Before transitioning, Anastasia Preston almost killed herself.
She was sexually assaulted at a Charlottetown bar within six months of having her gender correctly recognized in public, when she was groped in a crowd.
In another instance of discrimination, a bar tried to charge her to attend ladies night despite presenting as female and having her gender marked as such on her IDs.
Preston considers herself privileged.
“I have a very supportive network of people behind me and I have a supportive doctor, which is not something that everybody in the trans community has. A lot of people don’t.”
If you are experiencing a mental health crisis, seek help immediately by either calling 911, going to an emergency department or by calling the Island Helpline at 1-800-218-2885.
Using her privilege, Preston helped organize the ceremony outside of the Cole Building recognizing this year’s Transgender Day of Remembrance.
Remembering those lost
Started in 1999, the day is an occasion to remember the hundreds of transgender and gender diverse people who die every year in acts of anti-trans violence and discrimination.
Between January 2008 and September 2020, 3,664 transgender and gender diverse deaths have been reported worldwide, with 350 between Oct. 1, 2019, and Sept. 30, 2020.
At a glance:
350 trans and gender-diverse people were murdered, six per cent more than in 2019;
Of those, 98 per cent were trans women or trans feminine people;
Sex workers made up 62 per cent of murdered trans people;
People of colour make up 79 per cent of the 28 trans people murdered in the US;
Central and South America accounted for 82 per cent of all murders, with 43% in Brazil;
The average age of those murdered was 31 years old; the youngest being 15 years old.
The most recent case in Canada was an as-yet-unnamed black transgender woman who died in police custody in Toronto last month and who was misgendered in initial reporting by Ontario's Special Investigations Unit. While her case made the news and is still under investigation, many instances go unrecognized and underreported, in part due to similar misgendering.
There is also a distrust of police in the community because of how their cases have been handled in the past, making many reluctant to come forward, which makes the day all the more important, said Andrea MacPherson, vice-chair of Pride P.E.I., in an interview after the ceremony.
“The Trans Day of Remembrance is really a day to mourn those victims of transphobic violence around the world, particularly highlighting the people who have gone unnoticed.”
With around 50 people in attendance and the blue, pink and white trans flag at half-mast beside them, members representing the P.E.I. Transgender Network, PEERS Alliance and Pride P.E.I. took to the mic to honour those who have died and to talk about the work still to be done in P.E.I. to help the transgender and gender non-conforming community.
Several MLAs also spoke, including Health Minister James Aylward, Green Party leader Peter Bevan-Baker and Green MLA Karla Bernard along with Terri MacAdam, director of student services of the Public Schools Branch.
On display were signs with the hashtag #justice4allgenderwashrooms and quotes from students who participated in research done by the P.E.I. Queer Youth Advocacy Committee into gender-neutral washrooms in schools.
Increasing access to gender-neutral washrooms is something the group is currently working toward with the government, and it’s a simple act which could have a profound impact on Island youth, said Rory Starkman of the organization during their speech.
“It lets Island students know they belong in our communities. They are safe to exist as their truest selves and discrimination against them will not be tolerated.”