Time may feel like an illusion during a pandemic, but one day feels all too real for many LGBTQ2S+ people: May 17, which marks International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOTB). The global day recognizes that, although milestones for LGBTQ rights have been reached, much needs to be done against hatred and oppression.
Within the community, transgender individuals especially face high degrees of violence and marginalization. A 2019 Human Rights Campaign report on U.S. trans murders shows that Black trans women are disproportionately in danger.
Events around the world, like advocacy campaigns and artistic activities, are registered on IDAHOTB’s official website for this Sunday. But improving the quality of life for trans individuals takes more than 24 hours of attention — structural change is required if systemic transphobia is to be erased.
We’ve made a non-exhaustive list on ways transphobia manifests, which is worth being aware of on IDAHOTB and every day of the year.
Trans rights are under attack
Anti-trans laws in many countries continue to criminalize people, Human Dignity Trust states, from how they look to public order offences.
The passing of Bill C-16 may have enshrined trans protections into law in Canada, but Canadian politicians like Conservative leader hopeful Peter McKay continue to be criticized for dismissive stances towards trans safety.
One way to support trans rights is through persistent advocacy and action around issues affecting trans communities, such as the great difficulties trans people face accessing social and legal services. For some, this may be because of the difficult name-change process. To make this easier, the group Pro Bono Students Canada helps trans people navigate this through free clinics.
How else can the average Canadian protect trans rights? Adding your voice to causes is a great way to do your part. For example, Conversion therapy remains legal, with moves by Trudeau’s government to ban it still in-progress. These first steps towards legislative progress can be attributed to lobbying from activists and widespread support from the public such as widely popular petitions signed by Canadians.
Reform the health-care system
A landmark study released in March by TransPulse Canada confirmed the poor health outcomes and safety issues many experience when accessing professional services: 45 per cent of study participants said they had unmet health needs over the last year.
A little over one in 10 skipped out on emergency hospital trips because they worried their gender would impact treatment. One in three considered suicide at least once over this time frame.
Besides concerns of safe access, the cost of health care is another barrier. It’s led many to crowd-fund their treatments, with one study on GoFundMe finding that seeking help covering gender-affirming surgery is a major reason why trans individuals start campaigns.
Watch: trans people want access to inclusive health care. Story continues below.
Expecting everyday Canadians to change the health-care system on their own is a tall order, but there are ways to contribute to reform. Amplifying the recommendations by trans health activists like Lauren Sundstrom or the Ontario HIV Treatment Network, which suggests best practices like trans-competent education for medical students can strengthen the reach of these findings.
Sharing resources that promote trans health and wellness can be useful, both for helping direct people to health-care providers who are trans-inclusive and informing people on best practices within their own lives.
For those who may have a hard time accessing traditional doctor visits, offering to be a friendly companion for check-ups, who can speak up in the event of bad interactions, may alleviate access problems.
Hire and support trans workers
Trans unemployment rates are high, with Transgender Equality Canada finding that trans Ontarians are three times more likely to be jobless than the average Canadian.
It’s one thing to hire a trans Canadian, but another thing to retain them. A study of trans employees shows that many feel emotionally exhausted and paranoid because of regular instances of transphobia.
If employees want to to make their employment as safe as possible, it’s worth examining the existing rules or workplace culture that may make a trans person feel unwelcome. Things like gender-neutral bathrooms and company-wide statements condemning misgendering may seem small, but can make a world of difference to a worried employee, especially those that aren’t openly trans.
Benefits Canada suggests providing staff training and expanding benefits coverage, the latter which can help those looking to access gender-affirming surgeries or mental health support. Harvard Business Review also states that developing trans-specific policies, such as those that name what discriminatiory statements and behaviour is, can root out inherent stigma or be something a trans person can reference in the aftermath of a transphobic incident.
Call out harmful media coverage
Canadian media has a long way to go when it comes to responsible trans representation and getting the complexity of trans lives right, Canadaland writer Alex V. Green notes. Others have also noted the harm of disproportionate attention to issues like pronouns, as well as major outlets’ sympathetic coverage to subjects who have been criticized for transphobia.
There’s little analysis on Canadian media’s coverage of trans lives, but an overview of one outlet points to major room for improvement. Multi-year analysis of National Post coverage by independent researcher Maëlys McArdle indicates that 94 per cent of references to trans people were negative.
In this realm, average Canadians may take to social media platforms to voice their disappointment in outlets when they engage in irresponsible journalism. This may influence future reporting, but few outlets respond directly when faced with public pressure around trans coverage.
Trans people often take it upon themselves to set the record straight when coverage fails them, like HuffPost Canada writer Niko Stratis, who decried what Stratis saw as biased reporting around a rally protesting transphobic public speaker Meghan Murphy’s appearance at a Toronto Public Library branch last year.
Celebrate trans visibility
Visibility in media, especially when represented with nuance, can mean the world for trans people used to seeing themselves as punchlines or not at all. A 2018 study suggests that getting the opportunity to learn about real trans experiences may reduce prejudice.
Ilona Verley, a Two-Spirit non-binary drag queen from Skuppah First Nation, will appear on this year’s upcoming “Canada’s Drag Race” and has already begun to raise awareness, such as what it means to be Two-Spirit.
Canadians can also learn about trans people through educational resources from the 519 Community Centre or discover notable trans trailblazers by engaging in historical projects like the University of Victoria’s Trans Archives.
Listen to their stories
While there are many trans narratives told by cisgender creators, those narratives run the risk of repeating harmful stereotypes; cis creators may end up taking up more space for showcasing trans experiences than trans people creators.
Consider supporting the wealth of trans writers, artists, and creatives making work who are worth paying attention to.
Authors from Canada like Gwen Benway and Kai Cheng Thom (whose children’s book was read by Julie Andrews recently) are publishing acclaimed works.
Casey Plett won the 2019 Amazon Canada First Novel Award for “Little Fish.”
Commemorate trans legacies fully
GLAAD says that trans victims of crime are “doubly victimized” when mocked after the incident or their death.
In a time when physical comfort for grieving isn’t possible, it can be helpful to combat this through online memorializing about why the person was so beloved. Some places, like Out Magazine, have created online obituaries that aim to humanize the dead beyond sensational headlines.
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