Manitoba

'They die horrible deaths': Slain trans people remembered at emotional Winnipeg vigil

An elder held a feather and led a smudge as the names of 295 slain trans persons were read aloud at an emotional ceremony marking Transgender Day of Remembrance in Winnipeg Sunday night.

‘These are hate crimes,’ says one trans woman

An elder held a feather and led a smudge as the names of 295 slain transgender people were read aloud at an emotional ceremony marking Transgender Day of Remembrance in Winnipeg Sunday night. 0:54

An elder held a feather and led a smudge as the names of 295 slain transgender people were read aloud at an emotional ceremony marking Transgender Day of Remembrance in Winnipeg Sunday night.

"It's a very solemn, you know, very emotional time for a lot of people," said Shandi Strong, a Winnipeg trans woman behind Sunday's vigil at the University of Winnipeg.

"It's a very hard thing to bear, you know, some of the people that are on the list … are as young as 14 years old."

The 295 people were killed over the last year around the world for being trans. Their names were read one by one by nine people who took turns going through the list.

'They die horrible deaths'

Many on the list didn't have names or ages and were referred to as 'unknown.'

An elder smudged and said a prayer as the names of slain trans persons were read.

"They die horrible deaths," said Strong.

"Some of them are disfigured. Some of them are pushed out of windows, some of them are burned and otherwise mutilated."

"It shows you that these are in fact hate crimes," she said.

Strong said Winnipeg has been fortunate enough to not have a transgender person killed in a very long time, but the 2004 slaying of Divas Boulanger, who was found dead near Portage la Prairie, still haunts her.

"It's very near and dear to us," she said.

'This day is about remembering' 

Michael McCallum shared a quote with the crowd that filled a room at the U of W for the vigil from Marsha P Johnson, the black, transgender woman who many say started the Stonewall riot in Greenwich Village.

"No pride for some of us without liberation for all of us," he said.

"This day is about remembering."

Strong didn't mince words when speaking about trans rights at the vigil.

She said transgender people and their allies need to continue fighting for trans rights.

Shandi Strong didn't mince words when speaking about transgender deaths Sunday. (CBC)

"We still have people that are heckled on the streets, heckled in line at the post office and things like that," she said.

Strong said she felt attitudes around trans people had changed up until the recent American election.

"I think it's going to give rise to a new thing of bigotry especially down there and I'd be very sad to see that trickle over the border.'