You Can’t Be What You Can’t See
My name is Cole Ramsey, my pronouns are they/them, and I’m honoured to represent the transgender community at this flag raising.
Marian Edelman said, “You can’t be what you can’t see.” I know first-hand that there is an immense difficulty in finding, forming, and defending your own identity in a world that sometimes denies your very existence. As a non-binary person, someone who is neither man nor woman, I struggled for almost a decade to articulate my pain because I had no words to describe my gender. Now that I have these words, many people continue to deny that my gender exists, or deny that me being who I am is natural and normal. Most people in my community struggle similarly, as research has linked transgender people’s high rates of depression, self-harm, and even suicide to social rejection, lack of acceptance, harassment, and loss of familial and social support. For these reasons, events like Gender Diversity Awareness Week are crucial for the trans community, particularly our children.
As a result of social discrimination, my community also faces poverty at rates four times higher than cisgender people. We desperately need access to public services like financial assistance, high-quality healthcare, low-income housing, inclusive schools, nondiscriminatory policing, public transport, and libraries. Our poverty stems from high rates of unemployment, since we face discrimination and systemic barriers that provincial and federal laws have only very recently begun to protect us from. Of all the trans people I’ve spoken to, every single one has stories about discrimination, harassment, and assault in their jobs, in education, in healthcare—in simply walking down the street.
Stories like these do make me afraid to tell people that I’m non-binary, to put my name and face in the media. But I also know that there is no progress without struggle. I owe my current relative safety to the people who struggled before me, to citizens and activists from Stonewall to Moose Jaw Pride. I know that events like Gender Diversity Awareness Week signal the beginnings of broad social change. I know that political and social support for trans people can help to turn the tide. Today, at this flag-raising, I have more hope for my community and for the Canadian society that we are part of.