Fighting for respect
Day of remembrance held for transgendered RCMP investigate shooting in Ritchot
THERE were about a dozen faces to remember, a dozen names, and a dozen stories swept behind the push of his- tory.
On Saturday, the sixth annual Winnipeg Transgender Day of Remembrance drew advocates and allies to Thunderbird House to remember those who lost their lives to violence, stigma or other facets of prejudice against people who identify as a gender that isn’t the one assigned to them at birth.
“ I’m involved for my sisters who have passed on,” said Alaya McIvor, 27, who serves on the WTDOR committee.
Among those sisters: Divas Boulanger, who was slain in 2004 when she was 28 years old. In July, six years after Boulanger was murdered and her body dumped outside Portage la Prairie, RCMP arrested a suspect.
If the arrest added an urgency to this year’s day of remembrance — which is marked across the world — it also offered encouragement. “( It shows) that trans women’s murders are being treated with the respect of any other person, and getting the attention they need to not go into cold case,” said Albert McLeod, an advocate.
This attention is needed all too often. Transgender people, advocates point out, are still at risk, disproportionately so. Sometimes ostracized from families and communities, sometimes marginalized, many trans people struggle to find a space to survive.
Some, like Divas, wind up on the streets. And when the worst befalls, their memories are tied up in a media narrative that often insists on calling them names they didn’t call themselves, and pronouns they never wanted.
“ Media have a big role in educating the public,” McIvor said. “ It doesn’t help when the media label transgender or transsexual people. I believe how a person lives their lives is their preference. Everyone is different... and we need allies, for example the media, to stand up for the transgender com- munity.”
There has been some progress in awareness and acceptance of transgender people in Manitoba, he said. For instance, aboriginal spiritual ceremonies can contain gendered roles; in recent years, he says, he’s seen more ceremonies in which transgender people are welcomed.
In social services, some North End agencies have invited transgender people to speak to participants.
But there are other stumbling blocks: addictions programs, for instance, that offer gendered programs that may force transgender people into therapeutic environments with people who are prejudiced against them. There are still failures of the health care system to support and respect transgender people’s health needs.
And there are still cases like Divas. And in every case, McLeod added, think of what’s been lost.
“ They bring something to the circle, and the circle isn’t complete without them,” he said. “ If you shut them out, you can’t fully experience what a family could be, what a community could be. Everyone who comes to that circle brings a gift.”
“ It’s not people asking to be let in, it’s people asking to be recognized who have always been there.” A 58-year-old man is in hospital in critical condition after what RCMP describe as a “ firearm incident” Saturday afternoon.
The incident happened on Waverley Road in the RM of Ritchot at about 3: 15 p. m.
Officers from the RCMP St. Pierre detachment are investigating.