Transgender woman from Nelson House, Man., attacked New Year's Day

Aalayna Spence says she was brutally attacked in Nelson House, Man., for being transgender, but she’s not going to let the violence silence her.

Aalayna Spence says she was attacked, beaten for being transgender

Aalayna Spence says she was beaten up at a New Year's Eve party in Nelson House because she is transgender. (Submitted)

​While ringing in the new year on a northern Manitoba reserve, a woman says she was brutally attacked for being transgender.

Aalayna Spence, 22, said she was at a house party in Nelson House, Man., when transphobic slurs turned into physical violence.

"I never thought this type of violence would ever happen to me," she said.

Spence, who lives in Calgary, was excited to head home for the holidays. She'd enjoyed time with family and spent her New Year's Eve with friends at a party. At around 2 a.m. a man she didn't know approached her and started making transphobic slurs.

"He started making fun of [a] friend for hanging out with me, saying, 'Oh I didn't know you were gay, I didn't know you were a fag'," she said.

As an activist for the LGBT community, Spence spoke up for herself and the man she was talking with.

Spence says it escalated quickly and the man punched her in the face. So, Spence says she punched him back and suddenly other people descended on her.

"One thing led to another and I was on the ground and the three of them were kicking me in the face," she said.

"They were saying things like, 'Faggot, tranny, bitch.' Really, really mean things, like misogynistic things."

While she was being attacked, Spence said she wasn't sure she was going to make it out alive. While the beating felt like forever, her friends later told her it lasted about three minutes.

'My case wasn't being taken seriously'

Spence's friends were eventually able to help her to her feet and the attackers were kicked out of the party.

Aalayna Spence, 22, says she wasn't sure she would survive the beating. (Submitted)
Bruised, bloodied and left with a chipped tooth, Spence went to the bathroom to wash her face and then phone the RCMP.

But Spence said the officer who answered the phone at the local detachment didn't show much concern.

"He was very condescending, very short with me and his final question before he hung up was, 'Do you need an ambulance?' I said, 'Yes'," she said.

The RCMP officer followed the ambulance to the local nursing station where Spence's injuries were assessed. When a nurse asked the officer if Spence could provide her statement, Spence alleges the officer responded he had better things to do with his time.

"I started crying. I thought that my case wasn't being taken seriously. Regardless of what happened, I was assaulted and I was a victim of violence," she said.

After she was released form the nursing station, Spence returned to the detachment to ensure her statement was made and to file a complaint about the officer.

She also asked that the assault be investigated as a hate crime because gender identity is protected under the Human Rights Code of Manitoba.

When she returned to Calgary, where she's a student at Mount Royal University, her head was covered in bruises.

While the purple colour on her body has faded, she said the headaches, dizziness and memories of her beating remain. 

RCMP said a 28-year-old woman was charged with assault in connection with the incident but the investigation is ongoing. RCMP confirmed Spence was advised to give her statement at a later time, but said her intoxication was the reason the officer didn't take it at the nursing station.

Spence said she thinks it was because her assault wasn't a priority — it still isn't, she added.

"I still haven't heard from police. I understand that they are in a reserve and they have a multitude of cases to handle, but to be treated that way is just inhumane," she said.

'Not tolerated in this community'

Chief of Nelson House Marcel Moody says anyone involved in an assault should be charged.

"That kind of thing is not tolerated in this community," he said.

"The people involved should be charged, whether it's a hate crime or whatever it is," he added.

Nelson House is a lot more accepting of its members who identify as LGBT than it was a decade ago, but it certainly still has "a ways to go," Moody said. Information about the LGBT community isn't being taught in schools or within the community as far as Moody is aware.

Aalayna Spence says she still wants to go back to her community to work with youth. (Submitted)
Spence has become the most vocal advocate for LGBT people in the community and last summer she hosted the first workshops for youth and health workers.

"[She] has done a real good job of expressing who [she] is and get a career for [her]self," said Moody, admitting he too could use a better understanding of what it means to be transgender.

"[She's] more than welcome to come back to Nelson House to be part of the difference."

It will be a long time before Spence is fully recovered but she said she understands the importance of sharing her story. There are kids in her home community struggling with who they are and with the bullying that comes with it.

"I want to tell people that this type of violence does exist no matter where you are and it needs to be stopped," said Spence.