Transgender Day of Remembrance honours those who have lost their lives
'Without visibility like this we can't foster acceptance and inclusion for all transgender people'
Halifax mayor Mike Savage was joined by members of the Halifax transgender community Tuesday morning for a flag raising ceremony at Grand Parade to mark the Transgender Day of Remembrance.
The Transgender Day of Remembrance was founded in 1999 by Gwendolyn Ann Smith, a transgender woman, to memorialize the murder of transgender woman Rita Hester in Allston, Mass.
"This is extremely important to have this day recognized here in Halifax," said Cyndi Sweeney, the chapter leader of PFLAG Halifax.
"Without visibility like this we can't foster acceptance and inclusion for all transgender people in our community."
PFLAG Canada is a national charitable organization founded to unite families and allies in support of loved ones in the LGBTQ community.
The transgender flag flew all day Tuesday to honour and remember people who lost their lives to anti-trans violence in the last year.
Sweeney gave birth to three girls but her youngest, now 12 years old, began transitioning to a boy a couple of years ago when he was in Grade 5.
"When a child comes out and transitions it's difficult to pull all the pieces together," said Sweeney, who says Dillon suffered a broken nose in a playground altercation with a male student.
"We need to be doing more education around gender in schools because it would help us define who we are on the inside, because not everybody fits into the boxes that we've been labelled when we were born."
The IWK Health Centre has a Transhealth Clinic and over a four-year period new referrals to the unit have almost quadrupled, going from 14 in 2014 to 55 in 2017.
"I always say sexual orientation is who you go to bed with, while gender identity is who you go to bed as," said Sweeney.
"Unfortunately our society is structured in a way that children become acutely aware at an early age that to identify differently doesn't fit and it's not right and that's the narrative that needs to be changed."
Jessica Dempsey began her transition seven years ago and attended the flag raising ceremony.
"I'm happy because there are people who have survived, but there are still a lot of challenges we face," said Dempsey.
"People who are trans-feminine like myself face a disproportionate amount of discrimination in things like employment and housing."