BCGEU Secretary-Treasurer Paul Finch Issues Statement on Transgender Day of Remembrance
This past year we've seen a disturbing rise in hate-driven attacks on the transgender community. The BCGEU's solidarity with transgender, gender-diverse workers, and all 2SLGBQTI+ community members is necessary and urgent-it's a lifeline, it's central to our values, and it's important to the wellbeing of our communities.
Every worker and person in B.C. deserves safety, respect and support. That's why, as union activists we fight for more humane workplaces - so that everyone can lead healthy, fulfilling lives on the job and outside of it. Our greatest strength is our collective power, which demands inclusivity. To exclude anyone from the progress that we strive for would fail the whole labour movement. Real unionism uplifts all workers to fight for their rights.
For trans workers, who have a lower life expectancy and are disproportionately the targets of assault, the fight for their rights is intimately tied to the fight for their lives. Our union is committed to helping build a world where trans people have a real chance to be themselves, lead fulfilling lives and grow old. We want to see more trans elders.
Since 1999, the trans community has come together on November 20, across borders and demographics, for Trans Day of Remembrance to memorialize and mourn loved ones who were ripped from their lives by transphobia. Sadly, every year, the list of names on the epitaph grows. Today and every day, BCGEU honours and remembers all victims killed in acts of transphobic violence or those taken as a result of them. Our union celebrates and supports survivors and commits to defending against attacks that disrupt and threaten trans and gender-diverse lives.
Canada's legal landscape is unfortunately becoming more hostile. Saskatchewan's government has now passed a bill that requires parental consent as a condition for kids to re-enforce their preferred names and pronouns at school, forcing some youth to come out to their guardians and relatives before they are ready. The Saskatchewan government's invocation of the Notwithstanding Clause – used to pass the bill – overrides parts of Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms and goes to disturbing lengths to discourage gender-diverse youth from self-identifying, which has been shown in the research to reduce depression, suicidal ideation and suicide attempts.
Outside of electoral politics, we've also seen a wave of misguided and inflammatory rallies organized across the country against B.C.'s SOGI (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity) framework - a toolkit of resources that allow for age-appropriate and scaled conversations that encourage inclusion and understanding. Sometimes lessons as simple as talking about how colours don't have a gender or suggestions of books that might reflect the diversity of students and their families, SOGI does not force children to be anything other than who they are. It teaches acceptance, relieving kids of the pressure they may feel to conform to identities that don't feel right for them.
BCGEU's 2SLGBTQI+ Committee has been doing member outreach and joining forces with ally organizations to counter these protests, to ensure all children and youth feel supported, safe and heard at school and in their communities.
BCGEU also highlights the fact that these discriminatory trends in anti-trans legislation and sentiment will disproportionality hurt low-income, racialized and Indigenous members of the community, as well as seniors and trans people with disabilities. Real justice for the transgender community will only be won if it is intersectional and inclusive; accessible gender-affirming care includes and requires an anti-racist healthcare system and affordable housing for seniors and low-income communities. Trans elders must feel safe and included.
While we mourn and condemn hate on this somber day, we know it's not enough for unions to be against transphobia - we must actively build safe, supportive spaces where transgender workers can thrive. We must strive for a world where the community is not in a constant state of defense, spending more time justifying and vying for their existence than living. We stand in support of a future world where transgender and gender-diverse workers and communities can lay down their swords and instead be free to fully explore their interests, grow their relationships, and feel the full spectrum of emotion, without fear of the constant risk of attack.
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