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With the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women just a few days away, over 50 students, faculty and community members gathered at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Surrey, B.C. to illuminate the conversation about violence against trans* women of colour.
The event, titled TRANS*/ILLUMINATION: Shining a light through the Structures of Cis Hetero-patriarchal Violence, featured three trans* women of colour sharing their ideas and experience as well as a documentary trailer from Lenée Son and Elina Gress, journalism students working to amplify these voices.
“Choosing to do nothing is an action,” said faculty facilitator Seema Ahluwalia as she introduced the speakers.
This choice of inaction towards violence against trans* women is one that all of these women hoped to address through the event.
Natasha Adsit, a First Nations trans* woman, shared her experiences with passion. She challenged the audience to consider their role in perpetuating systems where transgender people experience violence.
“It’s exhausting to see name after name, face after face of transgender women being murdered,” she said. “The fact that we have to debate whether or not we get human rights is a slap in the face.”
Adsit herself has been subjected to many forms of abuse over the years and has had 26 bones broken by perpetrators who have never been brought to justice.
Following Adsit, Suzanne Kilroy, also known as Indian Princess, shared parts of her journey with gentleness, honesty and a touch of humour.
“Throughout the years I was often too stubborn to ask for help,” she shared. “I like to think I turned out ok.”
Kilroy shared her experience with addiction on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and how she emerged from these patterns with the help of Megaphone Magazine — Vancouver’s only street paper — where she’s a vendor.
“Since working for Megaphone my life is quite positive,” she said. “It brought me back and gave me independence.”
The third woman to bravely share her personal story was Kelendria Nation, a black trans* woman of colour who provided some insight on what it means to transition and the struggles that come with it.
“I don’t like labels,” she explained right away, “but the label trans* sexual helps people understand my journey.”
Nation explained not only the process she went through, but also what her family went through as they got to know her as a woman.
“[My family] says that I’m different now but for me I’ve gained a voice and that voice is so important,” she explained.
She also expressed her gratitude for her family’s support saying that not all trans* people are as fortunate. She then shared the importance of friendship and allies for trans* people, explaining that they play a pivotal role in a person’s transition.
Following these stories, Son and Gress introduced their documentary which digs into the issue of violence against trans* women of colour by sharing the story of January Lapuz who was murdered in 2012 in New Westminster, B.C. All the event facilitators expressed their hope that this documentary and the event as a whole would shed light on an issue that receives little attention.
Alyse is a Vancouver-based writer and editor with a passion for social justice, storytelling and tea. She studied English Literature and Global Development at Queen’s University and believes in the ability to make positive changes through media that digs deep, asks questions and shares narratives. Alyse was the Editor of Servants Quarters and has written for the Queen’s News Centre, Quietly Media and the Vancouver Observer.
Photo: flickr/ Alesa Dam