Although Toronto is considered to be home to the largest trans population in Canada, trannies rarely congregate en masse.
"Trans people don't get to see each other much," says Rupert Raj, trans activist and a counsellor at the Sherbourne Health Centre (SHC). "Trans Pride Day, the Inside Out festival and Trans Day Of Remembrance [held every Nov 20] are the three big ones."
Thu, May 11 will mark one of the biggest events in a tranny's social calendar, Trans Pride Day, hosted by SHC. The event, now in its third year, came out of National Trans Awareness Week, the brainchild of Vancouver activist Tami Starlight.
"It didn't quite work out the way she'd hoped," says Raj, "because it's very hard for the trans community in Canada to get together on anything. We're quite geographically disparate and also ideologically disparate."
In Toronto, the focus has shifted from being about awareness to being a celebration. "I'd like to up the ante," says Raj, "because if people aren't aware by now, my God."
Here's 10 things you can do to get in on the action.
1) Check out the Trans Pride event on Thu, May 11 from 6pm to 9pm at the SHC's satellite office (365 Bloor St E, suite 301). The event is free and open to all trans folks, family and allies. Last year's event attracted approximately 125 people. "It's not a big extravaganza but the energy and intensity is pretty high," says Raj.
2) For trans folks, "Be yourself," says trans man Vlad Wolanyk, a client resource worker at SHC. "Being trans is really hard. Being queer and out is really hard, too. Celebrate yourself."
3) "The census just came out... and it does ask you for your sex and it only gives you two options," says Wolanyk. "I put a challenge out there to anybody who feels safe and comfortable doing this to not check "M" or "F" or to check both or to check their chosen gender, the gender they feel they are and write trans next to it. Let's raise 'trans' visibility on a national level."
4) Show your support. "Allies can wear a fancy little button that says 'I love trans people,'" says Wolanyk, referring to the buttons that have been made up for the Trans Pride event.
5) Get active around issues affecting trans folks, like access to healthcare, social services, affordable housing and education. "There are so many things to advocate for," says Raj, "but access to education and skills seems to be one of the bigger gaps, and yet that's what's going to empower people."
6) Speak up. "Every day going into public as a trans person is a little like walking into a battlefield and you have to pick which battles you're going to fight," says Wolanyk. "As an ally if you witness a trans person experiencing transphobia out in the world, speak up. Or even check in and see if they're okay if you don't feel comfortable or safe speaking up."
7) "Be conscious of people around you," says Wolanyk. "Be conscious of how people are presenting, especially in the queer community. If you see someone who's presenting as butch or masculine think about whether 'she-ing' them might be a bad idea. Or the flipside, 'he-ing' them might be offending them, too. Be conscious that people might have their own gender identities whether it's male, female or anywhere beyond the spectrum."
8) For lesbian and gay folks who aren't sure they get the whole trans thing, "Do some research, do some reading and try to understand trans issues," says Wolanyk. "I think you'll find a lot of parallels." He recommends Kate Bornstein's My Gender Workbook as a starting point for questioning queers.
9) Think about your own gender identity. "A lot of people who aren't trans do take gender for granted," says Raj, "whether it be around their bodies or genitalia or washrooms or the very binary universe we live in."
10) "Use your imagination," says Raj. "If you're an ally, take an activist out to dinner. If you're a trans activist, try not to burnout. There is so much burnout, so much isolation, with all kinds of activists but the smaller the community the worse it is. Do something nice for yourself. Treat yourself. Make sure you do the self-care thing."