Transgender Whitehorse resident says they were attacked downtown

A transgender person living in Whitehorse says they're scared to leave the house after being assaulted downtown last week, the latest in a series of incidents since they began transitioning.

Andrea Stratis — who doesn't identify as male or female and prefers to go by "they" — says they were listening to music in headphones when suddenly someone shouted "faggot" and punched them in the face.

Stratis says a bystander witnessed the attack and shouted, and the attacker ran away. Stratis didn't think to get the name of the witness.

"The only thing I thought is that I need to take a winding path home, so nobody follows me," Stratis said.

Stratis said they called RCMP to report the attack, but didn't identify themself as a visibly transgender person. Stratis just said they were punched in the face while walking downtown.

On Wednesday, RCMP acknowledged there may have been an "under-response" on their part, to the reported attack.

"We have to be careful that we're not always making assumptions about the solvability of something, in the first instance when it's reported to the police," said RCMP Supt. Brian Jones.

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"If the caller is left with the impression that because they don't have all the answers then they shouldn't report it to the police, or the police aren't interested in that information, then that's not right. That's incorrect, and we need to change that."

'I always knew that it was going to happen'

Stratis says they are not surprised by what happened last week, saying it's an escalation of several recent threatening incidents.

"This was a matter of when, and not if," said Stratis. "I always knew that it was going to happen."

Stratis says they have been harassed at a downtown park — once being surrounded and escaping by locking themselves in their nearby office — and verbally harassed around the city.

The recent incidents have led Stratis to be "gun-shy to leave the house," they say. They came out as transgender last year, and their appearance has been changing.

"I get a lot of, 'Why are your jeans so tight? Why is your hair so long? Why does your face look like that?'"

But Stratis has not been shy on social media — readily posting about their transition, and their fears, in an attempt to be a "beacon" for those who will transition after them in Whitehorse.

"I'd probably be a lot safer if I kept to myself," Stratis said.

"Sure, I maybe got punched in the face for it, but it was still kind of worth it — even though I don't really like to leave the house anymore."

Everyone should speak up, says Queer Yukon

Stephanie Hammond, the president of advocacy group Queer Yukon, was horrified when she heard about Stratis's experience last week.

Hammond says there seems to be a recent increase of people who have views that come from a place of hatred and non-acceptance, and who feel emboldened to speak out in public.

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She says it can't just be the responsibility of minority groups to work to create a community that accepts, celebrates and embraces everyone.

"It really is everyone's responsibility to speak up," Hammond says, "to stop that hatred from spreading."

RCMP Supt. Jones echoes that, saying everybody should feel safe walking down the street in Whitehorse.

"It's sad that someone feels in their own community that they can't enjoy and go about their business, regardless of the time of day or night, because of who they are, or who people may think they are," he said.

"If they feel like they've been targeted in a crime, we really want those people to come forward and talk to us."