On a cold and grey morning, Jay Aaron Roy stood near a flag pole and faced a crowd, remembering those who couldn’t stand there with him.
Roy was one of about 75 people gathered at the Grand Parade in downtown Halifax on Wednesday for the Transgender Day of Remembrance. People came together to honour loved ones and community members whose lives have been taken by anti-transgender violence.
“Thinking on all lives that were taken from us this year, feeling their energy, knowing that the ones connected to them must feel incredible pain at their absence,” said Roy, addressing the crowd before the transgender flag was raised.
“Turning that energy into the hope we need is not an easy feat, but one we can help each other with.”
Each year, the Transgender Day of Remembrance raises public awareness of hate crimes against transgender people and celebrates the vibrancy and resiliency of transgender and gender non-conforming people globally.
This year, 331 transgender and gender-diverse people around the world were murdered, according to the Trans Murder Monitoring Project. The group says this number only includes reported cases and so the number of people lost is likely higher.
Frank Heimpel, education and volunteer co-ordinator at South House, spoke at the gathering. Heimpel called attention to the fact that black, Indigenous and trans women of colour are disproportionately affected by anti-transgender violence.
“Both the trans liberation movement and the queer liberation movement were started by and are consistently led by trans women of colour and trans femmes of colour,” Heimpel said.
Heimpel also called on non-transgender people to stand in solidarity with those leading the movement, to understand and work to change the systems that cause anti-transgender violence.
Mikaela Gorman, co-chair of Nova Scotia Rainbow Action Project, said the Transgender Day of Remembrance is a reminder of the strength of transgender and gender-diverse people.
“These gatherings are necessary to show that we’re not just one person somewhere, that one person you know,” said Gorman. “We are a community.”
For Roy, transgender and gender non-confirming people being themselves is, in and of itself, an “act of revolutionary rebellion in a world that tells us to conform to boxes.”
Roy owns Cape and Cowl Comics and Collectibles in Lower Sackville. He says he strives every day to be visible and provide space for young people of all genders and sexualities to feel safe. He uses his store for drop-in events and hosts counsellors who offer free sessions to youth.
Others who spoke at Wednesday’s gathering, including Pflag Halifax and the Youth Project, talked about local individuals and grassroots organizations who are creating a better future for transgender and 2SLGBTQIA+ people across Nova Scotia. These efforts give Roy hope.
“Among great loss there is opportunity for hope,” said Roy. “Hope sparks the fires that will burn down that cold status quo.”
About the author
Amy is a journalism student at the University of King's College. She calls Antigonish N.S.--and more recently, Halifax-- home. She cares a lot...