At a rally outside New Westminster City Hall on Saturday (January 5), Coun. Jaimie McEvoy delivered a stirring speech calling on the broader community to uphold the rights of transgender people.
“It was Joe Biden who said transgender discrimination is the civil-rights issue of our time,” McEvoy said prior to a march to the New Westminster courthouse in honour of January Marie Lapuz.
The 26-year-old transgender woman was stabbed to death in New Westminster on September 29.
"The vulnerability in our society that many trans people experience is a direct result of a long history of discrimination," McEvoy said. "That vulnerability in this case resulted in the loss of a life. That vulnerability at its core root is an issue of people’s participation and access in society free of barriers and treated equally before the law.”
McEvoy was one of several speakers at the event, which was organized by the Transtastic Coalition for Equality.
Lapuz was active with Sher, a South Asian LGBT rights group. Her friend, Sher member Parveen Khtaria, expressed outrage over the murder and praised Lapuz as a fun-loving and considerate woman.
Another speaker at New Westminster City Hall, Tory Inglis, described himself as a 19-year-old trans guy.
He began by praising his parents for supporting him in his transition. But he also pointed out that there's still a long way to go to achieve genuine equality.
"I'm reeling at the fact that a country that calls itself an LGBT rights leader doesn't have the T in rights," Inglis said. "It is devastating that we had to lose such an amazing person as January Marie Lapuz."
He then condemned the New Westminster police for using "her wrong name and her wrong pronouns" when her death was announced.
"She had her legal name changed," Inglis pointed out. "So it shouldn't be that her name would come up as somebody else's. Police officials should be taught sensitivity in dealing with trans people."
Sister Mary Q. Contrary, who was at the rally, told the Straight that society has made great progress in advancing human rights on the basis of racial origin and sexual orientation. "I think gender and gender expression are the next place we've got a lot of work to do."
Miss Jayne E echoed that point of view, noting that she hasn't had many negative encounters living in Vancouver. But she decried the murder of Lapuz.
"There is a death in the family," Miss Jayne E. said. "It brings us together."
About 75 people participated in a march from New Westminster City Hall to the courthouse, where there will be a bail hearing on Monday (January 7) for Charles Neel, who is charged with murder.
Outside the courthouse, human-rights activist Imtiaz Popat described Lapuz as "one of the most loving, caring people I've ever seen".
He added that she loved Bollywood dance moves.
"She was one of the most alive people I knew," Popat said.
Another friend, Jaylene McRae, characterized Lapuz as "courageous and confident". And that boosted McRae's courage as a trans person.
"I'm really grateful to know January," she stated. "I remember her in the Odyssey nightclub doing 'All the Single Ladies' performance. The energy—she would come out in a miniskirt....She was just a sweet soul. I would see her bouncing around."