A small group gathered under the flags in Gyro Park on Wednesday night to mark the inaugural Transgender Day of Remembrance vigil in Penticton.
The event memorializes those who have been murdered as a result of transphobia, said Lee Abbel, board of directors of South Okanagan-Similkameen (SOS) PRIDE.
“It is not only about community unity, but also to bring to the forefront an awareness of the difficulties, pain and adversity that trans in our community deal with every single day,” he said.
“Within the confines of our small community, we have a vibrant trans community that isn’t visible and all they do get is a lot of pain and suffering and not a whole lot of acceptance.”
Melisa Edgerly, also a board member with SOS PRIDE, said it is important to remember those who have been murdered and killed because democratic countries such as Canada have to do more to stop the violence and discrimination.
According to a study by UBC and Egale Canada, 70 per cent of trans youth in Canada have experienced discrimination because of their gender identity and one in three younger participants had been physically threatened or injured in the past year. Seventy percent also report experiencing sexual harassment.
The aim of Transgender Day of Remembrance is to raise awareness with the hope of ending the violence against the trans community, Abbel added.
“Canada is a bastion in a lot of ways. But we’ve got a long way to go,” he said, pointing to Bill 207, a private member’s bill before the Alberta legislature that, if passed, would mean a health-care provider couldn’t be sued or sanctioned for refusing to provide a service that goes against their moral beliefs. Critics of the bill have said it could legalize discrimination against transgender people.
“A trans person who has been beaten or hurt could be rejected by the medical community,” Abbel added. “That cannot stand. We’re in Canada. If you are a medical professional, you have to fulfill your Hippocratic Oath.”
For Kyler Sahlmarc, Transgender Day of Remembrance is also the chance to celebrate who you are.
“It’s about being courageous enough to be yourself and showing the full authenticity of your full self, and the world is just starting to wake up to that.”
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