Like so many incidents of transphobic violence, the Aug 17 murder of 21-year-old Islan Nettles in New York City could easily fade away into the blurry memory of social-justice blog headlines and an ever-expanding list of innocent victims.
But one Toronto activist is determined to honour Nettles with something more.
"The attack on Islan has pushed it over the edge," says Twysted Mugler, who is also an organizer in Toronto’s underground ballroom scene.
Mugler is organizing a vigil and rally in solidarity with Nettles and other queer and trans youth victims of violent crimes. The gathering — in front of the 519 Church Street Community Centre on Aug 31 — is intended to promote awareness about the murder and to provide space to forge a community response to a culture of violence. Activists held vigil in the same spirit in Harlem a few days after Nettles was killed.
Mugler wants to bring specific attention to the precarious situation of LGBT youth in Toronto.
"As much as it wants to say it is, Toronto is not actually safe for us. We know how to act outside of downtown," says Mugler, who says there are countless experiences of harassment and homophobia in Toronto, especially outside the downtown core.
He says the threat of violence faced by many queer youth goes unnoticed by those lucky enough to live in the city centre — or in more supportive familial and cultural contexts.
"We don't need to lose a life in order to see that Toronto is homophobic, to say that this needs to stop," he says.