Labour Views: Let’s choose to be allies!

By Lorraine Rousseau

Together we can ensure that our workplaces, schools, communities and everywhere in the North are places where every individual is safe to be themselves. International Transgender Day of Visibility is coming up in a couple of days on March 31. This day recognizes the achievements and struggles of transgender people who continue to fight for equality.

It is horrendous that in the year 2023, we must repeat the obvious: Transgender Rights are Human Rights. Around the globe, many face violence; discrimination or loss of life because of their gender orientation or identity. While there are laws and regulations that help protect transgender people in Canada, over the past years we have seen a rise in hate speech and groups that find their way to individual’s personal spaces through the digital world.

Discrimination and hateful messages create serious harm to individuals, families and communities. According to Statistics Canada, “Transgender people in Canada were more likely to report their mental health as poor or fair than their cisgender counterparts, more likely to have seriously contemplated suicide in their lifetimes and more likely to have been diagnosed with a mood or anxiety disorder.” In 2020, Statistics Canada reported that transgender Canadians were more likely to have experienced violence since age 15, and more likely to experience inappropriate behaviours in public, online and at work than cisgender Canadians.

International Transgender Day of Visibility is an important reminder for us to form a united front that combats discrimination and hate. On this day, and every day, let’s have a conversation on what it means to be an ally, a true ally; and how to be a better ally.

Be a good listener

To defend transgender rights, we need to listen to transgender voices. Never shy away from asking the question: how I can help. Allies often don’t have first-hand experience of the challenges that transgender people face. Listening with open hearts and minds, expand the knowledge and leads to informed decisions when taking actions that have positive impact. When being equipped with knowledge, we become more capable of raising awareness.

Access to resources is easier than ever!

With access to unlimited resources in the digital world, we can all find educational material. Making the effort to find credible resources that provide education is important. Raising awareness is an essential step when taking a solidarity action. Earlier, I mentioned how dangerous it could be when hateful messages find their way to the digital world. We have all the digital tools we need to counter that by sharing words of support, credible articles, petitions and just being kind!

Never be a bystander

Witnessing a violation at work or school? Speak up! Don’t be a bystander. Let’s ensure that victims find allies in us— colleagues, neighbours, and friends they can turn to. Sadly, it’s not uncommon for transgender students and workers to face bullying for simply being who they are. Workplaces and schools must be safe spaces, and it’s our collective responsibility to ensure that. Have confidence in demonstrating your authenticity in your communication in the workplace.

Use Inclusive Language

Language is a powerful tool that allows us to communicate. Use pronouns that the person wants to be identified with. It’s okay to make mistakes, but when corrected, apologize, learn and ensure that they’re called by the pronouns they choose. Inclusive language creates safe spaces at work, schools and during events. For example, at events, it’s more inclusive to use “friends” and “folks” instead of gendered terms to address people. Every day, let’s choose to be allies and defend human rights.

I know that one day all transgender individuals will have the freedom to be who they are, no matter what.

This column appeared at the Yellowknifer on March 29, 2023.