People in Kelowna and around the world gathered to remember those who have been lost as a result of anti-trans violence on Nov. 20.
Approximately 80 people gathered in Kelowna’s Stuart Park on Monday evening to comfort each other on the day of remembrance. Youth, parents, grandparents, and chosen family from all backgrounds stood together, illuminated by candlelight, to remember those lost and stand against the anti-queer violence that remains prevalent around the world today.
The day of remembrance was founded in response to the 1998 murder of Rita Hester. She was a member of the transgender community in Boston and worked as an advocate and educator regarding transgender issues. To this day, no one has been charged in Hester’s death.
At the candlelight vigil in downtown Kelowna, the names of 393 people who are reported to have been killed in the past year as a result of anti-transgender violence around the world were read out loud. The event organizers noted that internationally, not all anti-trans murders have been reported.
Carrie Broughton, one of the organizers of the event and the founder of TransParent Okanagan, a non-profit organization developed by and for parents of gender diverse youth, said that pausing to remember those who face prejudice and violence as a result of their gender identity is important as both the mother of a transgender child, and as a human.
People stepped up to share stories of loss and hardship from the past year. Many people in attendance were representing their transgender friends who have died by suicide. After each person shared, the crowd moved to surround them in a hug.
When a teenager spoke up and through tears explained how they repeatedly experience anti-trans hate at school, the emotion and hurt reverberated across the crowd.
Multiple people said that they had experienced similar targeted hate and bigotry in their own childhood and hearing it again struck a cord.
Wilbur Turner, the founder of Advocacy Canada and one of the organizers of the event, said that events and queer-driven communities are important to help people feel safe and accepted.