By Joseph Quigley 
BELLEVILLE – The many lives lost to transphobia were honoured in Belleville Wednesday night as part of the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance.
Belleville’s local trans group, Transforum , held a reading and candlelight vigil at the Sweet Escapes Café to recognize the occasion.
Carla Vander Voort, a social worker who helped organize the evening, said she was thankful to everyone who came to show their support for trans people.
“Thank you all for being here to show your support to our community. It means a lot. It’s not just the people locally you’re supporting, it’s the people around the world who don’t have rights today. By being here you are making an important statement, that trans people deserve equal rights to live a life where they do not feel afraid,” said Vander Voort.
The Transgender Day of Remembrance began in 1998 as a response to the murder of trans woman Rita Hester in Allston, Massachusetts. Since then, the event has grown and is celebrated worldwide.
Stacey Lov-Jolicoeur, a local trans woman, said that trans people are still disadvantaged in society, which leads to many of them being killed or falling victim to suicide.
“Struggles that we face everyday are resistance to us as trans, finding employment, being accepted in the community, being mis-gendered even though we dress as we are. Other struggles that we have are people’s ignorance to us as people. They tend to treat us as lower class citizens. (It’s) not only about people that have gone before us because they weren’t able to fulfill their dreams and ended up committing suicide. Because of society pressures, there’s a lot of assault and a lot of battery towards us. And quite often we find out about our fellows sisters and brothers that have been killed because of being trans,” said Lov-Jolicoeur.
According to Trans PULSE , a research project funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, 77 per cent of trans respondents in an Ontario-based survey had seriously considered suicide and 43 per cent had attempted suicide. The research also found that 20 per cent of trans respondents had experienced physical or sexual assault due to their identity and 34 per cent were subjected to verbal threats or harassment. The survey also showed that 98 per cent of trans respondents say they had some experience with transphobia.
Aubrey Derri, a local transgender man, said that although remembering the dead is important, people have to realize how unnecessary it is for these people to lose their lives.
“I think it’s a good time just to remember the people that are lost. And it generates awareness that people don’t have to be lost. Because next year there will be more people lost. And it’s unfortunate, but it’s true. And it doesn’t have to be that way,” said Derri.
Martin Irvine, a transgender student from Loyalist who read at the event, said there is a need to understand trans people’s lives beyond just reading their names.
“While it is important to celebrate trans life, it’s also important to remember that trans people do die because they are trans. It’s important to recognize that they had lives, and they had stories,” said Irvine.
Lov-Jolicoeur said she wants the trans world to be welcomed by the rest of the world.
“I’d like to encourage each and every person out there to accept the trans world and trans people. We are human beings and we just want to be happy in our life.”