Christin Milloy:

Rise up and seize equality

TRANS*Vision Episode 1: Toronto Grassroots Trans* Memorial


Toronto Trans* community members have set up a new Memorial, to remember those we’ve lost to violence, and oppression.

But the future of the new memorial is not yet certain.

After waiting fruitlessly for the City of Toronto and the 519 Community Center to respond to calls for a permanent Trans* memorial, the Trans* community this week
took matters into their own hands literally.

The 519 community centre serves the Queer populations of Toronto’s Church and Wellesley “village” sector. It’s seen by many as the figurative heart of the Queer community. Cawthra Square Park, located next to the 519, has been home to an HIV and AIDS memorial since 1992.

The park recently underwent major renovations to prepare it to serve as a venue for WorldPride.

But the newly reopened park did not include a Trans* memorial, until now.

I’m standing in Cawthra Park directly behind the 519 Community Centre, where unknown members of the Trans* community have created something that neither the 519, nor the City of Toronto, have ever done before.

A memorial, to the fallen members of the Trans* community lost each year to murder, and a disproportionately high rate of suicide.

It’s located on a brick wall, directly across from the HIV memorial, and it was created at some point earlier this weekend. The call has gone out on social media for members of the community to come and memorialize their fallen friends, family, and loved ones, by writing their names on a brick next to the symbol for Trans* identity.

There is no word yet on how the 519, or the City of Toronto, may respond to this unauthorized grassroots memorial on City-owned property.

In 2010 The Trans* Pulse study revealed that the rate of suicide attempts among Trans* people is 43%, ranking highest among the Queer population.

Simultaneuously, Trans* people… overwhelmingly Trans* women of colour, make up the vast majority of LGBT murder victims, despite Trans* people comprising a much smaller fraction of the overall queer population.

Community member Nicki Ward, organizer of 2014’s breakaway Community Trans* March, says the 519 has had money set aside in their budget for a permanent Trans* Memorial for years, as well as money set aside for honouring Kyle Scanlon, long time 519 staff member and Trans* community activist, who took his own life in 2012.

As preventable tragedies continue to grip the Trans* community in the face of brutal discrimination in society, that permanent memorial has yet to materialize.

Meanwhile, Trans* people continue to call out a critical lack of support from our Allies in the “LGB” community, and organizations like the 519, and Pride Toronto.

Nevertheless, this new memorial offers the Trans* community a place for quiet reflection, and respect for the fallen… And at long last, serves as a concrete physical presence reminding us, and our Allies, there is still much work to be done for us to reach a point of equality.

With TRANS*Vision, I’m Christin Milloy.

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Christin Milloy