With B-C16 having passed into full legislation on June 15th, 2017, adding gender identity or expression to the Canadian Human Rights Act, this year’s Trans Pride events in Toronto will make for more reason for everyone to celebrate.

This year’s Grand Marshal is Maybella, who is Pottawtomi Ojbway and identifies as two-spirit. Maybella serves the community in many capacities, including through the Ontario Aboriginal HIV/AIDS Strategy. Accompanying her this year will be eight year old Stella Skinner, a bright activist who recently became the youngest recipient of an Inspire Award.

“I was out walking my friends dog and I got a message from the trans Pride committee that they wanted me as Grand Marshal. I was by myself and I was so over-whelmed I sat there and cried for fifteen or twenty minutes.” –Maybella, Grand Marshal 2017

Trans Pride is the largest of it’s kind in the world and includes a rally, march, community fair with information, peer support as well as a safe space for the trans community throughout the weekend. As one of three team leads for Trans Pride, Evana Ortigoza is expecting “a display of solidarity like never seen before.” Since joining Pride over five years ago a lot has changed and Evana has been witness to the shift, “For years we have had to hide, out of sight, out of mind. Things are changing but, not fast enough. I look forward to a time when equality means just that… we need the support of all gays and lesbians to fight for our equality and not just be the last letter of an acronym.”

Maybella echoes the sentiment when asked what change she’d like see over the next five years, “Less discrimination, less stigma and more acceptance from society”, but was quick to add, “the trans community has come a really long way, and regardless of what society thinks about us, we’re not going to stop fighting for our rights.”

In recent years. things have shifted favourably for the larger trans movement, yet there had been few advances in public policy and cultural attitudes, leaving the trans community facing a host of challenges. A recent post compiled by Policy Fix, Violence Against Trans People In Canada: A Primer outlines some of the more jarring statistics:

  • DISCRIMINATION: Trans people report high levels of violence, harassment, and discrimination when seeking stable housing, employment, health or social services.
  • EMPLOYMENT: In Ontario, 50% of trans people live off of less than $15,000 a year. 13% had been fired for being trans, another 15% were fired, and believed it might be because they were trans, 18% were turned down for a job; another 32% suspected this was why they were turned down. Additionally, 17% declined a job they had applied for and were offered because of a lack of a trans-positive and safe work environment.
  • MENTAL & PHYSICAL HEALTH: 45% of trans people have attempted suicide in Ontario, and 77% have seriously considered it. With strong family support, this figure above decreases by 93%77% of trans people in Ontario worried about growing old as a trans person, and 67% feared they would die young.
  • SAFTEY & SOCIAL SUPPORTS: In Ontario, 20% of trans people experience physical or sexual assault due to their identity, and 34% are subjected to verbal threats or harassment which many do not report to the police; with 24% of trans Ontarians reported having been harassed by police. Women’s shelters in many places across Canada can legally outright deny trans women help, and do. In some cases, shelters will deny help to trans women unless they can prove they have had genital surgery.

This year Toronto Pride also selected Kent Monkman, a Canadian artist of Cree ancestry as International Grand Marshal, and Kiley May a Hotinonshón:ni Mohawk and Cayuga storyteller, actor and artist from Six Nations of the Grand River Territory, for Youth Ambassador.

The trans march has an energy that’s always new, and there’s no shortage of magical and sweet surprises.

Trans March
Friday June 23, 2017
6:30PM Rally
7:00PM March

Trans Pride Community Fair
Friday June 23

Trans Space
Saturday June 24
Sunday June 25

1. Feature image from the 2015 Trans Pride
2. Maybella, 2017 Grand Marshal
3. Kassi Aria, Evana Ortigoza and Sasha Dior, 2017 Trans Team Leads

About the Author

Raymond Helkio is an author, director filmmaker, and graduate of Ontario College of Art & Design. He currently lives in both Toronto and New York. His most recent play, LEDUC, is now available in paperback. www.raymondhelkio.com