'Trans is beautiful, trans is wonderful': Yellowknife marks 2021 Transgender Day of Remembrance

·3 min read
Pretty Ngo writes a message of support for trans people during a vigil for Transgender Day of Remembrance held on November 19, 2021 at the Rainbow Coalition of Yellowknife. (Julia Peterson/CBC - image credit)
Pretty Ngo writes a message of support for trans people during a vigil for Transgender Day of Remembrance held on November 19, 2021 at the Rainbow Coalition of Yellowknife. (Julia Peterson/CBC - image credit)

Around the world, Transgender Day of Remembrance is a sombre event. Since 1999, November 20 has been a day to honour the memory of transgender people whose lives have been lost in acts of anti-transgender violence.

But in Yellowknife, advocates and community members are making space to celebrate trans people on this day as well.

On Friday night, the Rainbow Coalition of Yellowknife hosted a vigil for trans people and allies to gather in mourning and solidarity.

Julia Peterson/CBC
Julia Peterson/CBC

"We are coming together to remember the trans, non-binary and two-spirit people who have left this earth too soon by the hands of violence," said Lane MacIntosh, president of the Rainbow Coalition.

People lit candles in memory of those lost and wrote messages of support on a canvas that will hang in the Rainbow Coalition space.

Thinking back on their own experience of growing up in the Northwest Territories, Lindsay Debassige, the Rainbow Coalition's mentorship, education and community engagement coordinator, wants trans people in the territory to know their presence in the community is important.

"When there's not a lot of visibility for this community in our larger-scale community, you'll often feel unseen, unheard, or like you're not normal or your identity isn't valid or doesn't exist," Debassige said. "As somebody who is a part of this community and grew up here, it just wasn't a thing. It wasn't a thing we talked about. There was no one around me who was visibly out and loud and proud about that.

"And the biggest thing for me … is to be able to show our youth that you can be proud of your identity and you can be happy and successful. And all three of those things can coexist."

Julia Peterson/CBC
Julia Peterson/CBC

When it was their turn to write on the canvas, Rainbow Coalition YK1 Director Pretty Ngo had a clear message in mind: "Trans is beautiful. Trans is wonderful. You are worthy. You are enough. Never stop being you."

They hope trans youth in Yellowknife will see this message and know that people are rooting for them.

"Especially if you are a minority or marginalized in some way, it's very easy to forget how important your existence is to your community," said Ngo. "And sometimes, I think we just need a reminder of how important it is to have diversity in the world."

Nearly 20 people attended the vigil in person, and more showed their support online, which MacIntosh said is a hopeful sign.

"People who say they're allies, you need to actively participate in allyship, and one of the ways you can do that is by showing up and listening to trans people," they said. "I really believe that people should think about why we're doing what we're doing, and why we still need remembrance days and vigils and visibility.

"It's because people are still dying."

At the vigil, attendees also talked about what people can do to support their trans neighbours, friends and loved ones beyond one day of the year.

"Advocacy can start with making a Facebook post, sharing things on Instagram, writing to your MLAs for policy change," said Debassige. "There are a lot of steps we need to take in order for our government to recognize this community.

"And a big part of supporting us is with financial backing, so we can continue to do this work and stretch beyond just Yellowknife and support trans and queer youth across this territory."

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