Sudbury marks Trans Day of Remembrance

November 20 is Trans Day of Remembrance– in the north and internationally– to memorialize those who have died because of transphobia.

RIta O’Link says northern Ontario could become ‘leaders’ in acceptance and tolerance for transgender community

Sudbury commemorates Trans Day of Remembrance. (Martha Dillman/CBC)

November 20 is Trans Day of Remembrance– in the north and internationally– to memorialize those who have died because of transphobia.

It began in 1999 by Gwendolyn Ann Smith, a transgender woman, to memorialize the murder of transgender woman Rita Hester in Allston, Mass.

Trans Day of Remembrance has been recognized under law in Ontario since 2017

Rita O'Link, the Community relations co-ordinator with T-G Innerselves – a transgender support group in Sudbury, said more than 330 transgender people died of violence worldwide this year.

It's a problem that's on the rise, O'Link said.

"We attribute it to the rise of the populist movement, where it's becoming far more acceptable in society to be against someone like myself," O'Link said.

"This attitude leads to discrimination. Discrimination leads to bullying. Bullying leads to violence and eventually we have a murder, somebody loses her life not only just because they were murdered, but the ones that are bullied into such a state in their life that they conclude their own life through suicide," she said.

"Those statistics aren't even counted."

Rita O'Link is the community relations co-ordinator with T-G Innerselves, a transgender support group. (Martha Dillman/CBC)

O'Link says 70 per cent of transgender people will experience violence at some point in their lifetime. 331 deaths occurred worldwide, including 26 in the United States, she says.

As for northern Ontario, O'Link says there has been a slight "tendency for a rise" of violence in the area. 

"I'm asking all my fellow citizens in northeastern Ontario, please stop this in its tracks," she said. "Stand up for us. Stand up for those who are different and say something about the attitudes."

"If we do that we can change society. The north is leaders in this sort of thing."

Despite the slight rise in violence, O'Link says every year she sees more progress being made in society as a whole.

"We can change it to the point where someday maybe my grandchildren or their children will be able to say 'we can't understand what all the fuss was about back then.'"

"This is the day that I work towards," she said. "Is it frustrating, yes, but is it exhilarating to see change.  And I thank north eastern Ontario and especially the city of Sudbury for that."

with files from Martha Dillman


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