Tuesday • 2014.08.05
Toronto City Hall Could See Trans* Flag raising: Help Needed to Make it Happen
The Trans* community in Toronto has a big opportunity this year, the chance to achieve a Trans* flag raising at City Hall for Transgender Day of Remembrance… but it can only happen with cooperation, community consultation, and the free sharing of ideas.
Every November 20th is the international Transgender Day of Remembrance. It’s a day to memorialize those who have been killed as a result of transphobic hatred and fear of transgender and gender non-conforming people, and to bring attention to the continued violence endured by members of Trans* communities.
In Toronto, the day has usually been observed with privately organized vigils and, for several years, a ceremony held at the 519 Community Centre. However, it has not yet been observed in Toronto with a flag raising at City Hall.
This is an issue I’ve observed much discussion about in the Trans* community, and even among non-Trans* allies such as my cis colleagues at Pride Toronto (where I, and two other fantastic Trans* people, serve as Team Leads for the Trans* Pride Team).
The universal sentiment, among those with whom I’ve discussed it, is that it seems like a very good idea. Why does Ottawa have it and not Toronto? Many have expressed surprise and confusion that this hasn’t yet been held in our city.
My research has led me to identify a series of bureaucratic requirements in place which must be met: hurdles, that we must first overcome as a community, to achieve the flag raising. However, we have some supportive allies who are willing to put their support behind the Trans* community, to enable us to leap those hurdles more easily.
City’s Hurdles, One Offered Approach
Flag Raisings at Toronto City Hall are handled by “Protocol Services” at the City Clerk’s office. There are two substantive requirements to approval of a flag raising.
First, the day must be available on a first-come, first-served basis. No worries here, November 20th isn’t spoken for—yet.
Second, since our request is not for the flag of an internationally recognized nation, there is a restriction imposed that the request must be officially proffered by a registered charity or non-profit organization.
So the trick is, by city policy, “The Trans* Community” is not eligible to register a flag raising, because we, as an amorphous group of individuals with no centralized organization, do not meet the requirement of being a registered charity or non-profit organization. So there it is: the challenge, but it’s a challenge we are equipped to meet if we can all come together on it, and if we are willing to leverage the positive connections we have at our disposal.
There is only one Toronto-based organization that I know of, with non-profit status, that includes a team comprised entirely of Trans*-identified people whose mandate, focus, and responsibilities relate directly to Trans* community interests: I’m speaking about the Trans* Pride Team at Pride Toronto. We have the necessary support at all levels of the Pride organization to carry out this request to the City on behalf of the Trans* community, if this is something the community makes it clear they want Trans* Pride to do.
This would not be “Pride Presents: TDOR…” this belongs entirely to community. Rather, this would simply be the Trans* Pride Team filing the paperwork as a formality, asking the City to host the public flag raising for the community on the morning of November 20th, to be followed by a respectful moment of silence.
In my opinion, this needs to happen, and it doesn’t matter to me who submits the paperwork: but somebody has to submit the paperwork, and it needs to be a registered non-profit.
I hope we as a community will discuss this topic freely and openly at the upcoming Trans* Pride Community Town Hall meetings.
Transparency and Consultation
Organizing a TDOR flag raising at City Hall is not something that my team mates and I feel we have the right to do unilaterally: we feel it is necessary to first discuss it openly and transparently with the community, to seek their cooperation on moving forward with the application to the City, and to make absolutely sure that all concerned persons have a fair opportunity to give input on this idea as it moves forward.
As I see it, there are two major questions that we need to answer as a community.
1. Do we accept the offer of help from Trans* Pride at Pride Toronto? Obviously I’m biased toward saying yes: building bridges, and all that. However, this is a question the community at large has the right to properly consider, and speak on. There may be alternatives, which I have not yet considered. A public discussion needs to happen.
2. Full-mast, or half-mast? I’m thinking half-mast. But that’s just my personal opinion: there might be other points of view. These decisions can’t happen behind closed doors.
It is important to address this now, early in the year, in order to maximize opportunities for open dialogue on the issue and to act quickly to guarantee the availability of November 20th at City Hall.
This will be a topic for discussion at the Town Hall meeting, this Friday August 8th at 6 PM.