Manitoba

'Oh my God, that could be me': Transgender Day of Remembrance memorializes those hurt by anti-trans violence

A ceremony dedicated to memorializing transgender people killed because of hatred and ignorance is bringing people together in more than 200 cities across 20 countries, including Winnipeg, on Monday night.

More than 100 people expected to take part at University of Winnipeg on Monday evening

Shandi Strong says the Transgender Day of Remembrance is an opportunity to remember those the community has lost to violence and to find support. (Jill Coubrough/CBC)

A ceremony dedicated to memorializing transgender people killed because of hatred and ignorance is bringing people together in more than 200 cities across 20 countries on Monday night.

The Transgender Day of Remembrance started in the United States in 1999 and has been taking place in Winnipeg for about 12 years, said Shandi Strong, an organizer and transgender advocate. 

With continuing violence toward the transgender community around the world and hateful rhetoric on social media, Strong said it is important to raise awareness and also bring the community together.

"We fear. All of a sudden you have violence happening towards trans people, you have families that are rejecting trans people that end up on the street," she said.

"What happens to that? It does a number on you because you are sitting there going 'Oh my God, that could be me. That is somebody I know.'" 

Strong said Manitoba has lost people to anti-transgender and anti-gender-nonconformiity violence and ideas. 

"One of the most notable was Divas Boulanger," she said. 

Boulanger's beaten body was found by a rest stop near Portage la Prairie, Man, in 2004. An autopsy revealed the 28-year-old died of blunt-force trauma.

Theodore Herntier was handed a life sentence for the murder in 2016.

But Strong said there also have been advancements for the transgender community, including the election of Julie Lemieux in Quebec, the first known transgender person to be elected as a mayor in Canada. 

On the weekend, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that he will offer an apology in the House of Commons at the end of the month to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and two-spirited people who were forced out of the military or public service and some who were even prosecuted criminally for "gross indecency."

Starting in the 1950s and until 1992, thousands of Canadians in the military, RCMP and across the civil service were fired under the policy. 

Strong is also encouraged by how Winnipeg's Transgender Day of Remembrance has grown over the last decade.

It started with about 20 people holding candles in the parking lot of Red Road Lodge. 

This year, more than 100 people are expected to take part in the ceremony at Riddell Hall at the University of Winnipeg at 6 p.m.

"This makes us stronger and more aware of what's going on in the world and what we face," Strong said. 

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