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Trans Pride Week ends with vigil remembering lost lives

Stratford's first Trans Pride Week was a success as it created awareness, dialogue and introductions, however, the issues facing transgender people are not relegated to just a week in November or PRIDE month during the summer, say organizers

Stratford's first Trans Pride Week demonstrated the importance of community and support in transgender lives. 

Stratford-Perth Pride held their Trans Pride Week from Nov. 13-20 - the first such week in the county. Transgender people and allies were invited to raise visibility for the community by attending events and showing their support. 

From a movie night to discussions to clothing swaps, the week was filled with events, ending with a candlelit vigil marking the Transgender Day of Remembrance, an internationally recognized day to honour the lives lost due to transphobia.

At the bandshell at Upper Queen’s Park, the number 723 was displayed. AJ Adams, president of Stratford-Perth Pride, said that number represents the amount of transgender or gender-divergent people reported murdered between 2021 and 2022. 

That number includes only those whose murder has been recorded with their genders affirmed. According to Adams, the figure is conservative. They know that the number is higher and is growing each year.  

Many speakers were invited to talk and share their experiences, including Jen Jennings, Evelyn Newland, and Ace Robb.

Robb, 21, who goes by they/them pronouns, gave an emotional speech, recalling how the transphobia that they have experienced in Tillsonburg and online has pushed them to suicidal thoughts. 

“And you know what stopped me from actually killing myself?” they told the crowd. “The love and support from these people - the fact that these people have told me so many times, over and over again, that they would never let me go.”

Robb and other speakers stressed the support of the community, and how important that support is. In many cases it can be the difference between life and death. 

After a rendition of Lovers in a Dangerous Time by Bruce Cockburn, performed by Zoey Vanmassenhoven, guests were invited to lay candles by the display. 

Adams spoke with StratfordToday after the vigil and expressed just how overjoyed he was with the community response. 

Adams said that after the most recent census, they knew that there were approximately 150 reported transgender people living in Stratford – and that number is under reported.

“We knew there are trans folk in the area," he told StratfordToday. "Just seeing them all together in one space was new for us. We had some of the trans attendees say that this was the first time they’ve ever been in a room with that many trans people.”

Stratford-Perth Pride received feedback from the community and are committed to providing more events like clothing swaps - a huge success - and to continuing the week in the years to come, Adams said. 

Although Stratford-Perth Pride is looking to do more events between June and November, Adams stressed that the issues facing transgender people are not relegated to just a month in the summer or a week in November. 

“It’s a 365-day a year need.”