On Friday, June 29th, CCLA was proud to join the trans community and its allies in Toronto for the Trans March and Rally. As Toronto Pride describes it, the trans spectrum “refers to anyone whose gender identities do not match the bodies they were born with.” Since 2009, the Trans March and Rally has provided a safe space for people to gather in solidarity and stand up for trans rights. The crowd gathered for the Trans Rally was so big that it was spilling out of Norman Jewison Parkette and onto the surrounding streets. A decade ago, it would have been unimaginable to have a gathering of such size assembled in support of the Trans community, and yet on Friday the crowd was easily in the hundreds. It was a joy to see such a diverse group – the full spectrum of sexualities, genders, skin colours, ages, physical abilities and cultural backgrounds – there to celebrate the freedom to live, love, and be true to yourself.
It was a moment of celebration for the achievements made at the provincial level to include gender identity and gender expression in the Ontario Human Rights Code, named Toby’s Act in memory of the late trans activist and artist Toby Dancer. In Alberta, the provincial government recently reinstated funding for gender reassignment surgery; a welcome move that will help many in the province to access this surgery that otherwise would not be able to afford it. At the federal level, the referral of Bill C-279, An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code (gender identity and gender expression), to committee is another step in the fight to include gender identity and gender expression as prohibited grounds for discrimination. As the Ontario Trans Lobby Group has stated, including gender identity and gender expression in the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code will give explicit protection for trans people.
It was also an occasion to remember those whose lives we have lost as a result of violence and abuse based on fear, ignorance or hatred of those whose gender identities were different from the ‘norm.’ Monica Forrester from Maggie’s spoke lovingly of the friends she has lost over the years and the importance of protecting rights for trans sex workers. MPP Cheri DiNovo reminded us of the disproportionate levels of poverty and unemployment, and the shockingly high rate of suicide (between 50-66%) in the trans community. Kenji Tokawa highlighted the importance of recognizing the further marginalization of certain groups within the trans community – trans people of colour, trans men, trans people living in poverty.
It was a time to reflect on the ongoing struggles in the fight for equality, protection from discrimination, violence and harassment, and fair access to healthcare, employment, housing and other services for trans people. As we marched alongside other members of the trans community and allies, I was reminded that the advances that have been made are the first steps towards true freedom and equality for trans people. As we so often say at CCLA, “The freedom of no one is safe, unless the freedom of everyone is safe.”