Thunder Bay·Audio

Don't take rights for granted, warns activist at Trans Day of Remembrance event

The legal ability to choose who he wants to be has meant the difference between life and death for one long-time transgender-rights activist in Thunder Bay. Aiden Kivisto will be speaking at Tuesday's Trans Day of Remembrance candelight vigil at Lakehead University.

Aiden Kivisto of Thunder Bay says having the right to choose who you want to be is 'matter of life and death'

Aiden Kivisto, a transgender man living in Thunder Bay says on International Trans Day of Remembrance he wants people to celebrate the gains trans people have made, but also recognize there is still much work to be done. (Amy Hadley)

The legal ability to choose who he wants to be has meant the difference between life and death for one long-time transgender-rights activist in Thunder Bay.

Aiden Kivisto, now in his first year of social work studies at Lakehead University, is sharing his story at Tuesday night's candlelight vigil marking the international Trans Day of Remembrance in the northwestern Ontario city.

"It's a matter of life of death," said the 30-year-old.

"For me the ability to do these things legally, like changing my gender marker or changing my name, getting surgery, having it covered through OHIP, those are huge things and without that, and the support of my family and my community, I don't think I would be here right now."

Many trans people no longer here 'to tell their story'

The Trans Day of Remembrance honours the many transgender people who have died by suicide, or have been killed for trying to express their true selves, said Kivisto.

They "aren't here today to talk and tell their story, and so I really do see how important it is that we have these rights, and I don't take it for granted that I am able to do this."

He said he wants to remind people to celebrate the gains transgender people have made, but also recognize there is still much work to be done.

Kivisto said he was concerned by the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party's decision at their weekend policy convention to pass a non-binding resolution recognizing gender identity as a "liberal ideology" and removing it from Ontario's sex-ed curriculum.

"They're testing the waters," he said. "My biggest concern is that it's a slippery slope and that we'll be sliding towards a future where we don't have the same protections as we have now, and have been fought for, for decades and decades."

Resolution won't become policy, says Premier Ford

Premier Doug Ford stated Monday the controversial resolution about gender identity will not become government policy.

"I'm not moving forward with that," he said.

The Trans Day of Remembrance event runs from 7 p.m. - 9 p.m. at Pride Central at Lakehead University.

You can hear the full interview with Aiden Kivisto on CBC's Superior Morning here.

Today is the International Trans Day of Remembrance Aiden Kivisto is long-time trans activist in Thunder Bay. He'll be speaking at tonight's candlelight vigil in the city and sharing his thoughts on the rights transgender people now enjoy, and his fears over how easily those rights could be taken away. 8:23