Event reminds Ottawa to reflect on high rate of violence against transgender people
Savannah Awde, Editor
Though some may think of events around transgender rights as rallies or protests, the Trans Day of Remembrance stands in contrast as a space of mourning and reflection.
On Monday, Nov. 20, Ottawa’s annual Transgender Day of Remembrance will return to the capital. Organizer Fae Johnstone emphasizes that this is primarily a day for trans folks to mourn through vigil, but also for cis folks to engage with the broad range of issues facing trans communities.
“In Ottawa I think it’s pretty much the fact that in our community people have experienced violence, and it’s not something we always really talk about or that we are advertising,” says Johnstone.
One has to wonder why the rates of violence against trans people aren’t talked about more outside of trans communities, given that in Ontario, 20 per cent of trans people experience physical or sexual assault due to their identity.
But this problem extends beyond physical force, as roughly 34 per cent of trans people are subjected to verbal threats or harassment. In addition, 96 per cent of trans Ontarians had heard that trans people were not normal, while 73 per cent had been made fun of for being trans, and 78 per cent reported embarrassment within their family.
These experiences are inextricably linked to the fact that, according to the Canadian Mental Health Association (CAMH), 77 per cent of Ontario-based trans respondents in their survey had seriously considered suicide and 45 per cent had attempted suicide.
Unsurprisingly, CAMH confirms that trans folks who had experienced physical or sexual assault were found to be at greatest risk for suicide.
With all of this in mind, Transgender Day of Remembrance serves as a space for trans people to come together, support each other, and mourn the lives lost to these social inequities. Johnstone called last year’s event “emotionally intense,” and notes that they will try to have support on site for all trans folks who need it.
“We will try to have peer supporters who know how to support people in those messy feelings, because it is one of like the heaviest days,” they said. “But it is kind of like a coming together kind of event, so folks usually support each other, just the fact that you have folks who understand is a support in itself.”
Johnstone notes that this event is not solely a trans space, and cis folks are welcome to attend and show support.
“I think there is a lot of organizing in Ottawa that cis folks don’t often support,” they said. “Donating money, donating time, using your platforms to give more space to trans folks and trans organizing,” are just a few ways Johnstone would like to see Ottawa allies get involved.
But the role allies play doesn’t just end at Trans Day of Remembrance. Johnstone emphasizes that there is still so much work to be done for many “intersecting issues” in the Ottawa community.
“Having access and funding to trans community spaces where people can come together outside of the violence that they experience in their everyday lives … having access to things like hormone therapy,” Johnstone says.
“I think we need to see more presence to address harassment, sexual violence, very real problems for trans folks in Ottawa, again especially BIPOC (black, Indigenous, and people of colour) trans folks.”
Coming out to Trans Day of Remembrance is just one way allies can mobilize to show concrete support for trans lives in Ottawa, and take a stand against gender-based violence.
The event will begin at 6:30 p.m. on Monday Nov. 20, in front of the Human Rights Monument on Elgin Street. Following the vigil, a community gathering will be held at the Lord Elgin hotel.