Transgender awareness week comes north

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The Rainbow Coalition of Yellowknife held a candle lit vigil at the Yellowknife Women’s Society in remembrance of trans lives lost to violence, transphobia and bigotry.

2311Trans61 Dylan Short/NNSL photo The Rainbow Coalition of Yellowknife held a candle lit vigil Tuesday to remember lives lost due to violence and transphobia. Nov. 20, 2018
The Rainbow Coalition of Yellowknife held a candle lit vigil Tuesday to remember lives lost due to violence and transphobia. Dylan Short/NNSL photo

The vigil was held to honour the trans day of remembrance, a day that was created after to memorialize the death of Rita Hester, a black trans woman murdered in Allston, Massachusetts in 1998. Every year on Nov. 20 events are held across North America remembering trans and gender non-conforming people who have lost their lives.

“We take this day to pause and reflect on the changes that we’ve made but also the people that we’ve lost in the process of progression,” said Chelsea Thacker, executive director of the Rainbow Coalition of Yellowknife.

“I think it’s really important that we do take this day to recognize that we’re not done yet and it encourages activists to keep fighting.”

It was a full house at the vigil as Thacker and Rainbow Coalition president, Lane MacIntosh presented the history and importance of the day. Once the presentation was finished, people were invited to light a candle one at a time before a moment of silence was held.

The vigil was one of several events taking place in the city this week for Transgender Awareness Week from Nov. 19-23.

The week began with the raising of a transgender flag outside of City Hall on Monday, the first time the flag has been flown outside a municipal government building in the NWT.

“For the Trans and gender non-conforming community, visibility is really important. Getting people aware and just having a symbol like the trans flag there, it gets people to start asking questions and start to take ownership of their own knowledge,” said MacIntosh.

MacIntosh said that flag raising and events taking place throughout the week allows the community to address knowledge gaps in the community regarding trans and gender non-conforming people. Macintosh says addressing those knowledge gaps is important to eliminate transphobia and bigotry.

“(People) don’t understand and a lot of that hatred is bred out of ignorance. There’s just a lot of miscommunication that we’re looking for something else, that we’re looking for a bigger piece of an equality pie,” said MacIntosh.

“A big part is people don’t understand that things as simple as safety or a place to use the washroom is really taken for granted. People don’t think about it because they don’t have to, when in reality, stepping out of your door is a gamble sometimes.”

Transgender Awareness Week will continue with events every day wrapping up with a Community Info Booth at Sir John Franklin High School at 11:30 a.m. and a Sex+ talk at the Rainbow Youth Center at 6:30 p.m.

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