“Two hundred and twenty-one days ago, we got a phone call that Sumaya was dead. And since then, absolutely nothing has been done by the Toronto Police Services to figure out what has happened to our friend.
“They refuse to communicate with the family under the guise that they are waiting for autopsy reports. The reports that have come in are inconclusive; the deaths of trans women, particularly trans women of colour, are always inconclusive.
“A little bit about Sumaya. Many of you in this room knew her. She was, as Laverne Cox would say, a possibility model. She lived and loved and created and curated in the margins of our society with the fiercest of walks, the fiercest of bags and the biggest of hearts.
“And by being so bold and so brave and so fierce in herself, she allowed everybody around her to be their best versions. She inspired so many of her friends to finally deal with and come to terms with who they really were.
“When we organized her memorial, although there was such a deep sense of loss in the room, it was also the first time that the largest gay community centre in the country saw so many black people in that room. And it brought so many of us closer together.
“We need to know that when we are grieving and diligently mourning the friends who we have lost, that we lay them in the grave knowing what happened to them. That the lives of trans Somali women do not, cannot either go unmourned or go unsolved.”
“My name is Alex Abramovich. I’m a trans man, sometimes proud and other times filled with shame and guilt. But no matter how proud and how much shame, there’s always an undertone of fear.
“Transphobia is dangerous, it is toxic, it is violent and it leads to suicide. Transphobia is killing us. The world needs to learn celebrate the lives of trans people because there’s nothing more beautiful than being able to be yourself. And because trans lives matter.
“May we continue the fight against fear, hatred and ignorance. And may we do so with love and with hope. We need to have hope, especially on days like today. I look forward to a future in which we no longer have to gather on Nov 20 because each and every one of us deserves to live.”
“On this day of remembrance, when we honour our transgender heroes that come before us, as well as those who have passed due to transphobia, it is important to come together as one to lift each other up and support each other within the community.
“Trans visibility has increased over the few years. However, trans people of colour are too often overlooked, despite the high rates of murders of trans women of colour.
“The stories of trans people with disabilities are all too often ignored. Those of us who are part of the trans community, who do not identify with or identify outside the gender binary are subject to constant denial and erasure, not only from our oppressors, but with people from our own community.
“Mainstream society already enjoys policing our bodies and gender. The last thing we need to be doing is policing members of our own community.”
“Since 2008, there have been nearly 2,000 murders of transgender and gender-diverse people worldwide. We have determined rates of suicide attempts in our community to be nearly 10 times the national average.
“Violence instituted towards transgender people is at all time highs and much of it remains unreported, due to a number of factors, including fear of reciprocity, both by the perpetrator of these crimes or these institutions put in place to protect us.
“If you are here with us today, you are doing so because you want to remember the people who have died, especially trans women of colour, as a direct result of transphobia and discrimination. Mostly at the complicity of our society who has a very vocal segment who believes that transgender and gender-diverse people are not people. That we are not equal. That we are not citizens and taxpayers. That we are not worthy or protection under the law. That we are not worthy of the determination of our own healthcare needs. That we are not worthy to be employed because many places are needlessly concerned about how to accommodate and instead choose to discriminate.
“I am not willing to accept inequality in anyone. I am not expecting to sit here on the bottom of a privilege tree and wait to be lifted to the high branches above. Equality means being aware of the sacrifices being made in our community.”