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Calgarians mark a sombre day of remembrance for transgender community

Click to play video 'Calgarians mark a sombre day of remembrance for transgender community' Calgarians mark a sombre day of remembrance for transgender community
WATCH: 2020 is the deadliest year on record for the transgender community. People worldwide are honoring those lives lost on Friday, the transgender day of remembrance. Jill Croteau reports – Nov 20, 2020

The year of 2020 marks the deadliest year on record for the transgender community.

World-wide on Friday, the community and their allies paid tribute to the lives lost by violence. To date, 351 people around the globe have been murdered in an act of anti-transgender violence.

The day was first observed in 1999, launched by transgender advocate Gwendolyn Ann Smith to honor the memory of Rita Hester. Hester was a Black transgender woman who was murdered in Massachusetts.

The Queer Education Foundation held an online virtual vigil marking the sombre day. Victoria Bucholtz hosted the virtual event.

“This year there’s been over 350 recorded murders of transgender individuals across the globe.

“The number is likely much higher because often transgender individuals are misgendered in death and those numbers are not accurately recorded,” Bucholtz said.

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Read more: Alberta transgender youth concerned about safety, violence and discrimination: survey

She said transphobia and the potential for violence is an issue the community faces every day.

“It was one of the first concerns my parents had, they said: ‘I’m worried about your safety.’ I said: ‘Me too.’

“It’s an act of bravery every day to be a transgender individual and walk down the street and not know if someone is going to take offense to that and it could turn into a very serious situation,” Bucholtz said.

“I can see myself as one of the victims.

“It’s easy to do that and to know that in another situation we could be remembering me or one of my friends.”

Click to play video 'Transgender Awareness Week: Margot’s Story' Transgender Awareness Week: Margot’s Story
Transgender Awareness Week: Margot’s Story – Nov 17, 2020

The vigil included many speakers from the community.

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Eddy Robinson is the Community Programs and Outreach team lead at Skipping Stone. They said there is unprecedented demand for their services.

“After lockdown we saw 150 per cent increase in intakes.

“Our steady increase is relating to compounded social stresses,” Robinson said. “Lean on each other emotionally and for the months going forward. We shouldn’t need to be strong but we continue to show our strength.”

Read more: New report says racialized trans, non-binary Canadians face increased harassment, violence

Politicians also took part in the online vigil. Mayor Naheed Nenshi said love always wins.

“Sometimes they call those of us who care about other people ‘snowflakes.’ I love that. I have had the privilege of managing your snow removal budget,” Nenshi said.

“Enough snowflakes put together are the most powerful force in the world. So bring on the blizzard,” Nenshi said.

NDP MLA, Janis Irwin, said she is proud to be an ally.

“Today is a day to mourn and to reflect on hundreds of lives lost this year, but tomorrow we recommit to fight even harder and tomorrow we fight like hell for the living,” Irwin said.

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A new transgender flag represents gay and transgender Pride and includes a black and brown stripe to highlight racism.
A new transgender flag represents gay and transgender Pride and includes a black and brown stripe to highlight racism. Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Mirabelle Baker knows how close she came to being one of those names on the list. She survived an assault in 2018. She was attacked by a stranger on the C-train who didn’t like the way she looked.

“Any day I leave the house is a day I could be murdered because people have that much hate for transgender people,” Baker said.

“I don’t leave the house without some form of protection. It literally could be any time.”

“How is a person less than a person? How did we descend into that level of apathy and cruelty,” Baker said.

Click to play video 'Transgender Awareness Week' Transgender Awareness Week
Transgender Awareness Week – Nov 9, 2020

“It hurts my heart to see violence where people could expend zero energy and leave us alone but they choose to expend that energy with violent words or violent action,” Baker said.

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Calgary Outlink created a memorial page that included all the names of the lost lives.