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Trans Day of Remembrance plans brighter celebration

Candlelight vigil to commemorate victims of violence

PLAN. Beth Tyler and Amanda Ryan are organizing Ottawa?s Trans Day of Remembrance. Credit: (Alex Eady)

It’s easy to focus on the negative on a day of remembrance. But for this year’s Trans Day of Remembrance, organizer Amanda Ryan would like to stay optimistic.

“It’s an opportunity to remember people who have died at the hands of someone else,” says Ryan. “But we want to focus less on the negative, much more on the positive.”

The candlelight vigil is held internationally on Nov 20, and this is Ottawa’s fifth annual day of remembrance. It is a chance to reflect on the loss of innocent life, as well as the many hurdles trans people have overcome in a society that doesn’t always understand them.

The vigil began in 1999 with the murder of Rita Hester in San Francisco.

Ryan feels that good things are happening for trans people everywhere.

“There are so many good things happening in the city, and we tend to dwell on the negatives,” she says.

For instance, Ryan sees more and more people transitioning on the job successfully. “I can think of at least three right now,” she says with a smile.

She also sees trans people out and about in Ottawa, getting less and less harassment in their everyday life than, let’s say, a decade ago. “I’ve noticed sales staff being more and more understanding and not hassling us as much.”

This year’s day of remembrance starts at 6pm at City Hall, in the Confederation Room, for a social reception including light snacks. At 7pm there is a lineup of guest speakers, including Larry Hill from Ottawa Police Services, Michel Henshel from PTS, Shannon Blatt, Ottawa liaison for the Trans Human Rights Campaign, and Jessica Freedman from the Trans Services Project. The speakers will be followed by a candlelight vigil at the Human Rights Monument on Elgin St, with an open mic.

The Trans Day of Remembrance committee includes Amanda Ryan, Jessica Freedman, Beth Tyler, Lenore Newman, Geena Green and drag diva Zelda Marshall.

This year’s day of remembrance also carries the torch of the Trans Human Rights Campaign. Ontarians are petitioning to have gender identity included as a basis for discrimination in the provincial Human Rights Code, so they will have some legal ground to fight harassment.

“When I sit down in restaurant and people look, I make a point of telling people, ‘Yes I’m trans’,” says Ryan. “And they always have questions for me, which I am happy to answer. This give me lots of hope.”