Trans Day of Visibility celebrates Alberta milestones

The annual Trans Day of Visibility marked recent milestones for Alberta's transgender community at a celebration at the Jack Singer Concert Hall Thursday night.

Thursday's celebration was first since Alberta amended Human Rights Act to protect transgender people

Leslea Herber is a founding member of the Trans Equality Society of Alberta. (Meghan Grant/CBC)

The annual Trans Day of Visibility marked a couple of recent milestones for Alberta's transgender community as guests celebrated at the Jack Singer Concert Hall Thursday night.

It was the first since amendments were made to the Alberta Human Rights Act that offer protection to the trans community and it was held on the day when all but one school board submitted LGBTQ policies to the provincial government. 

But a more subtle hint that things are slowly changing for the community is Gary's story.

He recently told his parents the daughter they believed they were raising, was actually a son.

The 14-year-old only wants his first name used.

"I just sort of said, 'Hey mom, I think I'm a guy,' and mom said 'Okay sure.'"

"I feel like this is some sort of graduation ceremony, like once this is over, I'm officially transgender," Gary said at the Thursday event.

His mother, Chandra stuck close to her son's side.

"I'm proud of him," she said. "He is being true to himself despite his fears about what people might think and he's just calmly leading the way."

But not every trans person has a parent that feels that way. Gary knows that all too well and in fact, he feels guilty about it.

"I feel like I'm too privileged," he said.

But other members of the community who had a tougher time telling their families, say Gary's story shows progress.

'We should always strive to be leader'

Bill 7 amends Alberta's Human Rights Act to prohibit discrimination based on gender identity and gender expression.

"There were a lot of people out there that were in need of protection," said Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley who introduced the bill.

Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley spoke at the annual Trans Day of Visibility Thursday night. (CBC)

And there are still people who don't understand what the trans community is fighting for, Ganley added.

"I think those concerns are easily answered by information because nobody is out there trying to impose their views on anyone, they just want to be accepted for who they are and I think that's pretty fundamental in society."

Alberta falls in the middle of the pack when it comes to protecting members of the trans community according to the minister, who says she'd like to see the province do better.

"Moving forward, we should always strive to be leaders," said Ganley.

To some like Leslea Heber, getting "mucky mucks" and politicians like Ganley together at Thursday's gathering feels like a win.

"Oh it does, against those that would rather see us hiding in a closet somewhere and as you can tell, I think closets are better suited for clothes."