Day of remembrance hits close to home

A volunteer places a candle during the roll call at Sunday’s Transgender Day of Remembrance. -- Jason Kerr/Daily Herald.

For Dexton Bourne, the Transgender Day of Remembrance ceremony is never easy.

It’s not something the Prince Albert resident looks forward to, but on Sunday, Bourne still made sure to attend.

“I try not to think about it at all, until I absolutely have to,” Bourne said. ”It’s a really, really hard day, so I just try to power through it.”

Since its founding in the late ‘90s, the Transgender Day of Remembrance has spread across the world. It originally began in response to the 1998 murder of Rita Hester in Massachusetts, and today is held in almost 200 cities in 20 different countries.

On Sunday, Prince Albert residents held their own ceremony at John M. Cuelenaere Public Library, where they read off the names of more than 50 transgender men and women who were murdered in North American over the past year. The ceremony was attended by roughly two dozen Prince Albert residents, including city councillors Evert Botha and Terra Lennox-Zepp and Prince Albert Chief of Police Troy Cooper.

Even though it can be difficult to listen to the roll call, Bourne said it’s a vital part of moving forward.

“It’s just really important to take a moment to realize how much work we have to do, and to honour those who were taken from us far too soon, for reasons that shouldn’t be existing.”

Overall, Bourne remains optimistic that things are improving and that transgender people are becoming safer. However, Bourne added that it’s still important to stay focused to make sure those gains aren’t lost.

That sentiment was a common one from the four speakers at Sunday’s ceremony, including Chief Cooper. Cooper said his “spirit ached” after reading the names of the deceased and he immediately thought of the relationship between police and the transgender community in Prince Albert.

“I understood the obligations we have as a police service to keep all people safe, and how that had not been the case for many of them in many different countries,” he said.

Cooper added that the relationship between police and the transgender community has never been hostile in Saskatchewan, although it hasn’t always been positive. Police have never been overtly transphobic, he said, but they have been apathetic.

“I think what has been the case is that the trans community was ignored, and I think that apathy is just as damaging as transphobia.”

Fortunatley, things are improving. Cooper said the relationship between police and transgender residents is a strong one.

Bourne also said things are starting to take a positive turn, even though it can be difficult to remember on a day like Sunday.

“It does give me hope to realize people are trying,” Bourne said. “As far as we have to go, we have taken steps forward.”

@kerr_jas •