Trailblazers 2019: The unstoppable Morgane Oger drives home the point that discriminatory actions are unacceptable

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      Talk about trial by fire. When Morgane Oger came out as trans in 2013, a website published private information—“horrible, nasty things,” Oger says by phone—about her online.

      As testimony to Oger’s character, it became a transformative experience.

      “I got to go through all of my shame all at once,” Oger explains, saying that as she “ran out of…vulnerability”, she grew stronger. Empowered. Almost invincible.

      And how. The bilingual Oger, who was born in Rennes, France, has become one of B.C.’s foremost and unstoppable trans activists.

      Her accomplishments are dizzying. Oger, who was trained as an engineer, is the mother of two children, a tech consultant, a founding member of the Law Union of B.C., vice president of the B.C. NDP, and has run for public office twice.

      Among her numerous accolades, she was chosen to be a Vancouver Pride parade grand marshal in 2016, won the inaugural trans-activist award at the 2016 Vancouver Pride Legacy Awards, and she received Canada’s Meritorious Service Medal in 2018 in recognition of her work for LGBT rights.

      Furthermore, she launched the volunteer-driven Morgane Oger Foundation in February 2019 to counter hate crimes and tackle prejudice-based inequities through education, advocacy, and participation in legal interventions.

      Yet over the course of her career, what she deems as a pivotal moment was when the Vancouver school board passed its trans-inclusive amendments to its SOGI (sexual orientation and gender identity) policy in 2014. Oger was among those who organized support for SOGI, which faced intense opposition and criticism, and she credits the VSB’s decision to act proactively and “willfully” as sparking many positive changes across Canada and around the world.

      Never one to rest, Oger chats with the Georgia Straight just as she’s on her way to Ottawa to testify for a federal study on online hatred before the Commons committee on justice and human rights.

      The nature of hatred is something Oger has become well acquainted with—and gleaned insight into.

      Early on, she didn’t believe it was simple to create “an angry mob”. However, she has since discovered how unnervingly easy it is use “misinformation and disinformation to cause hatred” and “to demonize and pathologize” people and incite fear simply “by twisting the truth just a little bit”.

      Morgane Oger nearly pulled off the biggest upset of the 2017 provincial election when she came within a few hundred votes of defeating incumbent B.C. Liberal Sam Sullivan.

      For instance, when Oger ran as the NDP candidate for Vancouver–False Creek in the 2017 provincial election, conservative Christian activist William Whatcott distributed flyers about Oger entitled “Transgenderism vs. Truth in Vancouver–False Creek”, which argued that “transgenderism” is an “impossibility”.

      But on March 27 of this year, the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal found that Whatcott violated a section of the B.C. Human Rights Code about discriminatory publications and ordered Whatcott to pay Oger $35,000 “as compensation for injury to her dignity, feelings, and self-respect”. Oger won another $20,000 "as costs for improper conduct".

      In contending with such prejudice, Oger has also learned effective ways to address hatred and fear.

      “It’s easiest to hate someone if there’s danger and so what works is outreach and conversation,” she says. She emphasizes the importance of getting into communities to address various issues by having “honest, vulnerable conversations”.

      She has learned that people who have suffered violence or trauma are more likely to hurt others and may be unable to distinguish others from those who hurt them.

      While she recognizes everyone has the right to their own feelings, she differentiates that from how a person chooses to behave.

      “There’s a vast difference between a right to feel and a right to be and a right to act,” she explains, stating that she focuses on what is done in actions. “My work has been centered on the fact that everybody has a right as long as they do no harm to others.”

      Consequently, she would like to see municipal policies developed across Canada for rental facilities that will allow for the shutting down of events that incite discrimination or hatred.

      Over all of these trying experiences, Oger credits her strong support system with helping her re-energize and persevere. What she says also helps a great deal—particularly amid the craziness of social media—is being able to see the bigger picture.

      “I moved around a lot and I’ve seen a lot of the world, and that helps me because I can put things in perspective.”

      You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at @cinecraig or on Facebook. You can also follow the Straight's LGBT coverage on Twitter at @StraightLGBT or on Facebook.