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This article was published 21/11/2015 (1484 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
This year, 271 transgender people around the world were killed because of their actual or perceived gender identity and gender expression.
On Friday afternoon, the names of all those individuals filled the sanctuary of Knox United Church during a noon-hour memorial service for Brandon’s seventh annual Transgender Day of Remembrance.
Kathy Bull is the mother of a transgender person and a founding member of a local support group for parents, friends and family of trans individuals.
For Bull, Friday’s service was an emotional experience.
“It’s hugely important,” she said through tears. “To me, once you’re a parent of a transgender individual, it’s like you’re a parent to all of them ... when you hear them being hurt or victimized or treated badly, you take it on because that could be your kid.”
While the vast majority of those murdered were trans women of colour who were sex workers in the U.S., Brazil, Colombia and Mexico, gender identity-based violence is also a problem closer to home.
Last week, Theodore Herntier was found guilty of second-degree murder in the death of Divas Boulanger, 11 years after the transgender woman’s body was found near a rest stop east of Portage la Prairie.
“It’s huge that there’s finally some justice for her,” Bull said. “These are incredible, talented, beautiful people that are just hated ... because people don’t understand them.”
More than 50 people filled the pews at Knox to remember, mourn and honour the lives lost.
During the service, Harmony Knott, of Two-Spirited People of Manitoba, addressed the gathering and shared her personal journey from sexual, emotional and physical abuse to trans activism.
“I’m glad to say that I’m actually standing here,” Knott said as she finished telling her story.
Rune Breckon, the LGBT program facilitator at the Sexuality Education Resource Centre in Brandon, hopes Friday’s attendees will take something from Knott’s story and help raise awareness by spreading information about trans experiences among the larger community.
Breckon says that while the trans community is less visible in Brandon than it might be in larger cities, transphobia continues to thrive.
“I meet new folks identifying as trans every week, so the numbers are here ... but most of the people I chat with experience discrimination on a very regular basis, so they don’t feel safe to be out,” Breckon said.
Last year, the provincial government made it easier for trans individuals to change their gender on birth registrations and certificates by removing the requirement for proof of gender transition surgery.
“Having representation in policy is really incredible, but there could be much more ... (imagine) if we could remove sex designation markers on all forms of ID,” Breckon said, adding that small victories are also taking place in school divisions and workplaces where gender neutral washrooms and zero tolerance anti-harassment policies exist.
The afternoon service was followed by an outdoor vigil and letter writing project — to the victims, families and survivors of anti-transgender violence — at the Park Community Centre on Friday evening.
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