Raising transgender awareness

Published on April 6, 2015
Contributed photo
The 7th Annual Transgender Day was marked with a flag raising ceremony on March 31 at Grand Falls-Windsor Town Hall.  Pictured are municipal enforcement officer Russ Thibeault, Jennifer McCreath, co-founder of East Coast Trans Alliance, Deputy Mayor Barry Manuel, Jackie Thompson, Executive Director, Status of Women Central, and Stephanie Bartlett, also from Status of Women Central.

Grand Falls-Windsor town council has officially marked the day set aside to celebrate trans people and raising awareness of discrimination faced by trans people worldwide.

Michigan-based trans activist Rachel Crandall launched International Transgender Day of Visibility in 2009 as a response to concern that the only 'day' in which the world recognized trans people, was Trans Day of Remembrance, Nov 20. The annual day is marked March 31.

Crandall wanted an event that brought attention to those living, rather than just the dead, a press release stated. The day has since been recognized by trans communities all over the world. With a flag-raising ceremony last week, Grand Falls-Windsor officially joined those ranks.

Jennifer McCreath, co-founder and head of Newfoundland and Labrador affairs for the East Coast Trans Alliance (ECTA - a grass roots organization run by and for trans people in the four eastern-most provinces) was in Central last week.

The organization has been active since 2010 in educational events, activism, political policy influencing, and social events in over two dozen cities and towns in all four provinces. McCreath was on a cross-provincial tour, March 30 and 31, for a series of flag-raising events at town halls, educational networking round table meetings, and social meet and greet events.

While based in St. John's, McCreath feels it is "extremely important" to do events all over the province.

"There are many trans people around the province who have reached out to me," she said. "Many feel too afraid to come out publicly as trans as they fear that they might be the only out trans person in their town, and that the society around them is completely unaware and unprepared for the challenges facing trans people.

"Having town councils demonstrate acceptance and a willingness to learn, understand, and embrace us is a huge first step towards making all parts of the province a better place for trans people to live their lives to the fullest," said McCreath.

Flags were raised at five town halls in this province for the very first time: Torbay, Harbour Grace, Carbonear, Grand-Falls Windsor, and Gander.

One key goals of ECTA is to develop strong working relationships between trans community organizations and women's organizations.

"Status of Women Central believes in 'Equality For All'. Let's raise up and honour all transgendered people as valued citizens of our society," said the organization.

McCreath said she has "significant concerns that some Conservative members of the Canadian Senate are hesitant to provide Human Rights Protection for trans people, due to myths and unfounded fears regarding apparent increased risks of sexual assaults in washrooms."

"There are many jurisdictions all over the world that have had trans rights for quite some time, and there have been no documented reports of any people being assaulted by a trans person or by someone pretending to be trans," she added. "Sexual assault is already illegal, and providing human rights to trans people is not going to change that."

McCreath also hopes to raise awareness to some of this province's policies that are "out of date and harmful to trans people.

"Trans people who do not require surgery are unable to have their identification documents amended to their correct gender identity," she noted. "This not only causes privacy issues, but it can lead to unnecessary profiling and other types of discrimination."