and safe Ontario.
This past weekend delegates to the Ontario Conservative Party convention passed a resolution calling on the Party to stop recognizing gender identity and for the government to remove any reference to gender identity from all school curriculum. In a hateful display of transphobia, the resolution referred to the gender identity as a “highly controversial, liberal ideology”. Though the resolution has no binding impact on the government, it breeds an intolerance and hate that will have a lasting impact on all transgendered people.
For most openly transgendered people in Ontario, daily life includes having hateful slurs hurled at you while walking down the street, being grabbed at by strangers, and having all kinds of obscenities and sometimes death threats targeted at you through social media. For transgendered racialized and indigenous people these experiences are magnified.
The impact this barage of abuse has a person’s mental health is extreme. Seventy-seven per cent of trans people seriously considered suicide at least once in their lives, and 57 per cent had attempted suicide at least once.
Today it is important that we take time to remember all the trans people that we have lost to violence and those who we failed to protect from suicide.
None of us can stay silent and we cannot allow things to get worse. We now have a political party elected in Ontario that is actively trying to undo years of achievement in the fight for trans rights. We must all become more vigilant in pushing back against transphobia in our own workplaces, communities and within our government.
Until we can create a world where no one faces discrimination, harassment or violence for simply being who they are, it is up to all of us to stand with trans people, against the bigotry and hate.