The trans community in the territory is celebrating Trans Awareness Week through a series of events.
Queer Yukon Society described the awareness week on its website as a chance to “celebrate our trans friends, family members, neighbours and selves and take real action in support of trans folk. Trans ally-ship and trans joy are all the more important and impactful.”
Mira Sirois, the society’s acting health and education manager, said the group has been organizing advocacy campaigns to educate the public on the issues and experiences of the trans community.
“It’s a time for trans folk to express themselves either through personal stories, poetry and arts,” they said. “We come together as a wider community to celebrate our trans friends, family and fellow community members to take action in support of trans folks.”
Sirois said support for the community is more important than ever considering the rise in anti-trans sentiments both socially and politically.
“It’s that kind of inter-community solidarity, building that awareness and inclusivity that is vital,” they said. “We ask our community — our peers, friends [and] neighbors — to just come together and help us celebrate and build a facility and awareness for all of the amazing trans folk in the territory.”
The awareness week began Nov. 13 and continues until Nov. 19. On Nov. 17, a coffee house, open mic-styled event called Confessions will be hosted by Sirois. The event, which is taking place at the Cache on Fourth Avenue in Whitehorse, will feature trans voices as they share and express themselves through stories and music.
Juneau McPhee, a trans artist who lives in Dawson, will be reading some poems during the Nov. 17 event. She said one of the poems speaks to experiences in Dawson City.
“I think I will be reading some poetry by a local artist in Dawson who is also trans,” she said. “I might also be reading very old texts from about 2,000 years older. I feel like there are a lot of interesting elements for a modern audience.”
She said the poems are also meditations that would be of interest to other people.
“It’s less about the poem being trans content for trans people,” she said. “These are messages that I as a trans person think that a wider audience would find interesting and would be helpful.”
McPhee said the week is less about what the trans community thinks of itself and more about the wider Yukon community.
“I think on one hand, it raises awareness of how marginalized trans people are in our society, and on the other hand, it also shows how rich trans culture is and how trans culture is beneficial to the larger communities within the Yukon. So, I think it’s a moment that focuses on uplifting trans voices, but these voices sort of showcases the uniqueness of the community, and also shows what trans people offer our society and what trans liberation means for our society as a whole.”
In the wake of transphobia and anti-trans movements, McPhee said the week means showing up for the community in moments when it matters and where they are being attacked, noting that including trans perspectives and integrating those perspectives into their lives is important.
“Please show up for trans people, and especially for trans youth when we face persecution in the workplace, schools or on the streets. We are facing violence and oppression from misinformed individuals who think we threaten their way of life and this disinformation has been on the rise. Please listen to trans people when we talk about our experiences. We are your neighbours, friends and family. Trans liberation at its core is a desire for wholeness and a society based on equity and inclusiveness.”
On Nov. 20, there will be events for Trans Day of Remembrance in memory of two-spirit, trans and non-binary individuals.
In Whitehorse, there will be a candlelight vigil at the Cache from 5 p.m. until 8 p.m.
In Dawson City, the community will gather for a fire at the fire pit at the Artist Market on Front Street at 7 p.m. Afterwards, the community will share space and have snacks at the Dawson City Music Festival building until 9 p.m.
The Trans Day of Remembrance began in 1999 as a candlelight vigil held in the Castro district of San Francisco. It was held in honour of Rita Hester, a Black trans woman who was murdered on Nov. 28, 1998.
“We continue to observe it today to commemorate and collectively mourn the loss of all two-spirit, transgender and non-binary people who have lost their lives to transphobic violence; the majority of which is faced by Indigenous, Black and Latinx communities,” Sirois said.
They said transgender people, and particularly transgender women of colour, are disproportionately affected by hate violence.
“This vigil is a powerful expression of love and respect for our trans kin in the face of systemic indifference and hatred. Transgender individuals, especially women of colour, bear a disproportionate burden of hate violence, compounded by insensitive reporting that disregards their gender identity,” they said.
“Together, we stand against transphobia, bigotry and violence, envisioning a future where every transgender life is cherished, protected and celebrated. Let us transform this remembrance into a beacon of unity, resilience and advocacy for dignity in storytelling, ensuring the stories of our lost ones are shared with empathy and respect.”
Storri Chesson, a member of the trans community, said there’s so much intolerance and hatred, but having that visible community of other trans women is important.
“If there weren’t other trans women out there, and queer people that were visible and stood out and formed a community, I would feel like I was the only one. But meeting them and finding out about their experiences and what they’re doing was hugely important.”
Contact Patrick Egwu at email@example.com