Emotions were running high for Manitoba’s first openly transgender MLA on Monday, as he spoke about the importance of Transgender Day of Remembrance during a trans flag raising ceremony at the legislative building.
“It’s a fairly heavy day for the community,” Logan Oxenham said at the gathering.
“Today is a day to come together in the presence of each other’s pain.”
The annual commemoration was first held in 1999 as a vigil for Rita Hester, a black trans woman from Massachusetts who was killed in her home, Oxenham said.
Since then, ceremonies have since been held across the world as a way to mourn two-spirit, trans and gender-diverse people who have died from anti-trans violence or suicide.
“Hester’s community knew that if they did not demonstrate publicly, anti-trans violence and silence would have prevailed,” said Oxenham.
For Charlie Eau, the day is also a way to call attention to the violence, something they said is especially important in today’s political climate.
“As our visibility is increasing, we are seeing social and political backlash that is starting to more explicitly legislate hatred towards us,” Eau told CBC.
“We’re now seeing hateful legislation, especially directed towards trans children and families, especially in schools,” added Eau, who works at the West Central Women’s Resource Centre in Winnipeg, which aims to empower women and gender-diverse people.
Oxenham echoed Eau, saying the trans community is under threat.
“The debates about our very existence are raging both across the country and right here in Manitoba,” he said.
Eau said the centre is lighting a sacred fire on Monday where the names of people who have died from anti-trans violence around the world over the past year will be read aloud.
“It’s really important that we remember all of the people that we have lost and all of the people that don’t make it to the list because their countries and their governments or their families don’t affirm and validate their existence,” said Eau.
The fire is being lit at a community garden on McGee Street between St. Matthews and Ellice Avenues until 4 p.m.
Eau said they hope Winnipeggers reflect on how they can affirm and uplift the trans people in their lives.
“We need this awareness to happen so that folks know that … we deserve to live and that this loss of life can’t, it can’t go in vain.”