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Hundreds to attend vigil at 519

Gathering to mark Trans Day of Remembrance

Ayden Scheim turns down a dollar bill from the Lesbian Billionaires at the People's Gala in June. Credit: Marcus McCann

Morgan Page, trans community services coordinator at the 519 Church Street Community Centre, doesn’t want you to feel solemn on Friday. She wants you to get angry.

About 200 people will gather at The 519 on Friday from 7 to 9pm for the annual Trans Day of Remembrance. A candlelight vigil will be held to honour those who have died from transphobic violence.

“For me the glimmer of hope with Trans Day of Remembrance is that there are still people here to remember, and that which is remembered does not die,” she says. “We should account for our losses and get really angry.

“This is not just a solemn event. It’s an angry event. People should get angry. This isn’t a time to just be sad and let things pass. It should drive us to activism.”

Page says the importance of the event is starkly illustrated by the alarming increase in the number of trans people murdered.

According to worldwide Trans Murder Monitoring numbers released in September from Transgender Europe (TGEU), there have been more than 420 reported murders of trans people since 2008 around the world. That means the killing of a trans person is reported every second day.

In Canada, there haven’t been any reports of a trans person murdered in the past few years, Page says.

In looking through the list of names of those attacked around the world, “it’s almost like there’s a profile of who the world wants to kill. That’s trans women, trans sex workers and trans people of colour. It’s very rare for there to be trans men found on the list.”

Ayden Scheim, 23, who came out as trans when he was 16, agrees. He says trans people need to unite to push for legislation that keeps sex workers safe.

In the past few years, Scheim says, he has seen an increasing number of non-trans people attend the event.

“That’s great that you’re here to show support, but pity is not what we need,” he says. “Trans Day of Remembrance is about transphobia, but it’s also about other forms of oppression that lead to violence.”

Page says the Trans Day of Remembrance can be an overwhelming experience.

“There’s almost a hopeless feeling that unfortunately some people feel because they think that the world is a much harder place to live in,” she says. “I want it to be seen as transformative.”

The event will also focus on the people not named on the list, those who have been bullied or who continue to be affected by AIDS.

“Trans women are hugely disproportionately affected by HIV and AIDS. So we will be talking about those who deserve to be remembered but won’t make it on to the list for Trans Day of Remembrance, because they didn’t die from direct violence.”

But Page is optimistic things are starting to get better.

At the federal level, the justice committee of the House of Commons passed Bill C-389, an act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act to include gender identity and gender expression. The bill must now go through another reading and debate.

“I really want people to take away the message that things can change, the world can change,” she says. “Things can get better.”

In Canada, there’s growing acceptance in schools, and youth are growing up watching positive mainstream representations of trans characters on television and in movies, such as the character of Adam on Degrassi.

“We’re not as much the butt of jokes as we used to be,” she says. “I’m feeling a lot of forward motion with trans people gearing up to make real changes and demand we be treated better in society.

“So in Canada, I’m pretty hopeful. Elsewhere in the world, not so much.”

93 murdered trans persons (January to June 2010)

93 murdered trans persons by country (January to June 2010)

Trans PULSE E-Bulletin Nov 12, 2010