The Transgender Day of Remembrance at UBC this year was marked by a student-led candlelight vigil and memorial service.
Volunteers who led the events on Thursday, November 20 hoped to help students better understand the trans community and open up a broader conversation on the topic.
“It was rewarding,” said Maneo Mohale, a volunteer with the Sexual Assault and Resource Centre (SASC), “but at times very difficult, because people will come up and share with you the experiences not just with trans issues, but also sexual assault in their lives.”
The Transgender Day of Remembrance originated to honour Rita Hester, a prominent member of the transgender community who was murdered in 1998. It also calls attention to discrimination that transgender people face today and all those lost to anti-transgender violence.
The vigil was cohosted by SASC and Pride UBC, and ran from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. for students to light candles in honour of Rita Hester. Mohale and other volunteers engaged students supportively and educationally throughout the day. Pride UBC also hosted educational workshops near the end of the day.
“Students were all open [to] seeing more of this happen on campus and opening up a real dialogue that’s not just one day a year,” said Mohale.
CJ Rowe, diversity advisor-women for UBC Access & Diversity said members of the trans community face daily challenges that many others have not had to worry about.
“A lot of it has to do with community members who haven’t had the opportunities to have a much broader understanding of the world around them,” said Rowe.
Some of the challenges faced by transgender individuals that Rowe described include difficulties in changing personal information on the UBC Service Centre, using washrooms safely, and using changing rooms in the gym.
“If all of us become aware that the gender binary system that we’re used to working within is faulty and that there are people who belong to a much broader gender spectrum, that’s one piece,” said Rowe.
Mohale hopes students who noticed the events will seek out the resources available to develop a deeper understanding of trans community issues throughout the year.
“Though I do not understand what it’s like to be trans as a cis-gendered woman, I do understand that I need to be involved in struggles against transphobia and all forms of oppression,” said Mohale.