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Toronto event honours victims of violence ahead of Trans Day of Remembrance

Trans women of colour are targeted most frequently, says Toronto activist

From left: Reina Gossett, Janet Mock and Monica Forrester at a panel at Ryerson University Nov 18. Credit: Andrea Houston
Xtra looks back at a number of trans stories over the past year.
In the lead-up to the 15th annual International Transgender Day of Remembrance, a Nov 18 panel featured the voices of three trans women of colour.
 
“If you see the pictures of all the trans women murdered each year, the large majority are always women of colour,” says Monica Forrester, an activist with Maggie's, a Toronto sex workers' advocacy group. Maggie's, along with Ryerson University’s RyePride group, organized the Nov 18 event. 
 
“Statistically in Canada and around the world, trans women of colour are the most targeted. They aren’t just killed. They are viciously killed. Destroyed.”
 
This year’s Trans Day of Remembrance (TdoR) ceremony in Toronto, on Nov 20, begins at 6:30pm with a ceremony at the Ryerson Student Centre lobby, then moves to the 519 Church Street Community Centre for a candlelight vigil. TDoR started in 1999 as a response to horrific attacks on trans people. 
 
Janet Mock, founder of Girls Like Us social media project, also took part in the panel. She says that a panel of only trans women of colour is not something you often see. “It’s really revolutionary that three trans women of colour can share this space,” she says. “Do more this week than hold a candle. Our sisters are still being incarcerated, locked away and killed.”
 
Reina Gossett, organizer with the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, rounded out the panel. Gosset works in New York to end trans discrimination in healthcare and advocates for the rights of incarcerated trans women. 
 
“[This TdoR], remember the trans people of colour, those who are incarcerated or undocumented,” she says. 
 
The Trans Murder Monitoring (TMM) project recently released its latest figures, which show that there were 238 reported killings of trans people in the past year, with Brazil and Mexico registering the highest number of murders.
 
The names of those killed have been added to a growing international list, and they are read aloud at ceremonies around the world. The TMM project monitors, collects and analyzes reports of homicides of trans people worldwide.
 
The murder of Jamaican teenager Dwayne Jones was among the cases cited. Jones was chased and killed by a group of party-goers in July. The report also noted the murder of 21-year-old Islan Nettles in New York City in August.
 
Forrester is calling on Canadian lawmakers to implement gender identity bill C-279 and to further decriminalize the laws around sex work. 
 
“I came out during the AIDS epidemic,” she says. “It was really scary. People were dying. That was a very struggling time for me. To me, Trans Remembrance Day is everything.”