Between November 5 and 8, the Union for Gender Empowerment (UGE) held an event series dedicated to trans issues, titled Trans/Formations. The event series, organized entirely by UGE, was also partially funded by various campus organizations such as Queer McGill (QM), the Institute for Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies (IGSF), and the Quebec Public Interest Research Group (QPIRG) McGill.
Speaking to The Daily, QPIRG-McGill Finance and Administrative Coordinator Kama Maureemootoo, who hosted the keynote event, said, “I think [this] is super important, particularly at McGill. As far as I know, there hasn’t been a full series that is focused specifically on trans issues.”
Maureemootoo noted, “We tend to think about […] the ‘transgender tipping point’ because Laverne Cox had her cover on Time magazine, but we don’t necessarily discuss our everyday realities, what it means to be trans at McGill University, what it means to be trans in Montreal, in Quebec. I think those are conversations that need to happen, and they haven’t been happening in such a large-scale and public way.”
UGE event coordinator Lucie Lastinger told The Daily, “I think trans people don’t get a lot of space to talk about their own issues, or often [are] an add-on to other issues, and tend not to be centered in the discussion.”
State violence, gender, and race
The keynote event, titled “A World Without Cages: Reimagining Gender, Abolition, and Resistance,” featured Joshua Allen, an organizer at FIERCE, an organization whose mission is to build “the leadership and power of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) youth of colour in New York City.”
“Militaries from heavily imperialist countries are the ones that have been the biggest perpetrators of all transmisogyny, all kinds of trans violence, all kinds of gendered violence, all across the globe.”
In their talk, Allen addressed issues such as the relationship between marriage and capitalism, as well as leadership in the LGBTQ movement, but focused specifically on how state violence functions in relation to race and the ways in which state violence is perpetrated against gender non-conforming and trans bodies.
“Militaries from heavily imperialist countries are the ones that have been the biggest perpetrators of all transmisogyny, all kinds of trans violence, all kinds of gendered violence, all across the globe,” they stated.
Allen called the fact that trans people and gender non-conforming people are fighting for inclusion in the military “the height of irony,” because “what’s actually happening [is that] by agreeing to be a trans person who’s in the military […] you’re actually going to use your physical body, enact your labour, to perpetuate the same violence that leaves you oppressed wherever you are.”
When asked about the challenges of organizing the series, Lastinger identified ensuring accessibility as a main focus of the organizing committee, stating, “We wanted these events to be accessible to as many people as possible.”
Apart from ensuring wheelchair accessibility, the UGE also provided various resources in order to make the events accessible to more people, such as providing American Sign Language (ASL) and Quebec Sign Language (LSQ) translation and childcare at the keynote event and the panel.
The UGE also strived to make Trans/Formations a financially accessible event series. “If you had to buy a metro ticket or a bus ticket, you can bring your receipt and be refunded for that cost,” said Lastinger.
TPOC and non-binary closed events
In addition to panels and workshops open to the general public, the series also included two closed events, the Trans People of Colour (TPOC) Discussion Group and the Closed Non-binary Discussion Group.
Lastinger noted, “Those two workshops [addressed] larger problems within the trans community of being really exclusive to white trans people and not making space for trans people of colour. That’s definitely a problem, and we didn’t want to ever let that happen.”
Speaking to The Daily, one student who attended the TPOC discussion group and wished to remain anonymous, said, “I think having it closed is a way to be like, ‘we’re all people who can talk about these issues, and talk freely,’ and […] it’s not like we’re going to be like ‘you can’t say that,’ on different issues.”
They mentioned that certain spaces can make them feel “uncomfortable” because “I feel like you have to be non-binary enough – that always feels weird.”
“Those two workshops [addressed] larger problems within the trans community of being really exclusive to white trans people and not making space for trans people of colour. That’s definitely a problem, and we didn’t want to ever let that happen.”
Despite this, they said, “I think it’s good to have that [closed] space, especially because there’s not a lot of spaces like that […] at least in Montreal, as far as I know.”
They also broached the problem of conflating identities within the term “people of colour” (POC). “I think it’s [interesting] to do stuff that is so broadly people of colour, when a lot of issues aren’t just about being not white. Like more specific things […] like people [speaking about] violence against trans women of colour, but they’re really referring to Black and Latino women,” they said.