Transgendered victims of violence are everywhere in the world.
They are being beaten and killed for no other reason than the fact they have decided to outwardly change their appearance to reflect their own gender identity, which does not match the body they were given at birth.
Since 1988, social advocacy groups around the world have organized Transgender Day of Remembrance events to pay tribute to those victims of anti-trangender hate crimes.
In Prince George, the Northern Pride Centre Society is planning two events next week to commemorate those victims. The Day of Remembrance will include a candlelight vigil and ceremony, which starts next Tuesday at 6 p.m. at City Hall.
The vigil will be preceded on Monday, by a Pride Society-sponsored art exhibit opening event from 5-8 p.m. at the UNBC rotunda, which will feature the photographic works of local artist Chelsea Gibson. The exhibit will be on display until Friday, Nov. 23.
"We're trying to bring light to transgendered women who are victims of violence, especially the ones who have passed away," said Northern Pride Centre vice-president Margaux Schilling. "It's something that's very hidden and very marginalized.
"I used to work at the AWAC [Association Advocating for Women and Children] shelter and I saw a bit of that here, things like transgender women going to the men's jail. You're a real victim there because you look female, but you're put in the men's jail. Prince George can be a pretty rough place."
Since November 2011, 38 people in the world identified as transgendered, transsexuals, or crossdressers lost their lives in prejudice-based acts of violence. Seventeen of the 38 on the list compiled by transgenderdor.org were from Brazil. The Massachusetts-based website estimates more than one person per month has died over the past decade due to transgender-based hatred or prejudice. The most recent victim on that list was January Marie Lapuz of New Westminster, 26, fatally stabbed in a New Westminster home on Sept. 29.
Lapuz, who changed her name in 2008 from John Carlo Embro Lapuz, was the first transgendered person to serve as a co-ordinator for Sher Vancouver, a support group for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender South Asians. She was involved in giving anti-homophobic presentations to Vancouver-area high schools.
"Societally, transgendered women are one of the most targeted groups for violence but transgendered men also face discrimination as well," said Schilling. "Sexism is still alive and well and [the Pride Society] has to be very choosy in the way we advertise. We can't even really mention transgendered, the system is very complicated.
"I'm a social worker and I don't care who I offend, because people are dying because we purposely keep things hidden. Just look at the Highway of Tears, it's always marginalized women who are the targets of violence."