Safety concerns in P.E.I.'s transgender community as anti-trans sentiment surges
The P.E.I. Transgender Network is holding a rally for trans rights on April 2nd.
The group says the rally is being planned in reaction to "ongoing and increased public displays of transphobia/anti-trans movements occurring across P.E.I."
Lucky Fusca is the executive director of the group. They say that at the same time they are planning the rally, they have moved a health-care panel discussion from in-person to online because of safety concerns.
"With the anti-trans rhetoric and movements happening globally and specifically on Prince Edward Island, there was a question from one of our panelists around safety," Fusca said.
"And this is a shared sentiment with several other people involved. So we decided to move the event to a closed online meeting earlier in the week, and in its place we decided to launch 'Let's Get Loud,' which is going to be, for lack of a better word right now, a rally."
Fusca said the group's intention — as a community which includes allies and stakeholders — is to organize in a more formal way, as the number of anti-trans incidents and comments on the Island grows.
Fusca points to the postponement of a drag storytime event planned for the Kings Playhouse in Georgetown, P.E.I., after it was the target of online attacks. The event has now been rescheduled for April 15th.
'Allyship is a verb'
As well, harmful comments were shared on social media after someone raised concerns about a drag performance at a Canada Games bingo event.
A city spokesperson told CBC on Wednesday that no police report was filed in the matter, and there was no incident at the event in question.
Still, the P.E.I. Transgender Network put out a call to action, asking that the original person who posted the comments be held accountable.
"This is really just the start," said Fusca. "Allyship is a verb, and we're hoping to be able to give some folks some direction by providing a 'how to be an ally to the trans community 101' and some follow up with some actionable, tangible things that people can put into place in their lives to advocate for the trans community."
Hearing about and seeing anti-trans actions is terrifying, Fusca said.
"I think the mental health toll that all of this is taking on our community is pretty profound, including myself," they said.
Fusca said there is nowhere they can feel safe at the moment.
"Whether it's out in the physical world or through an online presence, I feel a decreased sense of safety ... I don't really feel safe anywhere on P.E.I. that isn't an exclusively a trans or queer space," they said.
Fusca said the hope for the health-care panel was to bring health professionals together with transgender individuals.
"Unfortunately it's fairly common right now that a lot of the anti-trans bills that are being introduced in the States are attacking the health-care system and health-care providers. It's a pretty scary space to be a trans individual, but also a scary space to be a health-care provider in different states, as the laws are criminalizing the care itself and the providers if they're providing care," they said.
"So to protect both our community and health-care practitioners, we decided to pivot this event."
As for the rally, Fusca said there were fewer safety concerns because it will be a ticketed event, and people will have to abide by safer-space policies.
"We have some posters that we'll be putting up in the event space, and we'll be verbally reading the safer-space statement to all of the attendees at this event. So if anybody is found to be violating the safer-space [protocol], they will be removed from the event."
Fusca said there are a few theories about why more anti-trans comments and actions have appeared in the past few years.
"A big one is the fact that folks feel very emboldened because they're not seeing consequences to actions as they relate to pretty much hate crimes or hateful discriminatory behaviours...
"There was a lot, a lot, a lot of hate that was being spread and platformed through the freedom convoy movement. And there was little to no consequences for these individuals' actions and for that movement as a whole," they said.
"Which is partly why I think that we're seeing that increase in public displays of transphobia and homophobia and racism throughout P.E.I. It's always been here. It's just a matter of: 'Why is it happening now?'"
When it comes to being an ally, Fusca said the first thing to think about is listening, and then acting if a call to action is put out.
"They're going to listen to the community, the community organizations that are asking this of of them as allies and actually put it into action. So showing up in these spaces. Advocate for our community," they said.
Another thing for people to remember is how to react when someone from the trans community shares their experience.
"If a trans person or an organization is sharing an experience or sharing something that's unfolding, it's a great practice for allies to — even if inside they're surprised by what they're hearing — to not express that to the individual because it can undermine or belittle their experience," Fusca said.
If we're comparing what's happening in the United States to here, we often get this rhetoric, "Oh, you know, at least we're not in the States." And the reality is that we pretty much are. It just looks different here. — Lucky Fusca
"Make space to really just listen to the individual rather than sharing any notions around it being surprising or out of character."
That can also relate to comparisons.
"If we're comparing what's happening in the United States to here, we often get this rhetoric, 'Oh, you know, at least we're not in the States'. And the reality is that we pretty much are. It just looks different here," they said.
And then, Fusca said, ask what someone needs. That's something to think about when you're talking to anybody.
Some suggested questions: "Would you like me to be a sounding board? Is there anything specific that I could do that could help you in this moment?"