Calgarians gather to remember the lost and speak to the future of the trans community
The transgender community has made great strides in the fight to be accepted by society. But the somber atmosphere at Calgary's recent Transgender Day of Remembrance was a reminder of the struggles the community has faced over the past year — though the future looks hopeful.
For 15 years, the Transgender Day of Remembrance has been commemorated internationally on or around Nov. 20 with event on Sunday, Nov. 23 being the ninth year that it has been honoured in Calgary.
This event memorializes those who have been killed as a result of another's transphobia; that is, discrimination or hatred towards transgender people.
Members of the audience read out 81 names and their causes of death.
Géia Borghi of Saõ Paulo, Brazil, shot in the chest, bound, gagged and set on fire.On the list is the horrific death of
Kandy Hall, 40, died of blunt force trauma in Maryland, USA on June 3, 2014. Her body was left in a field.
Zaraida "Ale" Reyes, 28, was choked to death in Anaheim, California on June 10, 2014.
A moment of silence followed the reading of the names to remember those that the transgender community has lost.
However, the fear of death from transphobia is not the only struggle the transgender community faces. Locally, members still struggle to get our government to recognize their gender.
"When I went through the process and went full-time with the legal name change, the birth certificate came back with still the incorrect gender marker, still my previous gender marker," said Stephanie Shostak, a speaker at the event who spoke about her transition.
"I have to go with either a letter from a psychiatrist or psychologist when I go to renew my drivers license to state yes I'm transgender and transitioning or show proof that I've had surgery."
In addition to the logistical struggles of obtaining correct identity information, members of the transgendered community have difficulty finding jobs.
Kayla Bonham transitioned ten years ago: "I've been in that situation where I've wondered if my transgender status... if I am being discriminated against silently, but there's no way to know or to prove it."
Lyn Langille — who has facilitated the Transgendered Day of Remembrance for the past four years — said that, until recently, "if you wanted to transition at work, really, you didn't. Your option was quit your job, live full-time, try a new job as a new person."
Langille said that the transgendered community often feels very isolated and segregated and this event is key in providing the necessary hope.
"When we get them together... you can drill home that there are resources out there, there are groups out there, there's support, there's hope, there's something to get you past the worst of what you're feeling. It just gives them something to hold on to when they walk away from a safe space like this," said Langille, who became involved with the Transgendered Day of Remembrance because her wife is transgendered.
About 100 transgendered people, friends, family and supporters were in attendance at this year's event. That's an increase from the 64 attendees in 2012 according to a Calgary Journal article.
Bonham said it's important to attend such events "to support those who are going through [these struggles]..."
But Bonham said it's also "important to recognize that our parts of the world are not as blessed as we are with support. And even in Alberta there can still be discrimination and harassment, even murder, of people who are detected or recognized as trans."
- By KATHERINE HUITEMA