SFU held events at the Burnaby campus last week to commemorate International Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR).
Held on November 20, TDOR honours transgender and gender non-conforming individuals who have been killed out of anti-transgender hatred or prejudice.
There have been 81 hate crime-related deaths reported around the world this year alone. The TDOR website lists 717 names between the years 1970 and 2012, and it is likely that many more fatal attacks have gone unreported.
The Day of Remembrance was created by Gwendolyn Ann Smith after the death of her friend, transgender woman Rita Hester, who was murdered on November 28, 1998. The Remembering Our Dead web project, which collects names of other victims, as well as a candle-lit vigil are traditions that have carried on to this day.
SFU’s LGBTQ advocacy group, Out On Campus (OOC), brought TDOR to Burnaby campus with a candle-lit display where people could share messages of remembrance or of support to those passing by. The organization also hung profiles of some of the victims in Convocation Mall to help spread awareness and honour those who have died.
They also hosted a workshop on how gender and sex are socially constructed. Those in attendance discussed self-identity, making mistakes with grace, and how to be an ally.
Marlena Boyle of the OOC education team said, “A lot of people were interested in discussions around intersectionality: the ways in which trans identity intersects with racism, intersects with sexism.”
“Pronouns are tricky, especially since it’s not something you can read on a person.”
Marlena Boyle, education team, OOC
Boyle explained that the majority of names displayed in Convo Mall belong to trans women of colour.
“We continue to collect names and add photos, so hopefully next year we will have a more complete display,” said Boyle.
An important topic touched on during the OOC workshop was how to approach using pronouns correctly. “Pronouns are tricky, especially since it’s not something you can read on a person,” they said.
Boyle suggested simply asking someone how they would prefer to be addressed: “You shouldn’t assume [based on appearance] that you should only ask this person; you should ask everyone you meet.”
People can often make mistakes and misgender someone else by accident. “It’s just one of those things with language,” explained Boyle. “You say ‘I’m sorry,’ you make a mental note of it, and you just move on. It’s not a huge deal.”
Another ongoing OOC initiative is the Trans and Gender Diversity Project, which is compiling a guide for trans people on campus to “help them access different facets of university life.” Boyle said that this includes, “everything from how to change gender markers, about policies regarding name changes on campus, [and] transgender washrooms, which is a huge huge issue that I know various groups are looking to change on campus.”
Boyle concluded by mentioning that the OOC office is a safe space for people to come and discuss transgender issues, and they encouraged the SFU community to get informed and to get involved.