Winnipeg’s LGBTTQ* community came together inside the WestEnd Commons Neighbourhood Resource Centre Nov. 20 for a Transgender Day of Remembrance that brought attention to two-spirit voices.
The vigil was volunteer-run and organized by grassroots communities within the city.
While acknowledging and mourning lives lost from transgender violence around the world — including deaths in the city this year — the vigil focused on putting Indigenous voices at the forefront.
Brielle Beardy-Linklater, whose Rainbow Warriors helped organize the vigil alongside Trans Manitoba and Mx. Media Projects, said all the organizers supported highlighting Indigenous voices.
“I suggested that we put an Indigenous focus on the healing portion of it and that it include two-spirit stories and voices,” she said.
“A lot of my trans kin around the organizing table actually supported the decision to have two-spirit voices at the forefront.”
In June, the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) released its final report, which acknowledges that “the rates of violence are equally alarming for members of the 2SLGBTQQIA community, who are often erased or left out of national statistics.”
Beardy-Linklater said she was brought to Toronto in 2018 to meet with the inquiry’s investigators and said she consulted with researchers when it was noticed there were no statistics for missing and murdered two-spirit people.
She said the report is a start, but its recommendations need to be put into action.
“I did look at the report and the calls for justice, and the language is there, but I think it goes so much more than advocacy actually,” she said.
“It has to transfer into action and the way that we do that is by centring trans voices and their calls to action,” she said. “So it’s a small step in the right direction, but I also feel like we have a larger responsibility within our trans community.”
While people were taking their seats at the vigil, volunteers handed attendees self-care packages. Contents varied, but common items included honey and notebooks.
The organizers put effort into creating a space where people could feel comfortable and safe to mourn while also taking care of themselves afterward. This was expressed during the vigil as well with two-spirit individuals providing songs and playing drums.
Beardy-Linklater said that, despite the violence and discrimination faced by the LGBTTQ* community, she remains “hopeful for the future, because we need to have hope.”
“We understand and acknowledge the reality of our trans brothers and sisters and non-binary kin being targeted by colonial and gender-based violence,” she said.
“We need to continue to fight for them to honour their memories, but also because there’s so many transgender and two-spirit youth who are still looking to come up and they deserve to be here with us today too.”
“They need to live a life free of violence, free of ridicule, and know that there are community supports that are there for them,” Beardy-Linklater added.
“The youth absolutely give me so much hope.”