Each year, November 20 is marked by reverence for those who have been murdered in the past year out of hatred and ignorance against trans* individuals. Trans* Day of Remembrance fell on last Wednesday, and the Centre for Gender and Social Justice and the Trent Queer Collective organized an evening of events to recognize the abuse and violence that members of the gender-variant community continue to face.
The night began with good food and good company as trans* and non-binary individuals and allies gathered for a community feast catered by Food Not Bombs and using Ontario Public Interest Research Group’s Green Dishes Project.
We then sat down to a screening of the 2006 documentary, Cruel and Unusual. The film was about the prescient topic of trans* women incarcerated in the male prison system, and featured interviews with women who have endured this abuse, as well as with lawyers, friends, and other representatives.
Inside the prison system, it is common for trans* inmates to experience physical and sexual abuse, humiliation at the hands of guards and officials, and maltreatment. They are also often forced into solitary confinement “for their own safety,” despite long-term confinement in such facilities being ruled as substantially psychologically damaging in the United States after a 1988 federal court case.
The documentary cited estimates that as many as 30 percent of trans* people in the U.S. have been incarcerated, three times the national average.
Current high-profile cases of women in men’s prisons include Cece McDonald, charged with second-degree murder after defending herself against a transphobic and racist attack on her life, and Chelsea Manning, who blew the whistle on crimes committed by the United States military.
The night continued with a silent candle-lit vigil from Sadleir House down George St. North to City Hall. There, we joined with others to form a circle, and community members shared words of remembrance and for future strength before and after a few minutes of silence to think on those taken from us this past year.
The experience was one of solemnity, personal reflection, and facing up to the horrors the trans* community still faces at the hands of bigoted individuals and systematically flawed institutions.
We finished the evening by heading to Barbeside for a social and some spoken word by Charles Last and myself. The atmosphere lightened as people had the opportunity to chat with old friends and meet new ones in the spirit of solidarity.
All in all, Peterborough came together in a series of highly successful events to show support for the town’s trans* community, and the greater world community.
If you didn’t make it out to this year’s Trans* Day of Remembrance, take a moment to reflect upon the abuses the community faces and hopefully we’ll see you at next year’s events.