Image courtesy of spcbrass via Flikr.
By Jordanna Tennebaum
Ryerson University students, staff, and other community members gathered Tuesday to commemorate transgender people who lost their lives to hate crime during the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance.
The day began in 1998 after the death of Rita Hester, a transgender woman who was murdered in Allston, Massachusetts, and has since spread to more than 185 cities in over 20 countries.
“We are gathered here to honour the trans and gender-independent people that we have lost this year, and we are reflecting on the forces that led to their end,” Markus Harwood-Jones, a representative of Ryepride, Ryerson University’s LGBT advocacy group, said in a speech to the group. He spoke of the pressing life or death issues at hand caused by transphobia.
Those pervasive forces proved to be central to the work and lives of the participants. Among them was Susan Gapka, an Ontario NDP Executive. Gapka has experienced a considerable amount of success as the head of a transgender lobby group, one that has been instrumental to a trans-minded reinterpretation of the human rights code, and she remains intent on memorializing all those who have died due to transphobic hate crimes.
“The struggle continues. Today we stop, we mourn and we analyze the reasons why we’re here today. We think of the trans people who were sex workers, disabled, low-income and of color who are no longer here with us,” said Gapka at the close of her speech.
Artist and student Kit Wilson contributed to the discussion by evaluating the multiple sources of trans enmity that result in death and suicide each year.
“We’re not represented in ways that celebrate us, we’re jokes,” said Wilson. “Men in dresses are made to be funny and humiliated. We’re interesting cases on TV shows like CSI, we’re grotesque.”
And yet, in spite of these harsh realities, the group remained remarkably composed and somehow slightly upbeat. Smiles were exchanged alongside bouts of applause. The terms allyship, solidarity and support were frequently exchanged.
A veil of hope covered the presentations.
“It’s incredible how underrepresented we are, but let’s work on meeting each other and taking up space and being present and being loud,” said Wilson before exiting the floor. The audience gave their avid approval of this sentiment through a round of applause, signifying their commitment to the eradication of violence perpetrated against transgender people. M