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On Transgender Day of Remembrance, community leaders in Calgary promote unity and inclusion

Anna Murphy speaks to a group of Calgarians during a ceremony to remember the lives of transgender individuals who have died. Murphy herself is a transgender woman and shared her story with those in attendance. (Terri Trembath/CBC - image credit)
Anna Murphy speaks to a group of Calgarians during a ceremony to remember the lives of transgender individuals who have died. Murphy herself is a transgender woman and shared her story with those in attendance. (Terri Trembath/CBC - image credit)

WARNING: This story discusses suicide and may be distressing for some readers.

In a dimly-lit room on Sunday afternoon, Anna Murphy told her story to Calgarians who gathered to remember those who lost their lives to transphobia.

It was a story of struggle and pain as much as it was one of hope and acceptance.

Growing up in rural Alberta, Murphy had no support from her community or from her parents. It's something she says says almost cost her her life.

"The very real reality is that I should be on that list …I've got the scars to prove it," she said. "For whatever reason … I didn't let go when I was on the High Level bridge. I didn't cut deep enough, for all the multiple times I tried, I don't know why I'm here."

Murphy herself is a transgender woman — and her experience growing up is not something she wants others to endure.

WATCH | Ceremony recognizes those who've lost their lives to transphobia:

According to Statistics Canada, there are 12,480 transgender and non-binary people 15 years of age or older living in Alberta.

On Transgender Day of Remembrance, Murphy organized a ceremony to recognize people who died as a result of anti-transgender hate and violence.

The day was started in 1999 by transgender advocate Gwendolyn Ann Smith as a vigil to honour the memory of Rita Hester, a transgender woman who died in 1998.

But the violence against the community only continues to grow, Murphy said.

"We need very real action to bring forward meaningful and tangible change at a time of increased violence, increased vitriol, increased misinformation, and quite frankly increased attacks on transgender, two-spirit, non-binary and gender diverse Calgarians, Canadians and Albertans."

For so many, including Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gonkek, the day serves as a reminder of how much more society needs to do to support the transgender and gender diverse community.

She proclaimed Nov. 20, 2022 as Transgender Day of Remembrance in Calgary.

"I would ask you to consider how Rita might be alive today if we had just welcomed her into our lives as a woman," Gondek said.

"Renew your commitment to embracing a society that actually becomes as inclusive and welcoming as the platitudes that we toss about so flippantly. Be an ally, save lives, love each other."

If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, here's where to get help:

This guide from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health outlines how to talk about suicide with someone you're worried about.