Man stands in front of projector screen in front of people in crowd

Submitted photo.

This Transgender Day of Remembrance, let’s take a step towards inclusiveness

Defence Team Pride Advisory Group

Posted on Thursday November 18, 2021

Despite recent political victories, increased trans representation in the media and promotion of new policies that protect transgender rights, transgender people still face disproportionate rates of discrimination compared to other communities. Transgender people are our friends, neighbours, and colleagues. The Defence Team Pride Advisory Organization (DTPAO) wants to recognize International Transgender Day of Remembrance in honour of all the victims of transphobia – people who suffered for the sole reason of being who they are. The goal of this day is to bring attention to the constant violence the transgender community faces and to remind ourselves that we can all be allies in many ways. We need your solidarity to end transgender violence and discrimination.

Becoming an ally is an ongoing process. Here are some tips that may help you make your workplace safer and more inclusive. This is not a complete list, but rather a good starting point to learn more about gender identity all while becoming a better ally. “Transgender Day of Remembrance is key to shifting public opinion on transgender people in the Forces. On November 20, let’s talk about how we can create an accepting work environment for trans people and acknowledge the injustices they have faced. Show your solidarity and be open minded for the occasion,” says Cpl Vincent-Gabriel Lamarre.

With the support of his family and military hierarchy, Corporal (Cpl) Vincent-Gabriel Lamarre began a gender transition a few years ago. In an interview, he shared his experience and offered us a glimpse into the misconstrued and stigmatized reality that transgender people in the CAF/DND face everyday. Watch the documentary Ti-Gars by Doris Buttignol, and visit Ti-gars, to learn more.

Right from the outset, Cpl Lamarre said that it is crucial to understand the difference between sex and gender. Sex refers to the biological elements of a person, while gender refers to the social construct of femininity and masculinity in a specified culture and time period. Understanding this distinction is crucial so as to not limit gender to just reproductive organs. Moreover, it is important to use the correct terms like “gender confirmation surgery” or “gender transition” rather than “sex change,” because some trans people decide to keep their reproductive organs. The first thing to do is to respect trans people’s pronouns and gender identity, even when the individual is not immediately present in a conversation. “Being a trans person means living in a world where physical appearance and gender expression are continuously judged and analyzed. People will label you based on what they see and this can be really harmful to some people. French itself is a very binary language, meaning there are masculine or feminine words, and it makes it harder to be inclusive. Some non-binary people turn to English as a result because it is easier to be inclusive,” says Cpl Lamarre.

He continues by addressing the issue of micro-aggressions, since they impact trans people significantly. Micro-aggressions are forms of prejudice experienced in either verbal communication or through subtle physical gestures. They are often done subconsciously and between people of various ethnicities, cultures, beliefs, or genders. Even though there is usually no malicious intent behind these gestures and comments, they remain negative and antagonizing. Micro-aggressions can also make those who face them feel rejected and can potentially cause mental health issues. “False compliments are in fact micro-aggressions, for example “it doesn’t look like it, I would have never believed you” or “you look like a real woman/man” or even “you’re pretty/good looking for a trans person.” Your respect towards trans people should never be linked to their conformity or their adherence to society’s norms. For example, accepting only trans men who follow masculine beauty standards,” Vincent-Gabriel Lamarre mentions.

Corporal Lamarre suggests some concrete actions that can be added to social interactions. “You must adapt your vocabulary to respect a trans person, such as using feminine or masculine grammar and using their correct name. Avoid anything that could possibly remind them of their former self who they do not identify as anymore. Don’t worry about getting things perfect, we all make mistakes,” says Vincent-Gabriel reassuringly. “If the intention is good, the trans person will understand that it takes some time to adapt. Are you unsure of which pronouns to use? Just ask, and then use those pronouns from that point onwards and encourage others to do the same. It is normal to make mistakes, so when you do, correct yourself and move forwards.” Do not try and guess a trans person’s gender based on their appearance alone. Transgender and non-binary people don’t all have the appearance and physical characteristics that we typically assume of them. In fact, several trans and non-binary people live their lives without everyone around them knowing how they identify. “Keep in mind that trans-identity does not have to be linked to a medical transition: some people only transition socially by changing their name, pronouns, and clothes, and not medically by taking hormones or having operations. Trans identity and acceptance does not depend on how much they have transitioned or how far they have gone medically, socially, or legally with their transition,” stresses Cpl Lamarre in closing.

In conclusion, be sure to listen and be open minded with trans people because they are experts on the subject. One of the most significant parts of becoming an ally is to learn about trans people’s experiences and remind ourselves that language is unnecessarily gendered. We encounter sexist and non-inclusive expressions on a daily basis. Learn about gender neutral and inclusive language and incorporate it into your workplace and social circle. For example, rather than saying “ladies and gentlemen,” opt for the more inclusive “hello everyone” or even simply “hello.” One of the easiest ways to meet the immediate needs of transgender people is to ask them what they expect. Cpl Lamarre regularly holds conferences on his gender-transition process with educational groups or organizations dedicated to improving knowledge about the LGBTQ community. Through his conferences, Cpl Lamarre stresses the importance of mental health and physical wellbeing for all the members of the Defence Team within the CAF.