Manitoba is recognizing the Transgender Day of Remembrance by once again raising the transgender flag in Winnipeg’s Memorial Park on Monday.
Vigils have been taking place annually around the world on Nov. 20 for over two decades, both to memorialize those who have been killed as a result of transphobia, and to raise awareness of the disproportionate violence committed against members of the trans community.
The province first flew the flag in recognition of the day eight years ago, with this year having special poignance, as the flag was raised by MLA Logan Oxenham (Kirkfield Park), the first openly trans man elected to the Manitoba legislature.
In a statement Monday, Manitoba families minister Nahanni Fontaine and health minister Uzoma Asagwara said the annual observance is a way for the province to reaffirm its support for the local trans community.
“Today is a day from community and for community,” Asagwara said.
“We want community to know that our government supports and upholds the life-saving work being done by so many trans, two-spirit and gender-diverse Manitobans working tirelessly to make things better for the next generation.
“Every one of us must demand better than fear and ignorance and the harm it causes to some of our most vulnerable communities.”
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Brandon transgender rights advocate Anastasia Gibson told Global Winnipeg that the day is a way to focus attention on the continued violence being directed toward transgender people — something that, unfortunately, doesn’t seem to show any signs of slowing down.
“It’s so important to be able to recognize and look at this day,” Gibson said. “(Transgender Day of Remembrance has been observed annually since 1999, and it really is to memorialize those who have been murdered as a result of transphobia.”
Gibson said a typical remembrance service might include a candlelight vigil, speakers, and the reading of names.
“It’s a reading of names of those people who’ve passed on from Oct. 1 of the former year to Sept. 30 of the current year, and unfortunately that list doesn’t get any smaller — it tends to grow.”
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Fellow advocate Wendy Friesen said recent increases in anti-trans vitriol mean getting community support is essential for transgender people.
“These days, it’s more important than ever for trans people to be supported by their communities, because with this recent surge in the anti-trans movements across the United States and Canada, the amount of discrimination and violence against us has gone up as well.
“It’s very, very important that our communities are able to support us, to give us the peace of mind that we need, and also to provide for our safety. … It could very well save our lives.”
Friesen and Gibson said while there are still challenges in connecting with resources, the connectivity of the Internet makes it much easier for members of the community to find the information they need in the Westman region, and there’s plenty of internal support within Brandon.
“The benefit of Brandon is that it is such a tight-knit community,” Gibson said. “We’ve had so much support from the community in terms of the transgender, gender diverse, and the queer community recently.
“That being said, absolutely, there’s been quite a lot of vitriol taking place.”
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