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.

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Weekly Reader: October 18

Let’s be honest, sometimes anal sex is going to hurt.

There is a fetish for everything, and every fetish has a name. Like sideromophilia.

Sex-positivity is more than just an approach to sex, it is an approach to life too.

Sex education is about more than just sexual activities, it is also about the complexities of the people involved in those sexual activities.

Just WTF is sexuality anyway?

I have a question: Are you a slut?

Critical Reading Time! The Canadian Women’s Foundation released a report on sex trafficking.

The always amazing Thomas Millar educators us, yet again, as to why we can’t simply blaming alcohol for sexual assault.

Yet another thing that Focus on the Family completely misunderstands: Sex Education

Anxiety can ruin all the things, including sexytimes. Don’t let it.

Some desperately needed sex advice by two amazing poets.

Perhaps a better title for this is: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Receiving Cunnilingus

Before rushing into an open relationship there are some do’s and don’t’s you should know

Sex Education starts at child birth, whether you like it or not.

Good to go is an app to document consent… that could exonerate more rapists than it helps convict

Resource Guide: Asexuality

List: Of Yes/No/Maybe Checklists

The Nebulous Definition of Rape: Critique of My ‘Diet Caffeine-Free Rape’

Hello everyone,

Right now, I likely should be sleeping, but I thought that I would quickly write a post about something that I just read. The article that I am referring to really pissed me off and, what’s more, is that it wasn’t meant to. It was meant to be one of those articles that all feminist/women positive people really agree with. It was meant to be one of those scary yet affirming stories about a young woman battling with the role and identity of being a sexual assault survivor. And, like most of these stories it ended with the woman understanding and accepting that identity, in effect highlighting the nebulous definition of rape that society uses.

For those of you that aren’t mind readers the article that I am referring to is linked here. I strongly suggest that you read it and form your own opinion on the topic.

As I mentioned above, in my opinion this article has one major flaw: in this case, it wasn’t rape! This is likely to really annoy and piss off people, but please bear with me as I explain. I am not trying to claim that everything that this guy she mentions did was saintly, I am not saying that it wasn’t a bad situation, and I am NOT claiming to know all of the context. For all I know, the context was cut out of the article in editing, or it was too painful or too long to write into the article in the first place.

So, I am not saying that this woman is not a sexual assault survivor. What I am saying is that what was described in the article is not something that I would call rape, and there is one passage in the article that really drives this point home for me.

I never said, “No, no, no.” When I’d cry — almost every time we had sex — he asked if he should keep going. Keep going, I’d say. Just finish. And he would. He could.

My issue is not that she never said “No, no, no.” There are millions of ways not to consent to sexual activity. My issue is that when he asked her if he should keep going, she agreed that he should keep going. For me, as someone who focuses a lot of time and effort on consent during sexual activity, this means, well, keep going.

If my partner and I are engaged in sexual activity, whether it be vanilla sex or intense pain and edge play, if I ask my partner if she wants me to continue and she says yes, I take that as consent.

That being said, it is fair to point out that the consent that this woman gave was far from unequivocal, and that is something that should give anyone pause. However, what she went on to say was not something that completely negated the consent that she gave; Instead it changed the consent from something clear (a “yes” or “keep going”) to something a bit more murky. That is, she made the answer to his request for permission to continue a “yes, but…”.

In answering the question in this way, she moves from giving her full consent to giving conditional consent. That is important, and it should be respected (as all consent should be)! This means, at least to me, that the condition that she made should be followed out, and if it can’t sexual activity should end. And from my reading of the next sentences, that is exactly what happened.

I mean, don’t get me wrong here, when she starts to express displeasure with the sexual activity, and asks for it to end sooner rather than later, this should sound all kinds of alarm bells in her partner’s mind. He likely should have stopped at that implication and done a more in-depth check-in making sure that she didn’t feel pressured to continue and the like.

But in my mind that is exactly the problem, this was based on an implication; this wasn’t based on verbal speech or intense, clear signs of transgressionsee notes. The removal of consent was done through implication. This is a huge problem for me, as it should be for all feminist/women positive people, because this is one of the main ways for rape victims to be ignored and blamed for their rapes!

I mean, how many times have we heard that a woman implied that she was wanting sexual activity based on how short her skirt was, where she was, who she was with, when she was out of the house, how tall her shoes were, or any other absurd thing? I think that I can safely assume that all women positive people think that this defense and victim blaming is completely and utterly ridiculous; But, how, exactly, is implying one’s non-consent any more or less relevant than implying someone’s consent?

Even though this seems like it is simply airing on the side of caution, relying on implication to remove consent still strips women of agency over their sexuality. It takes the power and control that comes with consent and places it in the hands of the person interpreting the consent, rather than in the hands of the person consenting (or not) to the sexual act. This is a major problem!

On top of that, this heavy reliance on the implications around women’s consent during sexual activity feeds right back into the old social tropes about women not having a voice and about how women are always manipulative in relations with men. Again, this is a huge problem, and one that feminists have been fighting for more than a century. 

So, whether this woman is a survivor of sexual violence or not (which, sadly, she likely is given the stats), can we please not hold this description of rape up as shining example of the complexities of sexual assault? It only serves to further undermine women, not empower them.

Notes:

As many of you know, this is a blog written by someone who identifies as kinky. As such, I read things a bit differently than other people. Many people would assume that her mention of crying during sexual intercourse is an “intense, clear sign” that this woman is not consenting to this sexual activity. However, this is not the case for all women, nor should it be assumed to be.

I, for one, happen to strongly enjoy crying and screaming (something else the author mentioned) during sexual activity. In fact, there have been times where my partner has ended a sexual encounter because she was uncomfortable with my screaming and crying, and I was still asking for more. Whether this is your brand of sexuality or not, the statement stands that the author’s removal of consent was based more in implication than it was in verbal cues, and thus, I feel that the critique is still relevant.