Transgender Day of Remembrance vigil organizers say transphobia is still a big issue in Sask.

·5 min read
On the Transgender Day of Remembrance, the pride center organized a vigil on-campus Friday afternoon, along with other trans folks at the university, to mourn the losses.  (Pride Center at University of Saskatchewan - image credit)
On the Transgender Day of Remembrance, the pride center organized a vigil on-campus Friday afternoon, along with other trans folks at the university, to mourn the losses. (Pride Center at University of Saskatchewan - image credit)

Saskatchewan LGBTQ community members and organizations are organizing vigils across the province to observe Transgender Day of Remembrance, held on Saturday.

It's an annual international day of mourning and memorial for transgender people who were killed in the past year. The Trans Murder Monitoring project, run by advocacy network Transgender Europe, has recorded 375 murders worldwide between October 2020 and September — making 2021 the deadliest year for trans and gender-diverse people.

The count marked a seven per cent increase from the 2020 update, which was already a six per cent increase from the 2019 update of their project. While no Canadians were recorded this year, in 2020, two trans Canadians were on the list.

Rene Clarke, the coordinator at pride centre in University of Saskatchewan, said the actual numbers are likely even higher as many hate crimes go unreported. The pride centre organized a Friday afternoon vigil on-campus to mourn the losses along with other trans folks at the university.

Pride Center at University of Saskatchewan
Pride Center at University of Saskatchewan

Clarke said trans folks in the province, who are equal in number as "people with red hair," continue to face transphobia.

"The median age for transgender people is usually around age 30 because we are far more likely to be killed due to hate crimes and transphobia. We really don't get to live very long," they said.

"So, it's really important that we gather and say their names and as a community try to heal. It's so painful."

The 24-year-old has been attending these vigils since 2019 and said that each vigil, they and many other trans attendees break down.

Risk to safety and stigma persist

Clarke said as more trans individuals come out, they are more vulnerable to hate crimes. They personally have experienced transphobia and said they were "lucky to be not alone that day".

"It's heartbreaking, horrifying and disgusting. It makes me fear for my life a lot. Because we are a new thing in the Western society, even when we are not, it's hard for people to just accept us at face value," they said.

Submitted by Rene Clarke
Submitted by Rene Clarke

At the pride centre, they have had many volunteers and attendees recounting hate crimes or incidents of transphobia. Clarke said trans people of color and Two-Spirit individuals are at a "higher risk".

"There's a lot of stigma-based barriers that get in the way of people accessing trans health care," Clarke said.

"Whenever I go into the emergency room, I don't even tell them that I'm trans because I don't want a nurse, who may have a prejudice against trans people, to do something to hurt me."

Jaycen Jakubowski, a first-year student of computer science at University of Saskatchewan, has experienced workplace harassment at his last two jobs due to his identity.

According to a report by Statistics Canada, transgender Canadians were more likely to have experienced violence since age 15, and also more likely to experience inappropriate behaviours in public, online and at work than cisgender Canadians.

"In my first job back in high school, I was in parking lot pushing carts, and I'd often get harassed by customers going by and deadnaming me, which is referring to me as my previous name," the 20-year-old said.

"At my second job, I experienced a lot of harassment from my boss who'd constantly ask for my personal information and make inappropriate comments. Even after upper management asked him to stop, he was still asking for my information from others."

Submitted by Jaycen Jakubowski
Submitted by Jaycen Jakubowski

Jakubowski has been transitioning for the almost five years and said he can pass as a cisgender man.

"If I couldn't pass, I'd experience a lot more harassment just in my everyday life on the street. It's quite scary as anyone who might find out I'm trans could murder me," he said.

"Even if I didn't pass, anyone walking by could be transphobic and in a bad mood that day. Wrong place at the wrong time."

Cole Ramsey, chair at Moose Jaw Pride, concurs.

"Transgender women and trans-feminine people are more likely to face physical violence. But on the other hand, transgender men and masculine people are more likely to face incidences of sexual violence and harassment," Ramsey said.

More action and support needed

Ramsey said they have experienced harassment while trying to use a public washroom or avail services in other gendered spaces.

"Those experiences remain in the back of your mind when you're just negotiating daily life thinking whether I can use bathroom at the public library. That kind of calculation and the mental stress remains in the back of mind," they said. "It's a question of when, and not if."

They said while the situation has improved in the past five years and there are legal protections for the community, trans individuals do not feel safe in reporting hate crimes.

"This has to be handled on a local level and can be accomplished through RCMP and local police detachments being able to demonstrate to their local communities to the satisfaction of the people that they are safe organizations to approach," they said.

Submitted by Cole Ramsey
Submitted by Cole Ramsey

They said younger trans folks in the province are more vulnerable to homelessness as coming out is not always welcomed.

"Another difficulty in Saskatchewan is accessing medical transition support which has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic," Ramsey said.

The 29-year-old, who will be organizing a seven-hour vigil in Moose Jaw Saturday, said federal and provincial strategies like providing housing to all, basic income would help trans people.

"We should work toward ensuring that we are not merely focusing on people after they're dead. We're trying to improve their lives on a daily basis throughout the year so that vigils like this eventually one day become unnecessary."

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting