On November 20, CUPE Ontario’s 280,000 members join our communities in observing Transgender Remembrance Day and in celebrating our collective victories while recommitting to addressing the many challenges that still exist.
The challenges are long-standing and speak to virulent transphobia which has taken root everywhere, even in otherwise progressive and inclusive institutions and communities. Today, we’re seeing that COVID-19 doesn’t impact all people the same way – the virus has instead exposed the underlying and persistent inequalities in our society.
The transgender and non-binary community has been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic due to delays in access to gender-affirming care, higher rates of housing insecurity, and lower rates of access to critical components of our social safety net.
What is happening today, in the context of this pandemic, can’t be disconnected from the lived reality of transgender people long before COVID. The fact that the transgender community is being disproportionately impacted can’t be chalked up to just a coincidence, but rather is directly related to a long history of transphobia.
When Doug Ford became Premier, his party immediately cancelled our province’s sex ed curriculum that included teaching young people to understand issues of gender identity – and followed that by passing a resolution to not recognize gender identity in the Ontario Legislature.
Recently, the Ford Conservatives pushed forward a bill to help a personal friend of his, the transphobic, Islamophobic, and homophobic Charles McVety, President of the Canadian Christian College, by granting them the right to issue recognized degrees, making them equal to public post-secondary institutions. Again, and again, the Ford Conservatives show us who they really are, and that hasn’t changed from before the pandemic.
And most tragically, last month a Black trans woman, Coco, died in the custody of Toronto police. CUPE Ontario is dismayed about the lack of transparency and is joining in calls for answers and accountability.
The urgency of this moment is clear. It’s time to name the reality that we must take collective action today.
CUPE Ontario has made headway in the past. At the bargaining table, locals have made gains that directly address discrimination; they have advanced language that apply an equity lens to issues like pensions and health & safety; and have bargained a transition fund for employees, and paid transition leave for members, an important victory for trans inclusion.
CUPE Ontario’s Pink Triangle Committee has advanced the important work of creating safer, fairer workplaces for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, two-spirited, intersex, and queer union members.
This work is more necessary than ever and we’ll continue to make strides together.
“After 20 years of trans remembrance, this is still a painful time for myself and my community,” said Susan Gapka, chair of the Pink Triangle Committee. “But when we mourn together, I know we’re not alone. When my union and my workplace support me, I know that anything is possible.”