Board members with the Red Deer-based Trans and Non-Binary Aid Society (TANAS) pose for a photo after the ceremony on Transgender Day of Remembrance that remembers the transgender and non-binary individuals who have died from Nov. 21st, 2017 to Nov. 20th, 2018. The event was organized by TANAS and the Red Deer Funeral Home and Crematorium, where the event took place Nov. 20th. Robin Grant/Red Deer Express

Vigil held for hundreds of transgender victims killed in 2018

Nov. 20th marks the Transgender Day of Remembrance

Red Deerians gathered Tuesday night to remember the hundreds of transgender victims who died in 2018.

The gathering at the Red Deer Funeral Home marked the Transgender Day of Remembrance held every year on Nov. 20th.

The international event began in 1999 as a vigil to honour the memory of Rita Hester, a transgender woman murdered in 1998 in the United States.

It remembers the transgender and non-binary individuals who have died from Nov. 21st, 2017 to Nov. 20th, 2018.

At the event, Board Member and Co-founder of the Trans and Non-Binary Aid Society (TANAS) Lucas Gagnon talked about his personal experience as a member of the gender diverse community and the challenges he faced coming out as a man.

“I had to face the ridicule that this world has to offer me for being my most authentic self,” he said. “For the first 24 years of my life, I swam against my own tide to ride society’s current. I relinquished control of my life, pushed aside my needs to please others, to stay safe.”

“Coming out as a man wasn’t hard,” he added.

“Finding a way out of that current was. And when I finally broke free, I enjoyed about two seconds of bliss before a different kind of pressure started. Now that I was outside the current, I saw how much the current’s rules meant to others – rules that I was breaking by being me that I’m confusing, complicated and flip-flopping because I didn’t conform to this nicely packaged ideal of gender.”

Gagnon also discussed the importance of recognizing and using the gender pronouns transgender and non-binary individuals identify with as a way to validate their identity.

He said this is something that is overlooked in society.

During the event, slides listed the names of all the 368 known members of the gender diverse community across the world who had been killed. They also recognized the more than 50 whose names were unknown.

Marc Lambert, treasurer with TANAS, spoke about the important role allies can play in the gender diverse community. He said an ally can use positive language to overcome negative and dismissive attitudes and comments toward transgender people.

“An ally has to use positive words to combat this,” he said.

“I’ve seen and heard conversations dismissing rights for marginalized groups and sentiments such as, ‘They don’t have it that bad here.’ ‘That stuff doesn’t affect me.’ These sentiments and this attitude coupled with a language used to dehumanize people make it seem not important that these individuals get hurt or hurt themselves.”

The service had other guest speakers, including Elder Lynn Jonasson and TANAS Co-Chair Bobbi-Jo L’Hirondelle. There was a moment of silence and closing thoughts followed by a social gathering.

L’Hirondelle encouraged members of the gender-diverse community to reach out to TANAS, which is located in Red Deer.

“If you are ever in need, as a gender-diverse person, reach out to us or even in the cisgender community if you are looking for education or just looking to talk to someone from our community, reach out to us and we are more than happy to help,” she said.

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