A series of virtual events are planned in Brandon to honour the end of Transgender Awareness Week.
Knox United Church will host a memorial service today from noon to 1 p.m. that will be live-streamed on the YouTube channel "The Knox Konnexion," and a virtual candlelight vigil will be held on Saturday from 7 to 8 p.m. via Zoom hosted by the Sexuality Education Resource Centre (SERC).
The duo of events is the culmination of Transgender Awareness Week, said Brandon Pride co-chair Aly Wowchuk. The week runs from Nov. 13-19 and is designed to help increase the visibility of transgender people and the issues members of the community may face.
"The Transgender Day of Remembrance is important because that’s the day we reflect and recognize, unfortunately, those in our trans community who have passed away from violence and abuse," Wowchuk said.
"It’s a moment for the community to come together and recognize that there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done."
The Transgender Day of Remembrance is an annual observance to honour the memory of transgender people who were killed in acts of anti-transgender violence. According to GLAAD, 2021 marks the deadliest year since tracking began in 2013 with at least 45 transgender people killed.
"It is important to acknowledge and recognize the violence transgender people face across the globe. In the midst of violence and adversity, resilience of the transgender community is something to be recognized. However, these individuals should not have to be constantly vigilant to hold space in the world. It is important for allies to use their power and privilege to fight for a world in which all transgender and gender non-conforming people can feel safe exactly as they are, to [centre] these voices, and to allow for transgender and gender non-conforming people to lead the way," Racheal Wu, a program facilitator at SERC, said in an email.
There has been a growing awareness and respect for those who identify as transgender or non-binary in the community.
Wowchuk cited the mounting number of people including their pronouns in their titles and biographies online as an example.
It is a simple act that helps bring awareness and recognition that perceptions matter. It also offers a chance to validate the feelings and experiences of those who are transgender or non-binary.
"It goes back to that awareness factor and respecting people’s pronouns and opening up that line of communication and self-education," Wowchuk said.
Events during Transgender Awareness Week are an important platform for conversation and opening spaces to acknowledge and share people’s lived experiences.
It is great to ask questions about people’s life experiences, she said, but encouraged people to explore self-education and reflection when unpacking these experiences.
These services are an occasion to foster connections and show that transgender community members are seen and valued in Brandon, she added.
Wowchuk said Brandon Pride is working to offer resources and provide direction when people need help, along with SERC and Knox United.
Brandon as a community has been very supportive over the past years.
Every Brandon Pride parade sees many people come out, Wowchuk said, but this type of support needs to be shown year-round.
She praised community high schools’ GSAs (alliance groups) and the work they are doing to change the conversation and destigmatize negative stereotypes people in the community may face.
Wowchuk said Crocus Plains Regional Secondary School will display a transgender flag for the first time in its history this week.
"They’re our neighbours, they’re our friends and this is our community," Wowchuk said. "There’s a lot of trans-identifying individuals in the city."
Brandon Pride is looking to build momentum and the organization is looking forward to the day when special events and remembrance services can take place in-person and year-round.
"Brandon does have its pros, but there are still some areas of work [regarding] awareness and acceptance," Wowchuk said.
» Twitter: @The_ChelseaKemp
Chelsea Kemp, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun