Transgender Day of Remembrance Speech

Hello everyone,

This is the speech that I gave at my local Transgender Day of Remembrance event. This year another 226 names have been added to the list of people killed for their gender identity or gender expression. Although it was left unmentioned in my speech, it is critically important for us all to acknowledge that most of this violence happens at the intersections of race, poverty, homophobia, and transphobia. This is not a time to ignore these intersection, but a time to highlight, question them, and challenge society to change them

[Image] A solitary burning candle on a black background

Before I do anything else, I would like to acknowledge that tonight we are gathered on Treaty 6 land, which, before people who looked a lot like me came and violently removed the peoples from this area, has had a long history of understanding and accepting gender and sexuality diversity including two-spirit identities, which I hope we will hear more about tonight.

I would also like to take a moment to thank all of those who helped to plan, organize, and run this event, as well as Miki for being such a gracious hostess tonight. Finally, I would like to take a moment to thank you all for coming out tonight. I realize that events like Transgender Day of Remembrance can be depressing and anxiety-provoking for even the most optimistic of people. But, by being here tonight you all are making a statement. You are showing that you care about what happens to those in the Transgender communities, and you show that you won’t stand passively by as yet more people are attacked, abused, and killed for their gender identity or gender expression. Your presence here tonight shows that the people on this year’s list have not been forgotten, erased, or destroyed. So thank you. For all of those who can’t say it anymore, thank you.

But without further delay, onward to the reason that I am here tonight.

Tonight we have gathered to acknowledge the most heinous of violence against the transgender people and communities; we have gathered to honour those who have been taken by this violence; and we are here to challenge society to do better for us and our transgender peers. As it always is, the list of the dead is far longer than it ever should be. However, being confronted with this list, of people who have been killed, sometimes in the most gruesome and grotesque ways imaginable, can make us forget about all the other, less deadly ways, those in the transgender communities face violence, oppression, and discrimination.

Transgender people, including some of us in this room tonight, have experienced employment discrimination where we were removed from positions, or simply never hired in the first place, because of our gender identity and/or expression. Recently, a survey of 433 transgender people living Ontario found that 18% reported they had been turned down for a job because of their gender while 32% reported being unsure whether their gender influenced the hiring manager’s decision. Further, 13% reported that they had been fired or otherwise dismissed for being transgender.

On average, the transgender people who took part in this survey reported having an education higher than that of the general population, but yet experienced joblessness at a rate nearly 4 times the provincial average. With that, is it any surprise that so many transgender people feel forced to do sex work to survive?

Transgender people also face housing discrimination. In another recent survey, 19% reported being denied the ability to rent an apartment due to their transgender status and 11% report being evicted for being transgender. This same study estimated that transgender people experience homelessness at rates at least double that of the general population, and for transgender youth it is even worse. For these youth, who too often have to face being kicked out of their house by unaccepting family members and guardians, the homelessness rate is nearly 10x that of the general population.

However, housing discrimination doesn’t even end there. In 2008, Jennifer Gale, a transgender woman died in Austin, Texas after being denied access to an emergency shelter. Her death was attributed to the colder than normal temperatures she had to bare as she slept on the street outside the Salvation Army. Jennifer was third such death in 2008 alone.

But that isn’t all. Transgender people also report being sexually assaulted at rates far higher than their non-transgender peers. In one study, it was found that 54% of transgender people had been sexually assaulted at least once, while others suggest a more realistic estimate is between 45-51%. This is at least double the rates that are considered ‘an epidemic’ by sources such as the Globe and Mail, Mother Jones, and The New York Times.

With all of this bad news, it should come as no surprise that transgender people are more likely to experience depression, anxiety, social anxiety, phobia, and other mental health problems than their non-transgender peers. As a result, transgender people attempt suicide at rates much higher than the general population. In fact, it has been estimated that between 34% and 45% of transgender people have attempted suicide at least once, and even these numbers are dwarfed by those reported by the two-spirit communities.

So, while the names on this list seem so disconnected from us, here, in this room, I ask you tonight, tomorrow, and every night after to remember the reasons we have gathered, to call for changes that would leave this list empty, and leave those of us in the transgender communities protected, locally, provincially, nationally, and internationally.

Thank you.

International Day Against Homophobia

International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO) banner

Today, it was brought to my attention that tomorrow, 17-May, is the International Day Against Homophobia & Transphobia. Much like last year, I was very skeptical that the inclusion of Transphobia in the title would lead to anything real or substantial in the way of including the lived experiences of transgender people, and it seems that I was right to be skeptical. In searching the website, which is still at http://www.DayAgainstHomophobia.org/ despite the inclusion of transphobia in the mandate, I found very little in the way of information about transphobia or transgender people. Instead, I found that most of the time, the only inclusion of trans* experiences was when the website mentioned about sexual orientation and gender identity. Almost like it was just thrown on there to make sure that they are good with us trans* folks.

That being said, I did manage to find a section in the news section of the site to do with transphobia; However, even this section had major issues which made it completely impractical. The main issue that I had was that there were so few stories even on the page. In total, there were 4 unique stories, and some of these were over a year out of date. There was no mention of the events which happened to CeCe McDonald, there was no mention of the death of Lorena Escalera, there was no mention of the trans* movement’s success in Argentina, and there was no mention of the murders of trans women in DC.

This is a MAJOR problem, but it gets worse still.

I then went over to the section on the site which contains the press releases for the organization. Here I was shocked by what I saw, or more correctly, shocked as to what I didn’t see. On this page there were a number of different press releases; there was one about the death penalty, there was one about an event that happened in Malawi, and there was one about International Women’s Day. However, there wasn’t one about Transgender Day of Remembrance or any other trans* day or event of significance.

This, to me, was extremely distressing. This is because Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR) is an international day of remembrance on which, those trans* people who were killed for being trans* or gender non-conforming are remembered, and the transphobia that led to their death is highlighted and questioned. This places TDoR directly in alignment with the mandate of International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia and, as such, demands some acknowledgement by those in charge of International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.

However, I worry that things go a bit deeper than that. You see, TDoR is a day to remember murdered trans* people which was started and run by trans* people. So, to not include this important date in the trans* agenda, those who are in charge of International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia are not only showing that they are out of touch with other movements with similar goals, but also that they are out of touch with the trans* communities entirely.

So, while I do not advocate a boycott of tomorrow’s International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, I do ask you, the reader, for just a couple of things.

The first, and most important, is for you to take a moment to think about both Transphobia and Homophobia. In doing this, I hope that you come to the realization that both of these prejudices are aberrant, and both must be challenged at every opportunity no matter the day of the year or the way that the prejudice appears.

And the second is for you to speak up and make it clear to those in charge of the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia that, in order to effectively challenge these prejudices (and meet their own mandate), they must take notice other events, and work with other organizations, that have similar or overlapping mandates.

Morwen

P.S. You may have noticed that I didn’t shorten International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia to the acronym which appears in the banner above. This was done deliberately because the acronym IDAHO seems to lose something important from the main title; Namely, the focus on transphobia.

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International Day Against Homophobia

[Image: Two Goldfish facing each other, looking as though about to kiss. Words to the left of the fish: Same-sex Couples: A Love Story. Below that, the site name is visable: homophobiaday.org. Words to the right of the fish: May 17: International Day Against Homophobia. Participate! This day belongs to you (with you being in block letters).

Image source. Copyright Gai Écoute / Fondation Émergence 2011. All rights reserved. Used with permission

Hello everyone!

So I thought that I would let you all (I know that there is only like one reader at the moment) know that 17 May, 2011 marks the 7th annual International Day Against Homophobia. While this has nothing to do with the kinky lifestyle that I lead, this has everything to do with what I stand for as a person.


Some Interesting Facts:

  • On this day in 1990, the World Health Organization (WHO) made the decision to remove homosexuality from their list of mental disorders.
  • Before this, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM), the book used by psychologists and psychiatrists in North America and other parts of the world, removed homosexuality as a mental illness in 1986.
  • The International Day Against Homophobia is officially recognized by the following governmental bodies:
    • The United Kingdom
    • The European Union
    • Mexico
    • The Netherlands
    • Costa Rica
    • France

Notably absent, though is Canada, my home and one of the first countries in the world to legalize same-sex marriage. ( =( )


Events:

There are a number of events planned near me. As usual, the most active area around me seems to be the heart of Downtown Toronto. However, there are events in Chatham, London (Ontario), Windsor, Barrie, Thunder Bay, and just about the entire Golden Horseshoe, in Ontario. There are also events in Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary, and Quebec (the city), as well as internationally. For events near you, ask the oracle using terms like “Anti-Homophobia Day” or “Day Against Homophobia” and your area.


A Transgender Critique:

On the official website, the full name of the day is called “International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.” However, I struggled to find a single mention of Transphobia, other than in the Frequently Asked Questions section. The history of the movement, and how the movement is often described seems to make it about homophobia and prejudice towards people based on sexuality, not based on gender identity or gender expression. I feel like the addition of the word Transphobia serves to try to make the movement sound more inclusive than it actually is. I actually wonder if this addition was mostly to do with the critique that the Gay (GL and sometimes B) communities don’t actually include gender identity or expression. I think that is notable for those that are heading this movement to recognize this; however, I feel like this is only superficial. And I feel this way because of the lack of mention on the official site. I feel that if the movement genuinely wanted to address the issue of Transphobia, there would be some mention, some reference to more knowledgeable projects dealing with Transphobia, like Remembering our Dead or Transgender Europe’s Murder Monitor project.

So, until I feel that Transgender people are truthfully and earnestly included in this day, I will continue calling it the International Day Against Homophobia, as the day was originally coined.

Here’s hoping that my opinion changes next year!