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Vernon vigil shines light on trans lives lost

A total of 321 trans persons, including eight Canadians, died last year

Jayden Miller. Kaleb Fisher. Emily Rawbon. Lucy Stier. Aurora Stark. Hailey “Bee” Lawson. Bekett Noble. Dani Cooper.

These eight trans-Canadians all died the past year and were honoured with a vigil at Vernon’s Transgender Day of Remembrance on Monday, Nov. 20.

It was a solemn scene, with nearly 100 attendees holding candles, as advocates spoke out about the injustices trans individuals have faced.

“It is intensely difficult, if not impossible to find names of the two spirit people who have lost their lives in Canada this year,” said Abbie Wilson, president of Vernon’s Pride Society. “Not only are two spirit, trans and non binary people often misgendered, mistreated and dead named during our lives, they often are after death. “

Wilson listed off the eight names, which represent some of the 321 individuals who died in 2023 as a result of anti-trans violence, according the Trans Murder Monitoring report.

“According to a study by Trans Pulse, 20 per cent of trans people have specifically been physically assaulted for being trans,” said Wilson. “Thirty-four per cent had been verbally assaulted, harassed and threatened for being trans while 70 per cent of trans youth have experienced harassment.”

The Trans Day of Remembrance has been observed annually on Nov. 20 since 1999, when a small group sought to memorialize the murder of Black transgender women Rita Hester and Chanelle Pickett in Massachusetts. It has since grown and has been observed in over 185 cities throughout 20 countries.

Tommy, a speaker, stressed the importance of having events like this vigil as a way to foster the Vernon community.

“Social media has allowed the rapid spread of misinformation, which also creates echo chambers and allows the amplification of this hateful rhetoric,” said Tommy. “Despite all the hateful things in the media, there are some positives and a recent poll showed that 80 per cent of Americans across political ideations are in support of protection for transgender and LGBTQ plus individuals. It indicates that these loud opposing views are a small minority, and that there’s overwhelming support and solidarity for our communities.”

Elmaz Wilder, Vernon Pride Society director, spoke out about the importance of remembering all who have passed fighting for equal rights of two spirit and LGBTQ plus individuals.

“Each life lost echoes a struggle of acceptance and understanding. Let’s not just mourn, but carry the stories forward,” he said. “As an adopted trans person, community and inclusion will always be my goal. I pledge to stand up against discrimination and to be the voice for those who can no longer speak. Trans Day of Remembrance is a call to action. A call to ensure that every trans person including myself, can live authentically without fear. Thank you allies for who have shown up your action and your action has a huge impact in our lives. Please continue to fight for human rights.”

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Bowen Assman

About the Author: Bowen Assman

I joined The Morning Star team in January 2023 as a reporter. Before that, I spent 10 months covering sports in Kelowna.
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