Many trans and non-binary people, along with allies, are gathering Monday to mark the annual worldwide Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR).
Some are choosing to honour lost community members at indoor events, away from the public eye, while others are gathering at outdoor events despite concerns that anti-trans protesters will show up.
Telyn Chan-Kusalik, who's on the organizing committee for a vigil taking place at the Vancouver Art Gallery, says her group is intentionally hosting a public event to raise awareness that trans people are still facing violence and some are being killed.
"Almost exactly a year ago … a member of our community was literally killed by police," she said, referring to Dani Cooper, a 27-year-old poet and anti-poverty activist who was shot twice and killed outside of their North Vancouver, B.C., home in November 2022.
Police had been called to Cooper's home after their mother reported they were having a mental health episode. British Columbia's police watchdog found no wrongdoing by police and said the officer who shot Cooper should not face charges.
However, Cooper's family has maintained the shooting could have been prevented if police were better trained in de-escalation.
Dennis Cooper holds a picture of his child, Dani Cooper, who was shot and killed by police in North Vancouver in 2022. (Ben Nelms/CBC)
Chan-Kusalik says the freshness of Cooper's death is one example of why many will mark the day of remembrance privately, so as not to relive their trauma in public. For example, Qmunity, Vancouver's 2SLGBTQIA+ resource centre, is hosting an indoor event for community members.
"For a lot of folks, it's a very emotional time … especially [for] folks who knew someone personally who was killed or someone who has been a victim of, or survivor of, transphobic violence," Chan-Kusalik said.
A candlelight vigil is planned at the art gallery, and volunteers will share in reading aloud the names of 320 trans people who are recorded to have died from violence worldwide in 2023, according to the Trans Murder Monitoring report. A friend of Cooper's will also speak about their legacy.
According to LGBTQ advocacy group GLAAD, TDOR was started in 1999 in honour of Rita Hester, a trans woman who was killed in her Allston, Mass., apartment in 1998. To this day, her killer has not been found.
'Rising bout of anti-trans sentiment'
In Abbotsford, community members will gather for what they say is the first public outdoor vigil for TDOR in the city's history.
Lydia Luna, one of the organizers, says it will be her first time marking the day. She has only recently embraced her trans identity and it's made her "painfully aware" of the discrimination trans people face.
She said a lot of that has come to light in recent protests against SOGI, an educational resource that teaches children about sexual orientation and gender identity.
"We've been noticing a rising bout of anti-trans sentiment with all of the anti-SOGI groups getting out there and making their feelings known, and we figured it was in our best interest to be visible ourselves," Luna said.
The organizers for both events say they hope there won't be any counter-protesters at what will be a sombre event.
Chan-Kusalik says organizers in Vancouver have been training volunteers in conflict de-escalation in case their event is disrupted.
"We are not gathering to advocate for any specific political change. But we are gathering to remember our deaths and we hope that anyone who shows up in opposition will respect the fact that we have lost community members," she says.
"This is our Remembrance Day. We hope people will respect that," she says.
The B.C. government raised the transgender flag on the legislature lawn Monday morning and held a moment of silence.
"Everyone has a responsibility to condemn transphobic violence, and everyone has a right to be their true self without fear," reads a joint statement from Premier David Eby and Kelli Paddon, B.C.'s parliamentary secretary for gender equity.
Select TDOR events happening in B.C.
Rally for Inclusive Education and TDOR Vigil for Trans Lives, 3 p.m., Jubilee Park
TDOR ceremony, 11 a.m., Simon Fraser University, West Mall Centre Lounge, 8888 University Dr.
TDOR candlelight vigil and community cooldown by UBC Pride Collective, 5 p.m., outside the Nest
Outdoor candlelight vigil, 7:30 p.m., Vancouver Art Gallery
Indoor art event by Qmunity, 5 p.m., The Birdhouse, 44 West 4th Ave.
TDOR Panel and Vigil by T'evine, 6 p.m. Panel will discuss experiences of living as a trans person.