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Trans Rights Are Human Rights! CUPE reflects on the Transgender Day of Remembrance

Transgender DayOn November 20, we remember transgender people killed because of hatred and fear. We also renew our commitment to fighting against the harassment and discrimination experienced by trans people.

Despite ongoing oppression, trans people and trans women of colour continue to be at the forefront of significant political and social justice change. Earlier this month, we celebrated the election of progressive trans people and trans women of colour across multiple levels of government in the United States. In one glorious example, a self-proclaimed “chief homophobe” lost his seat in a Virginia election – to a trans woman!

Closer to home, after much community and civil society mobilization, the Canadian Senate voted in June of this year to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act to add gender identity and gender expression to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination. The Senate also voted to provide transgender people protection against hate crimes.

We celebrate this progress, but note that trans people across Canada continue to live in fear of becoming victims of hate crimes. Even though being trans does not indicate one’s sexual orientation, many trans people are targeted for a perceived sexual orientation that is not heterosexual. Statistics Canada has found that hate crimes targeting a person’s sexual orientation are more likely to be violent, and 11 per cent of hate crimes reported to the police targeted sexual orientation.

CUPE recognizes the gendered and racial differences that lead to disproportionate impacts of violence even within the transgender community. For example, trans women experience violence not only because they are transgender but also because they are women. Indigenous two-spirit persons and racialized trans women face even further discrimination and violence as a result of their intersecting and compounding identities tied to centuries of colonialism and enslavement. These legacies persist, and that’s why CUPE fights for justice, safety and inclusion for all.

Trans rights are human rights

Trans people still struggle for the same rights most of us take for granted, including:

  • A safe place to live and work
  • Access to safe public washrooms and change rooms
  • Identity documents that match their gender
  • To be called by their chosen name, and
  • To express their sense of self freely in what they wear and how they interact with others.

Time for education, bargaining and action!


  • Educate yourself and your members about trans issues to help make your workplace safer and trans-inclusive. Invite a trans activist to speak to your local. Ask for union education courses and equality presentations in your region.
  • Check out the interviews with CUPE members Deidra Roberts and Martine Stonehouse in the Queer Story Archives at


Take action

  • Participate in November 20 Transgender Day of Remembrance events in your community.
  • Share information about your activities, including photographs, to promote solidarity and inspire others to take up the fight. Send information to [email protected]

On November 20, and on every day, let us continue to work towards building workplaces, communities and a world that is free of all forms of violence and discrimination.


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