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International Trans Day of Remembrance 2020

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Friday, November 20th, Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR), is an important day to remember those who have died as a result of transphobia-related violence worldwide, and draw attention to transphobia.

TDoR originally began as a candlelit vigil to honour the death of trans woman Rita Hester, who was killed on November 28th, 1998.  Her death became an entire movement for the trans community and is now observed globally on November 20th. TDoR recognizes the victims of all kinds of transphobic violence. Although not everyone we remember on TDoR may have self-identified as trans or gender non-conforming, they are all connected by the violence and bias that cause their deaths.

OPSEU/SEFPO represents all of its members equitably, ensuring that both their employment rights and their human rights are protected.  This includes trans people at all stages of their journey.  It is more than just those who have already transitioned, but also many who struggle in silence.  You probably work right next to trans people without even knowing it.

OPSEU/SEFPO President Warren (Smokey) Thomas says the Transgender Day of Remembrance is an important opportunity to raise public awareness of hate crimes against transgender people.

“This day of remembrance publicly mourns and honours the lives of our brothers and sisters who might otherwise be forgotten,” says Thomas.  “Many people don’t realize that transgender people are more likely to face violence and discrimination and most of the victims are people of colour who live in poverty.”

Morgen Veres, Co-Chair of OPSEU/SEFPO’s Rainbow Alliance arc-en-ciel, calls TDoR a chance to express love and respect for trans people in the face of indifference and hatred.

“TDoR reminds non-transgender people that we are their sons, daughters, parents, friends and partners,” said Veres. “TDoR gives our allies a chance to step forward with us and stand up, memorializing those of us who’ve died by anti-transgender violence.”

Many trans people are too scared to come out and self-identify as who they are in part because they’re afraid of losing their jobs.  Surveys in Ontario indicate most trans people have at least some college or university education, but about half live below the poverty line.  About two thirds are so afraid of abuse that they avoid public spaces, including medical care.

OPSEU/SEFPO Vice-President Eddy Almeida says more must be done to ensure trans people can live in safety, free of discrimination.

“Stopping the violence targeting transgender people requires increased access to safe, affordable housing, policies that protect transgender people from discrimination and increased economic opportunity, and improved police training,” Almeida said.

The COVID-19 pandemic has increased anxiety and depression across Canada, and transgender people already face a higher risk of mental health issues.  Some are forced to quarantine with families or partners who were unsupportive or abusive. Other people have struggled with rescheduled surgery or obtaining other transition-related care.

Recently, in Toronto, a 30-year old Black transgender woman died after being taken into custody for mental health concerns. Ontario’s police watchdog, The Special Investigations Unit (SIU), provided no clarity on the circumstances surrounding her death, nor did it acknowledge her as a transgender woman. This beloved individual deserved respect and acknowledgement in her life and in her death, and it’s unfortunate the SIU has fallen short in providing that.

In your workplace, we urge you to speak out against trans mistreatment and stand up against the abuse. One of the best ways you can show your support is through respecting the trans people in your everyday life. Never assume another person’s pronouns, and always use the ones you are asked to. When you meet someone new, tell them your pronouns to show your solidarity.