Warning: This article contains potentially triggering discussion of transphobia and violent crime.
According to results of the Trans Murder Monitoring Project, which took place from January 2008 to June 2009, reports show that every three days there is a murder of a trans* person. Transgender Europe (TGEU), a network of support and resource organizations for trans* people, compiled a list of 221 trans* people reported murdered between November 20, 2010 to November 14, 2011. The reports range from 17-year-old women killed by family members to older sex workers who fell victim to their own clients, with the majority of these murders taking place in South America. However, this violent hatred extends beyond any borders. Of 27 hate murders reported in the U.S. against LGBTQ and HIV-positive people in 2010, a disproportionate 70 per cent were people of colour, and 44 per cent of those people were trans* women, when trans* Americans are estimated to make up under 1 per cent of the population.
Active threats of harm from strangers, family, or acquaintances, the oppressive gatekeeping in medical institutions, and other instances of both outright and subtle attack are all but inescapable for trans* people worldwide. At McGill, trans* students face erasure both in classrooms and in everyday conversations. Things as seemingly easy as using the washroom, selecting a box for ‘gender’ on a survey, or simply being referred to by the correct name or pronouns can be a daily uphill battle. Let alone the often years-long challenge of medical and social transition for those who pursue it, and the staggering suicide rates – 77 per cent of trans* Ontarians have contemplated suicide, and 43 per cent have attempted suicide, according to a 2010 report by Trans PULSE, a research initiative based in Ontario.
With only a fraction of a percentage of students at McGill identifying as trans*, it is crucial to recognize that these odds are stacked against an extremely small group of our peers. Considering the personal struggles of individual trans* people at McGill, true allyship is a rare occurrence, but one that is often welcomed with open arms. Active campaigning and petitioning for governmental action aside, acts as small as inquiring about and respecting a person’s preferred pronouns, or keeping trans* people and non-normative bodies in mind rather than generalizing statements according to a gender binary can all contribute to a safer environment for our peers and colleagues as they study and work alongside us.
November 20 is the Transgender Day of Remembrance, a memorial for victims of transphobic hate murders that ends the annual Transgender Awareness Week. This year, members of the Queer McGill Trans* Working Group have organized a vigil at the Y-intersection on campus at 6 p.m. While this is an event centered around trans* people, with an emphasis on the trans* women of colour that are most often targeted in violent hate crimes, all allies are welcome to attend to support their fellow students and community members. By memorializing the dead, we can show support for those around us who are still engaged in a perpetual fight for existence, recognition, and respect.