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Montse Pineda

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UWindsor Celebrates Transgender Awareness Week for the First Time

Published On: Tue, Nov 23rd, 2021, 11:02AMLast Updated: Tue, Nov 23rd, 2021, 11:02AM4.6 min read
By Published On: Tue, Nov 23rd, 2021, 11:02AMLast Updated: Tue, Nov 23rd, 2021, 11:02AM4.6 min read

The University of Windsor raised the Trans flag for the first time outside Chrysler Hall to begin Transgender Awareness Week.

Thanks to Prevent Resist Support, the Office of Sexual Violence at the university, and Trans Wellness Ontario, this event took place virtually and on campus for students, faculty, and staff to gather together and honour Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) and Transgender Awareness Week. But in case you missed the ceremony or would like to know more about these annual traditions, here are some of the most memorable quotes and messages from the event.

The commemoration began with a warm welcome to the President of Trans Wellness Ontario, Janet MacIsaac (She/They), and the Education Coordinator, Sydney B-Coyle (Ney/Nem/Nir). Both talked about the importance of receiving the support of the university to keep organizing this annual ceremony and changing the campus climate, which until recently wasn’t the safest space for the transgender community.

“It is so important for our university to recognize Trans Awareness Week and to recognize the Trans Day of Remembrance and Resilience through the raising of this pride flag,” said B-Coyle.

“Seeing this flag raise is really important to me in many ways, both from being the president of Trans Wellness, but also being a student who is being on this campus for six years and that has experienced a lot of exclusion on campus, but that it’s starting to change when we start seeing things like this happen. So it’s really nice to see the flag-raising,” said MacIsaac.

Today’s transgender teens endure a slew of challenges and discrimination. For youth who transition, simple actions like going to school become difficult. According to The Trevor Project, an American non-profit organization that assists young lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender people, and those who question their sexuality, 75% of transgender youth report they feel unsafe at school because of bullying. Trans people’s mental health is negatively impacted by discrimination, bullying, and a lack of social acceptance, making them more likely to experience depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. This event marks the start of a commitment from all of us to keep changing our university atmosphere for all that deserve to learn, teach, and work in a safe environment no matter what. 

“We hope that the university will continue to work with us to educate students, faculty, and administration,” said B-Coyle. “Together, we can have a university campus where every single person feels safe, valued, and knows that they are valid for who they are.”

Last but not least, the Fundraising Coordinator, Victoria Pedri (They/Them/Theirs), shared an important message for everyone who would like to support the only Trans and Queer community centre in Windsor-Essex.

“I don’t want to underestimate the power and value of having a community centre, of having a place where people can go to feel like themselves, to show who they are, the power of sanctuary,” said Pedri. “It’s a place that means a lot to me, the staff, and many community members across Windsor-Essex. So to keep our doors open, to keep providing the critical life-saving services that we do, we need to ask for our community to support us.”

Trans Wellness Ontario organizes runs on donations, and the team is right now organizing a fundraiser with a goal of $25,764 to pay the rent of one year. You can donate by visiting CanadaHelps.org

The centre relies on the community to keep existing. In one year, they have had over 1,321 counseling appointments, over 504 peer mentorship meetings, over 245 food banks drop-offs, and 25 educational workshops, reaching 478 individuals. But how much does it cost to run these programs? According to them, it takes approximately $4,000 per week of counseling services, $200 for a four-hour diversity training workshop, $510 per week for peer mentorship, and $25,764 per year for rent. 

Besides the transgender flag-raising event last week, the team pulled of events like a violence and resilience workshop, a harm reduction and two-spirit, trans, non-binary activism event, a trans day of remembrance vigil service, and a celebration at the end of the week featuring guest speakers, singers, musicians, poets, artists, and more. If you would like to be part of this awareness week next year, make sure to get in touch with them, volunteer, attend a workshop or learn more about their trajectory and services. You can check that on their website TransWellness.ca or social media @transwellnessontario.

About Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) and Transgender Awareness Week

For those who might not know these annual traditions, according to GLAAD, a non-profit organization dedicated to LGBT activism, TDOR was started in 1999 by transgender advocate and writer Gwendolyn Ann Smith as a vigil to honour the memory of Rita Hester. Hester was a transgender woman from Boston murdered in 1998. The vigil commemorated all the transgender people lost to violence since Rita Hester’s death and began an important tradition that has become the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance. It’s recognized annually on November 20th, and many universities, through their Gay-Straight Alliances and other organizations, hold events from November 13th to the 19th to celebrate Transgender Awareness Week. Events during this week help educate the public about who transgender people are, share stories and experiences, and advocate issues of prejudice, discrimination, and violence that affect the transgender community.

When you read this, both celebrations will have already passed, but it’s never too late to learn, help, and become an ally of those communities to which we belong or not. Make sure to be ready for next year!

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About Montse Pineda

Montse Pineda is an international undergraduate student from Mexico pursuing a degree in film production at the University of Windsor. Montse wants to become a filmmaker, film critic, and activist to impulse female directors. In her free time, she enjoys writing, creating, and sharing her art with others.