A night of remembrance

Event commemorates transgender victims of hate crimes

An intimate gathering of allies in the Queen’s community came together in commemoration for the Transgender Day of Remembrance.

The event, which was run by the Education on Queer Issues Project (EQuIP) on Tuesday, has occurred on campus for over a decade.

“We just think it’s really important to have allies come together and recognize how we can change society for the betterment and eradication of transphobia and also to commemorate the lives lost,” said Tess Klaver, EQuIP co-chair.

EQuIP organizers said they hope to educate people through this event and get the message of change across, but they involve students in transgender issues throughout the year.

“It’s really important to try to change society so we don’t have to have this event eventually,” Klaver, ArtSci ’15, said.

This year, EQuIP held a screening of the film “Photos of Angie” to commemorate the loss of Angie Zapata in 2008, an American transgender woman who was murdered because of her identity.

Zapata was ridiculed by family members and dropped out of school because of the constant harassment. At the age of 18, she met with a man she had met online who beat her to death after discovering that she was transgender.

There were fears that the courts wouldn’t know how to handle the case but the perpetrator was sentenced to life in prison for his hate crime.

Zapata’s story is one of several that the remembrance ceremony hopes to share. The national event has been observed since 1998 after the death of American Rita Hester, who was also murdered because of her transgender identity.

Rita was the fourth transgender woman in Boston to be found dead in four years; her death sparked criticism over the media’s repeated usage of her male birth name. In Canada, 13 per cent of all hate crimes in 2009 were based on sexual orientation.

The website for Transgender Remembrance Day lists over 700 names and dates of victims murdered because of their identity beginning as far back as 1970.

“It shouldn’t be something that somebody has to walk around and be afraid of that they’ll be attacked based on their identity,” said Emily Wong, EQuIP co-chair and ArtSci ’15.

Yvonne Ehinlaiye, ArtSci ’12, came out to the event to support those around her who experience transphobia.

Although she doesn’t identify as transgender herself, she shared her story of oppression and her struggle with discrimination.

“I am a woman, I am black and I am not straight. I feel those three layers of oppression already, I can feel them just walking around normally.”

When Ehinlaiye was in her senior year of high school she experienced intense distaste towards her and her partner’s identities.

“Even my best friend stopped talking to be because [she said] I wasn’t the same person even though I am,” Ehinlaiye said. “We’re normal people just like you.”

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