It is impossible to know how many transgender people there are in Canada or even get a good guess. On most surveys and documents, including the 2016 Canadian Census, there is no option for someone to identify themselves as transgender. In death, transgender people are often erased by news reports and official records that identify people by names they don’t use or genders that don’t match their lived experiences. This leaves the transgender community and their issues invisible.
In 1999, Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR) was started by Gwendolyn Ann Smith in San Francisco, California as a way to bring awareness to the violence that transgender people face worldwide by remembering those that have been murdered. This is done by compiling and reading names listing documented murders of transgender and non-binary people in the past year all over the world. While TDoR isn’t a census to collect numbers, it does put transgender people into the spotlight in a real way that affirms their true selves as worthy of consideration, respect and care.
There is more to the transgender community than just violence though. That is why Transgender Day of Visibility was started in 2010 by Rachel Crandall in Detroit, Michigan to showcase the positive aspects of being transgender and celebrate transgender people that are still living. Due to the work of people like Smith and Crandall there are things to look forward to here in Canada. Canada recently added the marker of ‘x’ for transgender and non-binary people on their passports. Starting this year, Ontario allows the gender marker of ‘x’ on driver’s licenses for transgender and non-binary people, so change is on the way.
While these new changes are exciting, it is important to remember those that will never see them. TDoR also has an international focus reminding us that transgender rights aren’t confined to Canada. Transgender Day of Remembrance is traditionally observed each November around the world and locally here in Brandon. All are welcome to attend. This year in Brandon there will be an observance at Knox United Church on Tuesday, Nov. 21st at noon followed by a light lunch provided by Knox and PFLAG. In the evening there will be a candlelight vigil that is still being planned so look out for more information on that event. For more information about TDoR contact SERC Brandon or the Brandon University LGBTTQ* Collective.