As a student storyteller, Nicole Stanchfield (she/her) represents the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, supports educational programming initiatives and builds partnerships that will strengthen TRU Student Life’s presence as a safe and welcoming community.
Nov. 20 marks the International Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) as the sobering conclusion to Transgender Awareness Week from November 13 – 19. This day, in particular, brings public awareness to the violent hate crimes experienced by transgender*, gender non-conforming, non-binary and two-spirit people and draws attention to transphobia.
The year 2021 marks the highest rate of murdered transgender, gender non-conforming, non-binary and two-spirit people. As with many marginalized groups, these stories often go unreported and unsolved. Reports are often inaccurate, and many are not affirming as they misgender and deadname the victims, causing further harm. Because the victims of these hateful crimes are also racialized, trans* BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour) folks experience the highest amount of prejudice and discrimination in society due to racism and cissexism.
Diana Pearson, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion co-ordinator, says “Experiences of exclusion, misgendering, discrimination and harassment are common occurrences for 2STNB people. These instances can be frequent, leading to compound or persistent harm. Gender identity and expression is a protected grounds from discrimination under BC’s Human Rights Code, but so often forms of exclusion—from outright discrimination to persistent microaggressions—go undetected and unreported.”
Pearson further explains that as EDI co-ordinator, she’s “working to better understand the reporting avenues available to students and staff when they experience harassment or discrimination.”
By making channels for reporting more accessible, Pearson explains that there’s a need “to develop more comprehensive protocols to identify, address and reduce instances of discrimination and harassment for 2SLGBTQ+ folks as well as Indigenous people, people with disabilities, women and people of colour, including newcomers to Canada.”
Acknowledging TDOR is a crucial step toward the eradication of transphobia. Further initiatives include education, the creation of safe spaces, and advocacy for justice and equality for transgender and gender non-conforming people, which is something TRUSU Pride and its related social group Queer Connections has been advocating for.
“The creation of a Pride Centre is one potential avenue toward ensuring equity for these students and I feel investing in this project would be a big step forward for TRU,” Pearson says.
“I see the creation of a Pride Centre as one way to achieve substantive equality and equity because it’s one formal way to address the cultural, social, economic and historical disadvantages faced by 2SLGBTQ+ people.”
A flag-raising initiative has been organized by the TRUFA (Thompson Rivers University Faculty Association) Gender Equity Committee, TRU Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, the YMCA Shelter, and the Kamloops Sexual Assault Counselling Centre (KSACC), along with community partners. The Transgender Pride flag will be raised throughout Transgender Awareness Week at the Kamloops and Williams Lake campuses; on Transgender Day of Remembrance, the flag will be lowered to half-mast to honour and grieve the two-spirit, transgender and non-binary (2STNB) lives lost due to transphobic prejudice, discrimination and violence.
This visibility campaign is meant to “draw focus on two-spirit, non-binary and trans folks in our community. The flags on the Williams Lake and Kamloops campus flagpoles will be lowered this Saturday to remember and pay respect to those who have lost their lives this past year,” says Mahtab Nazemi, co-chair of the TRUFA Gender Equity Committee.
Trans*, non-binary, gender non-conforming, and two-spirit folks are our family members and loved ones. Their existence is real, beautiful and valid, and they deserve love and affirmation. We owe them that. It is our job as allies to unpack those systems of injustice. The victims of these hateful crimes did not deserve their lives to be taken.
To honour those lives lost, please join TRUSU Pride and Kamloops Pride at the front of the Campus Activity Centre on November 20 at 6 p.m. for a candlelight vigil.