By Emma McIntosh
Toronto’s treatment of its transgender residents is in need of a lot of change, according to panel of activists that spoke at Ryerson’s Student Campus Centre on Wednesday.
The panel, which led a discussion on transgender activism and rights, was held the night before Transgender Day of Remembrance, or TDoR. TDoR is celebrated annually to memorialize victims of transphobia and raise awareness.
The event began with talks by transgender activists Boyd Kodak and Susan Gapka.
Kodak explained his experiences with Toronto police for the audience. He described scenarios where he was humiliated and traumatized, saying that he has suffered with PTSD since the incident in 2012. He said that in one 10 hour period, all he was given to eat was a single slice of bread and a glass of water.
“You always hear about these things happening in other countries. I couldn’t believe this was happening here [in Toronto],” Kodak said.
Gapka spoke about the systemic changes that need to be implemented. She said that having rules in place isn’t enough, and transgender people are still being mistreated.
“I am outraged and horrified,” Gapka said.
The main speaker at the event was Che Gossett, a self-described “black genderqueer activist” and writer.
Gossett shared stories about their time working in queer solidarity for Palestine over the summer. He noted how important it is for queer history to be preserved, saying, “Apartheid is happening everywhere… these stories have so much power.”
After the speeches was a question and answer session. Multiple audience members expressed surprise that the issues discussed weren’t getting more attention in the mainstream media.
One audience member who identified themselves as “Ben” said that a lot of the problem is that traditional LGBT groups are sweeping transgender issues under the rug, citing an alleged incident where Toronto police rounded up transgender sex workers preceding World Pride with the support of the event’s organizers. Ben said that although 100 queer activists protested this, the news media didn’t cover it.
Gapka, who used to serve on the board responsible for organizing World Pride, said that she would not dispute Ben’s story and it was time for people to take matters into their own hands.
“I think we need to take back our pride,” she said.