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Trans rights the focus of 2015 Vancouver Pride

For the first time, the blue, pink and white stripes of the Trans* flag are flying on a post at Vancouver City Hall.

The symbol joins a massive 24-foot by 12-foot rainbow Pride flag hoisted by civic officials on Monday to express Vancouver’s full support for equal protections for trans and gender variant people in all provincial and federal legislation.

Trans rights are the focus of the city’s 37th annual Pride festival, which launched Monday with a panel on trans rights, a flag raising and a colourful celebration at City Hall.

“While substantial gains have been made for gays and lesbians, trans gender and gender variant people have been largely left behind,” Vancouver Pride Society vice president Chrissy Taylor told the crowd at the kick off event.

 Mayor Gregor Robertson declares Pride Week in a celebration outside City Hall on July 27, 2015 with Vancouver Pride Society president Tim Richards and vice president Chrissy Taylor. (Emily Jackson/Metro)

Mayor Gregor Robertson declares Pride Week in a celebration outside City Hall on July 27, 2015 with Vancouver Pride Society president Tim Richards and vice president Chrissy Taylor. (Emily Jackson/Metro)

The society stirred some controversy by requiring people sign a pledge supporting trans rights before marching in this year’s Aug. 2 parade. (The B.C. Liberals will not sign and will not march.) Taylor reminded the crowd that Pride started as a protest.

“In our minds, Pride will always be political when there are basic human rights that are not protected for members of our community.”

Trans people still face a disproportionate amount of violence and depression, panel moderator Drew Dennis told a full council chamber.

Caitlyn Jenner and Laverne Cox may be drawing attention to trans rights on the Hollywood scale, but Vancouver has its own local heros to learn from, Dennis said.

Chase Willer, who is First Nations and a retired RCMP officer, is working with the police department on their approach to transgender people from an operational perspective (regarding issues in holding and detention). Willer hopes to continue discussions around training.

Dr. Wallace Wong, a psychologist who works with trans children and youth, demanded more services for trans youth, many who are homeless after being kicked out by their parents. He also called for local surgical services instead of sending trans youth to Montreal for operations.

Roan Reimer, who just graduated high school after helping the school board revise its trans policy, said Vancouver is becoming a more accepting place, with the number of students on their school’s gay-straight alliance jumping to 26 from six in just one year.

Politicians from all three levels of government attended the panel and the flag raising to show their support for the LGBTQ+ community.

“It’s a remarkable celebration of our city’s commitment to diversity, to equality, to acceptance and inclusion,” Mayor Gregor Robertson said. “And of course, we have a fabulously good time.”

Ideas for next steps from the trans* inclusion panel

Dora Ng, Vancouver resident and community outreach worker

“I draw a lot from the Chinese queer community,” said Ng, who counters perceptions that Chinese culture is not progressive and calls on the city to make information accessible to all communities. “In high school the only words I knew to describe trans people were awful, rude… now there’s trans son, trans daughter, trans child. So cozy, so cute, so clever.”

Kai Scott, co-chair of Vancouver Park Board Trans & Gender Variant Inclusion Steering Committee

“After decades of confusion and a little bit of pain, I proudly identify as a man,” Scott said. But he still is working to ensure the trans community feels safe when using public recreation centres and change rooms. “As soon as I enter the door of a facility, my heart starts to race.”

Morgane Oger, mother of two and social justice advocate

“We’re having some difficulties adding two words and a comma,” Oger said of how hard it is to convince B.C. to explicitly protect gender identity in its human rights legislation.

“We really, really need to get gender identity protected the same way as sexual orientation.”

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