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Transgender Issues

Mother reflects on son’s experience as trans flag raised

Mayor Mike Savage declared Nov. 20 Trans Day of Remembrance in Halifax

3 min read
caption Shawn Cleary, Jessica Dempsey, and Mayor Mike Savage raise the transgender flag outside of Halifax City Hall on Tuesday. Nov. 20 is Trans Day of Remembrance.
Carmen Guillena

Cyndi Sweeney detailed the physical bullying her transgender son faced, as she described the importance of Trans Day of Remembrance in a speech before the transgender flag was raised.

“This is a day to grieve and remember,” Sweeney said of the trans community who have experienced bullying and hate crimes.

The flag was raised at Grand Parade, outside of city hall, in front of a small crowd in honour of the Trans Day of Remembrance Tuesday morning.

In her speech, Sweeney said her son transitioned at a young age and was bullied by classmates. She said one day she was called to his school because he had a broken nose and concussion after being hit by another student.

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Sweeney said while the day is one of grief and remembrance, it should also be used to look forward at the best ways to help the community.

“Silence is not safer,” she said in her speech. “They do not need to shoulder this alone.”

caption Cyndi Sweeney speaks to a crowd at Grand Parade before the trans flag was raised.
Carmen Guillena

A study from BMC Public Health found that 35 per cent of trans people have seriously considered suicide, while 11 per cent attempted suicide. An American study from 2009 found that there were 353 murders of trans people since the 1970s.

The mayor called on Halifax Regional Municipality residents to ask themselves how they can help trans people live better lives. He referenced the history of Trans Day of Remembrance and Rita Hester, an African-American trans woman from Massachusetts who was murdered in 1998. In 1999, Gwendolyn Anne Smith, a transgender activist, created the Trans Day of Remembrance in response to Hester’s death.

Savage declared Nov. 20 the Trans Day of Remembrance in Halifax before raising the flag with Jessica Dempsey, a trans woman.

caption Rose Gunn said she was happy to see the flag raised on Tuesday.
Carmen Guillena

Rose Gunn, a trans woman, she said she wasn’t able to put into words what the event meant to her when she arrived at the flag raising.

Gunn said a major issue trans people currently face is access to safe housing. She hopes the municipality can make positive changes for the community after this event.

“If I was just a regular dude, I could move into any of these ads on Kijiji where it says, ‘looking for one roommate in a four-bedroom house.’ But, for me, I can’t do that because I can’t guarantee my safety,” said Gunn.

“I was very fortunate to find a queer house to move into, but that is just completely my own luck.”

She said trans issues are often a life or death situation.

The flag raising marks the last day of Trans Awareness Week, which started on Nov. 12.

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About the author

Carmen Guillena

University of King's College journalism student, Mount Saint Vincent University graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology.

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