November is not only the month where we memorialize the people who fought in wars for our country, but it is also the month when we honour the people who were murdered for being gender variant.
November 20th is Transgender Day of Remembrance. Originally, a website was started by Gwendolyn Ann Smith in 1999 to remember Rita Hester, who was killed in November 1998. The Remembering Our Dead web-based project has grown into an event that is observed in multiple countries around the world. Commemorations often include a candle lighting ceremony and a reading of the names of those people slain in the past year. In 2015, there are over 70 names according to one website, where you can see a list of the victims, along with how, where, and when they were violently murdered.
Transgender Day of Remembrance serves not only to honour those who were killed due to being trans, but also to increase awareness around transphobia and other issues that are important to this community.
The transgender community is notoriously discriminated against. Transgender people may be accosted for using a public washroom, be the target of unsolicited violence just for walking down the street, worry they will not be accepted by neighbours or co-workers, or be harassed by sales clerks while clothes shopping. I can only imagine having to change how I look through medication or surgery in order to feel comfortable in my own body. It saddens me to think that such severe hatred, violence, and discrimination is based on something that is not even within a person’s control – their physical body. The heart of the matter is that we are all human beings no matter what we look like, what our birth sex is, what our gender is, or whom we love.
I feel incredibly fortunate to work in a hospital that is proactive about crafting policies that create an inclusive environment for LGBT staff and patients. Each month the Human Rights and Health Equity office puts out an ally tip of the month. November’s tip is on how to be an ally to people who are trans, intersex and two-spirit and reads: “Ask everyone how they would like to be addressed. Use the person’s requested name, use the person’s identified/stated gender, and ask what pronouns the person uses.” It is important to ask people how they would like to be addressed since using the wrong name or pronoun can be very hurtful. Ideally these questions will be asked of everyone seeking care at the hospital which will promote a respectful, inclusive environment. You can click here to read more about the ally campaign at Mount Sinai Hospital.