Ottawa transgender community remembers, celebrates
Last Updated: Saturday, November 20, 2010 | 4:19 PM ET
Ottawa recognized the Transgender Day of Remembrance Saturday, something praised by some in the city's transgender community as "amazing," but seized by others as a chance to protest.
Ottawa police flew the group's flag at their headquarters, and a ceremony at city hall remembered transgender people who have suffered from prejudice and hatred around the world.
In the evening, many in the community are set to hold a candlelight vigil at the Canadian Tribute to Human Rights monument at Lisgar and Elgin streets.
Amanda Ryan, who helped organize the event, said the police recognition may help cut down on the stigma and hatred that keeps many from coming out.
"This is the first time that any official organization has recognized the transgender community as an individual entity," Ryan said.
"If the police are willing to acknowledge that we're out there then why wouldn't anyone else? I want to be recognized, and for people to know I am a somebody."
But there was also resistance to the police effort. Some transgender protesters unfurled a banner over Highway 417, at Elgin Street, that read "Remember Stonewall?" — a reference to 1969 clashes between police and New York City's queer community.
Taiva Tegler, a community activist, told CBC News two people were arrested after unfurling the banner Saturday afternoon. Tegler said about 50 people remained at the police station around 3:15 p.m. in solidarity with those arrested.
The co-operation between police and the transgender community, Tegler said, was perceived by some as "an attempt to erase history … and we do not have a good history with the police."
Ottawa police confirmed two people were arrested for mischief, but could not say how many people were waiting peacefully for their release.
Ryan expresses her gender identity by cross-dressing, something she said her employer isn't aware of or doesn't understand. She said many deal with the same thing.
The community's next big hope is that a federal NDP private member's bill (C-389) to amend the Criminal Code and the Canadian Human Rights Act to include gender identity and gender expression — which is about to receive third reading — will pass.
Staff Sgt. John Medeiros said officers are given sensitivity training on transgender issues, but the ceremony goes a step further.
"We thought it was important that we honour and acknowledge the significance of that day," Medeiros said.
"Remembering those who have paid the ultimate price for being who they are, and that's human beings."
Not all of Ottawa's transgender population came to the event. Some said they shunned the event because their peers had been victimized by police in other countries.
The Transgender Day of Remembrance started in San Francisco in 1999, and is an international event.
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