The week of 16 November to 20 November marks a period of remembrance similar, yet markedly different, from the sobering Remembrance Day that had just passed. Unlike the tragic world wars that have become a somber reminder of our past, this new chapter in the struggle for human rights is far from over.
Transgender. What does the word really mean? Mr. Pearce, whose youngest child is transgender, provided clarification on some common misconceptions. He explained that sex describes the physical characteristics of a person; gender however, is the internal sense of how male you feel, or female. A person is transgender when their sex and gender do not match, which occurs to approximately 1 in 200 people.
This number may seem surprising to some, as Mr. Pearce puts it “[transgender awareness] is like gay rights in the 80s”. However, for victims of anti-transgender violence, whose memories are held in remembrance during this week, change is desperately needed. As Sangari Chandransagaran, President of MGCI’s Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA) pointed out, “almost half of [transgender people] have considered suicide”, with a quarter having made at least one attempt at ending their lives.
They also emphasized that sexual orientation, which indicates “who you’re attracted to” is separate from gender. The LGBTQ discussion is a combination of multiple distinct issues, as Mr. Pearce noted that “even in the gay community you’ll find transphobia.”
To raise awareness, the GSA will be putting up posters and making announcements throughout the week. Tables will also be set up in the galleria with information pamphlets. A major component of the week-long event is the creation and signing of a petition calling on Parliament to “protect transgender Canadians from discrimination and hate crimes”. This is in reference to Bill C-279 or the Gender Identity Bill passed in the House of Commons during the spring of 2013, which aimed to grant transgender Canadians protection under federal human rights and criminal codes, but has been repeatedly stalled in the Senate ever since.
Smaller versions of the petition will be handed out to students while a larger, painted petition will be displayed in the Galleria starting Wednesday 18 November for students to sign. At 11:30 am on Friday 20 November, the actual day of trans-remembrance, a photo of the signed petition will be taken and sent to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the newly appointed Minister of Justice. Cupcakes will also be sold as part of a fundraising effort. A movie night is scheduled for Thursday 26 November in room 225 featuring Boy Meets Girl, a romantic comedy that discusses topics on gender and sexuality.
Mr. Pearce and members of the GSA described their thoughts on what would be MGCI’s first ever Trans-Remembrance Week as feeling “excited and privileged” to participate in the “big human rights issue of our time”. They are confident that “society is going in the right direction” and “just needs that extra push”.
Students are invited to be part of that push for change this week by visiting the booths and adding their signatures to the petition. Those who feel passionately about this issue are also encouraged to join the GSA during their weekly meetings at lunch on Fridays in room 225 as well as to check out the GSA Garneau Facebook page for regular updates. That link can be found here.