For Veronica Merryfield, the Transgender Day of Remembrance is a time to pause and remember people she has lost.
"In the near 30 years since I transitioned, I have lost so many friends. And this year's no different," she said during a news conference on Monday.
The day of remembrance is observed internationally to remember people who have died or who have been killed due to anti-trans violence. To mark the occasion, community members and MLAs from different parties gathered for the flag-raising of a trans pride flag at Province House in Halifax.
"It's a day to highlight … the hatred and, you know, the violence that I was hoping we wouldn't see in Canada, that we are starting to see in Canada," said Merryfield, founder of the Cape Breton Transgender Network, in an interview.
A moment of silence was held before the transgender Pride flag was raised. (Andrew Lam/CBC)
NDP MLA Lisa Lachance hosted the flag-raising. They said although there have been legal changes that promote equality for the trans community, that's not enough.
"I hear from families all the time whose young people face violence and discrimination based on their gender identity, based on being trans," Lachance said. In a news release, the Nova Scotia NDP called for more resources in schools to make them safer for trans and queer youth.
During the news conference, clinical psychologist Erica Baker said discrimination towards trans people can have "significant effects on [their] mental health and wellbeing." She highlighted supports available for people dealing with issues around their gender identity or mental health, including organizations like the Queer and Trans Therapists of Nova Scotia and The Youth Project.
A 2018 Statistics Canada survey found that transgender Canadians are more likely to have experienced violence since the age of 15. It also found that while one in ten cisgender people considered their mental health to be poor or fair, transgender Canadians reported this at a much higher rate.
Merryfield also said more education is needed to address misconceptions about the trans community. "A lot of people don't understand that it's not a choice," she said. "This is something about who we are."
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