Transgender Day of Remembrance events to honour murder victims in Vancouver

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      (Update: UBC organizers of Transgender Day of Remembrance event respond to activist’s criticism)

      Once a year, transgender people and their supporters come together to memorialize everyone who has been killed in transphobic violence.

      On Tuesday (November 20), the name of January Marie Lapuz, who was stabbed to death in New Westminster in September, will be one of dozens read out at Transgender Day of Remembrance events around the world.

      In Vancouver, a candlelight vigil at the Carnegie Community Centre will mark the Day of Remembrance. The event on the third floor will begin at 7 p.m.

      “We’ll be memorializing people in the trans community who have been murdered due to their perceived or real gender nonconforming visibility,” Tami Starlight, executive director of the Vancouver Transgender Day of Remembrance Society, told the Georgia Straight by phone. “This is a time to solemnly acknowledge the anti-trans violence that exists in the world, whether it’s locally or internationally, and that will give voice to those who have been silenced.”

      According to Starlight, Vancouver was the first city in Canada to hold a Day of Remembrance event, and next week will mark the local vigil’s 11th year. The transgender rights activist noted each event “profoundly impacts” those who attend.

      “I think it furthers people’s resolve on trans rights, generally speaking,” Starlight said today (November 16).

      The Vancouver Transgender Day of Remembrance Society had been involved in planning a Day of Remembrance event for the University of British Columbia’s Point Grey campus. But Starlight said her group has pulled out due to “organizational and political differences”.

      Presented by Pride UBC and the Sexual Assault Support Centre, the UBC event is scheduled to take place on Tuesday at the art gallery in the Student Union Building. Featuring guest speakers, a documentary on the Day of Remembrance, an open mic, the reading of names, and the lighting of candles, the event is slated to start at 5:30 p.m.

      Starlight asserted that the UBC event wasn’t being organized “collaboratively and respectfully” and was in danger of becoming a “pulpit” for professors or aspiring politicians. The activist noted she usually makes it clear that everyone is welcome to attend a Day of Remembrance vigil, but that it’s not the place for speech-making.

      “It becomes about these other people,” Starlight said. “It becomes about other people than actually about the people who are murdered. Because we are memorializing people, right? We are memorializing trans people who were brutally murdered.”

      The Straight left interview requests for Pride UBC today by email and voicemail.

      This evening, Qmunity, a queer resource centre in Vancouver, is hosting a workshop in honour of the Day of Remembrance as part of its weekly Gab Youth drop-in at the Coal Harbour Community Centre. Starting at 7 p.m., the YouthCO theatre troupe workshop will explore gender identity and gender expression.

      “We wanted to hold an event as part of our regularly scheduled programming in honour of Trans Day of Remembrance and to provide our youth with a forum to explore some of the issues that Trans Day of Remembrance raises within our group...and also to honour our trans-identified youth as well,” Lau Mehes, a Gab Youth worker at Qmunity, told the Straight by phone this afternoon.

      After Tuesday's event at the Carnegie Community Centre wraps up, Starlight plans to discuss the future of the Day of Remembrance in Vancouver with those willing to stick around. She’s hoping more community members will get involved and help organize future years’ vigils.

      “I know our community’s really fractured, and people aren’t really engaged at all,” Starlight said. “It’s always about the government doing things for us or to us. So I’d like our community to come together in a meaningful way and a sustained way. That’s my hope, anyway.”

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      Nov 17, 2012 at 12:21pm

      This event is about commemorating and remembering those that have been murdered. Pride UBC and The Sexual Assault Support Centre are looking to create a safe and welcoming space for the memories and stories for those that have faced transphobia to be shared and heard.

      If anyone has any further feedback please forward them to the me at the Sexual Assaut Support Centre email (

      Jamie James

      Nov 17, 2012 at 3:20pm

      Well, SASC, that's really interesting, seeing as how your inability to cooperate even by email with the Georgia Straight reporter (but of course, your remarkable ability to post a comment on this very article after it's published) reflects what strikes me as an obvious need to micro-manage the event, and to control exactly what you state and how.

      Just giving some feedback here, as a queer and trans person: trans* lives are already micro-managed enough. We don't need our events (the sole purpose of which are to give our voices and experiences priority) micro-managed on top of that. We need people who are willing to consult respectfully with us -- which you clearly aren't yet willing to do.


      Nov 17, 2012 at 8:49pm

      Of course our communities are fractured, but as i've said before: just because some of us don't or rarely get more involved specifically in TDOR here in Vancouver does NOT mean we "aren't really engaged at all" or simply waiting for "government doing things for us or to us". Speak for yourselves please.

      Case in point: i'm not waiting for government to do something for me or other trans folks; i'm not hanging on politicians' words (or inviting them to speak) about what they apparently do for "trans people" while they (and too many of the speakers at various TDOR events i've been to over the years) conveniently forget/ leave out/ misrepresent/ whitewash who is most represented on the TDOR list, who is most impacted and how and why and (in the case of politicians) actively making those conditions even worse.

      Some people don't participate in Vancouver TDOR for a number of totally valid reasons including political, personal, safety, access, to critiques of the standard TDOR model itself.

      Just please remember that while you're doing your thing --and i totally support that, we need as much stuff happening as we can get-- many others ARE indeed also actively engaging in meaningful, intersectional, kickass ways.


      Nov 18, 2012 at 6:45pm

      Jamie James: SASC was never contacted by the Straight. Pride UBC was contacted. I think that you need to get your facts straight before attacking people.


      Nov 19, 2012 at 7:39pm

      And just to add: it wasn't that long ago that Bill Siksay and a member of the Catholic Church i believe (whose name i can't recall) were invited by Vancouver Transgender Day of Remembrance Society to speak at the TDOR event on the east side. So i'm entirely unsure what Starlight's critique is of the UBC incarnation being "in danger of becoming a pulpit for professors or aspiring politicians" when *actual* politicians and *actual* religious leaders or representatives have been asked over the years to speak at the east side version. Many of us were and are disturbed by the presence of both, but that doesn't seem to make much difference.


      Nov 20, 2012 at 12:53pm

      I agree with Romham, it seems a bit hypocritical to claim that the UBC event will be all grandstanding and whatnot when Bill Siksay grandstanded himself at the 2009 one. *sigh*