As the world celebrates Trans Day of Visibility, a conference is being held at UVic all weekend to recognize the long history of trans people around the world.
“The people who exhibit the characteristics that we call transgender today have existed in every society everywhere around the world, as long as people have been alive,” said Aaron Devor, chair of transgender studies at UVic and host of the Moving Trans History Forward conference.
“There’s nothing new about the existence of trans people. What is different is that trans people are not hidden the way they have often been, and they have been in many societies for many reasons.”
Devor says Trans Day of Visibility was started in 2009 by Rachel Crandall in response to the negative attention trans people were receiving.
“One of the effects of this is that both the public and trans+ people have a view of being trans as something that is a horrible thing that happens, and that your life expectancy is poor, and everybody’s out to get you,” Devor said, noting he says trans+ because there are many descriptors and gender identities that trans people use.
“Transgender Day of Visibility is about bringing to the attention of the public and to trans+ people, that we are resilient, that we have successful lives, that we are important contributors to society, and that our lives are something to celebrate, to look forward to, and to enjoy.”
Events like Moving Trans History Forward are important to share the history of trans people, but also to act as a place for people to connect, Devor said.
“One of the important functions of the Moving Trans History Forward conference is to build community,” Devor said. “To have people have an opportunity to meet new people, to forge connections, and to have this sense of being part of a community and have that sense persist over a number of days and to build relationships that they can take with them out into the rest of their lives.”
The conference will be taking place until April 2. Devor said the events are open to the public, with options to attend in person or virtually.
“I would like to invite everybody to come to the moving trans history forward conference,” Devor said. “People anywhere in the world are welcome.”
Politicians mark the Trans Day of Visibility
For Trans Day of Visibility, politicians around Canada honoured the occasion.
Jagmeet Singh, leader of the federal NDP, said while progress has been made on trans rights in Canada, there is more that can be done.
“As Canadians, we pride ourselves on our commitment to diversity and inclusion,” Singh said.
“Recently, the Liberal government announced that trans federal employees will have access to gender-affirming health-care procedures that are not yet included in provincial health-care coverage. This is good news, but the government has much more work to do to achieve full social, legal, and economic equality for trans Canadians.”
At the B.C. legislature, the trans pride flag was raised on March 30.
“Visibility matters. Everyone deserves to see themselves and their contributions represented in our communities. And yet, so many transgender people continue to be marginalized and discriminated against,” said Kelli Paddon, parliamentary secretary for gender equity.
“It is also important to recognize that unconscious bias can cause just as much harm. Unconscious bias is not necessarily something one chooses, but it can affect another’s ability to secure a home, advance in their career or be treated fairly. For this reason, we all need to take responsibility for checking our biases and working to break them.”
Renee Merrifield, the B.C. Liberals’ shadow minister for gender equity, said it’s important to continue to work against transphobia.
“Today, we celebrate transgender, gender-diverse, and two-spirited people, and we educate ourselves on what we can do to be genuine allies while removing transphobia from our communities in British Columbia,” Merrifield said. “We also acknowledge that living openly as your true self is something many of us take for granted and that it takes great courage not to conform to the societal pressures that are unfairly placed on transgender and non-binary people every single day of their lives.”
Today MLAs from all sides of the house stood in solidarity with Trans People across BC to raise the transgender pride flag on #TransDayOfVisibility day.
— Adam Olsen (@AdamPOlsen) March 30, 2023