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Toronto’s trans community mourns on Transgender Day of Remembrance

Trans flag was raised at Queen’s Park and Toronto City Hall to pay tribute to those lost to anti-trans violence

Cindy Bourgeois, who is the first openly transgender minister in the United Church, speaks at Queen’s Park in Toronto on Nov 20, 2016.

Credit: Nick Lachance/Daily Xtra

Toronto’s transgender community publicly commemorated Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR), an annual tribute to people worldwide who have been the victims of anti-trans violence, with flag raisings at Queen’s Park and Toronto City Hall.

It was the first time the trans flag was raised for Trans Day of Remembrance at the Ontario legislature. 

This year was the deadliest year on record, with around 300 trans and gender-diverse people who were murdered around the world, according to the Transgender Murder Monitoring Project

Below are excerpts from some of the remarks made by members of the trans community at the Toronto City Hall flag raising on Nov 21, 2016. They have been edited for length and clarity. 

Teddy Syrette

“We should always encourage people to be embracing of their identity and embracing who they are because there have been so many people throughout the years who we’ve lost due to violence or who have taken their own lives because of hate. We are not born hateful. We must learn to love each other. We must learn to figure out what our differences are.”

“I just want to thank you all for being here, for coming onto these lands and hopefully we can move forward and create more safer spaces. And more atrocities against transgender and gender-diverse people can be abolished and obliterated. One day we can get there but it takes all of us working together to understand to reach that point.”

Teddy Syrette speaks at Toronto City Hall on Nov 21, 2016.
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Stella Skinner

“Hello! My name is Stella and I come from Acton [Ontario] to raise the flag with you.” 

“Because I am worried about all the transgendered people who aren’t safe and die each year. I am excited to see my flag raised above our city.” 

“But we should also remember everyone who is sad and needs our help right now.”

Stella Skinner stands on a chair to speak at City Hall.
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Nik Redman

“Toronto’s an interesting place. If you want to, you can live in a bubble that is full of wonderful, amazing trans and queer people around you. And oftentimes the bubble looks very safe.” 

“And then there’s something very jarring that happens that gets you out of your bubble, that wakes you up from your bubble.” 

“And it could be anything from not having a safe place to live and work. Not having access to a safe public washroom or changeroom. Not having identity documents that match your gender. And also not being called by your chosen name. And not being able to freely express who you are.” 

“This happens to trans people in this city every single day.”

“We have to do some serious work still, because we haven’t reached there yet. We haven’t reached there. I’m just remembering those of us who aren’t here with us now, and to also give strength to those of us who are here to continue living.”

Nik Redman at Queen’s Park in Toronto on Nov 20, 2016.
Nick Lachance/Daily Xtra

Sebastian Gabriel Trujillo

“I want to start by telling you a bit about who I am. I am an immigrant. I came to Canada in 2001 to live with my aunt because my parents did not think I would be safe at home in Mexico because of my sexual orientation.”

“In 2015, I came out for the second time to my family, my friends, coworkers, this time as transgender. At the time I was on parental leave, one month before coming back to work.”

“But even one year after I returned to work, I still experience constant harassment. Some people are still not using my chosen name, but others have stopped talking to me altogether. I feel threatened and scared because of the behaviour of some of my coworkers.”

“I came to Canada because it was a safe country. Because of things such as the Human Rights Code. But even here I have faced discrimination and felt threatened and unsafe because of my gender identity.”

“So who am I? I’m an immigrant. I’m a parent. I’m a friend. I’m a partner. I’m a union activist. I’m a person of colour. I’m a trans man. And I’m here to honour my trans family around the world. For those whose lives have been taken, I will not forget them.”

Sebastian Gabriel Trujillo, pictured speaking at Queen’s Park on Nov 20, 2016.
Nick Lachance/Daily Xtra

Anastasia Kolub

“I travelled here from Cleveland, Ohio. I felt a great importance to be here today and yesterday, to represent the States and represent what is happening to our transgender community.”

“I believe I was born trans. I began realizing I’m trans at the age of four. I’ve experienced a lifetime of discrimination, starting with my immediate family, my parents and my siblings.”

“The discrimination continued in my adulthood, most profoundly in the workforce. It’s been difficult for me to get work even though I’m certified in nursing and I have a nurse’s license. And I have a lot of experience.”

“The United States has experienced the worst year of tragic murders against the transgender community in 2016. It’s been 26 murders in the United States.”

“I didn’t know any of them, but I did know them. We have a kinship.”

“The increase in transgender hate crimes is due to the fact I believe that our world is becoming more violent. There’s a lack of acceptance, a lack of knowledge and a lack of local community groups which could educate people about the transgender community. I also feel that some men who are attracted to transgender women cannot deal with that fact and that has resulted in some of the transgender deaths.”

“I don’t know what the future holds, but I know that I’m going to be there, and I’m going to stand up for the rights of my transgender brothers and sisters and myself.”

Anastasia Kolub speaks at City Hall on Nov 21, 2016.
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Video from the Transgender Day of Remembrance flag raising at Toronto City Hall on Nov 21, 2016.
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