The University of Winnipeg



Trans Day of Visibility 2024

Graphic image of a blue white and pink light bulb next to text that reads; Trans Day of Visibility, March 31st.

Sunday, March 31 was Trans Day of Visibility in Canada. According to members of the University’s Trans Solidarity Collective, the most important thing the University community can do on this day—and every day—is to critically listen to trans students, faculty, and staff, to reflect about what it means to really be a safe space for trans people, and to consider how to more actively support the trans community.

“You don’t have to be quiet about being an ally,” said UWinnipeg Political Science Professor, Noah Schulz. “You don’t have to be perfect at it either. But listen to trans people, try to give us the respect you would want in return, and just be open to having to change your mind about some stuff.”

There is always more work for allies to do, including speaking up for positive change.

Noah Schulz

Political Science Professor Noah Schulz

“Right now, the biggest thing that allies need to start doing is being more of an advocate,” said Trans Solidarity Collective member and 2SLGBTQ+ Student Director, Brie Villeneuve. “We need more people standing in the room with trans people saying the same things, echoing our voice and uplifting us. We need it to be seen by others.”

In 2023, the Collective organized the Building Trans Solidarity Series, a collection of events for the University and community to uplift and educate, something Schulz says he hopes to see more of in the future.

“I got to meet a lot of other now-allies in building trans solidarity in other departments,” he said. “I got to be visible in that sense for my students, which was risky for me to do, but important.”

“I think it’s good that we have people highlighting trans experience,” Villeneuve said. “There are professors that are visible saying ‘I’m with you, trans students. I want you to feel safe in my classroom, in my office, in my space, and on this campus’, and that’s really important for students to see.”

A 2023 stabbing that took place in a University of Waterloo gender studies class is a prime example of how more work needs to be done to ensure queer people can feel safe wherever they are.

“It’s a very scary thing,” Villeneuve said. “But if every trans person let that fear take over, no one would be able to say ‘I’m scared and I’m still here.’ That progress has to be made and someone has to do it.”

“The danger of being visible is one of the things that’s front of mind for me as I think about Trans Day of Visibility on campus or otherwise,” said Schulz. “It’s important for the University to think about what standing behind its principles of diversity and inclusion mean in practise, to really show that it’s safe and an empowering place to be trans and nonbinary all the time.”

Schulz said there are many opportunities for institutions to improve experiences for trans and queer people, including material supports for events, policies, more gender-neutral bathrooms, and additional training for security.

“We need to listen to students, especially to student representatives in the student government,” Schulz said. “It’s really important to make sure that those aren’t just risky public-facing roles for students to have, but that they have the possibility of their messages being put into policy.”

Both Schulz and Villeneuve agree that the reward outweighs the risk for them to be visible in the trans community.

“We need to see other trans people thriving and doing well to feel like that’s possible for us,” Schulz said, “humanizing the faces of trans people outside of the way we’re scapegoated as this scary social problem that all attention has to be focused on.”

“Seeing trans people in sciences, as a science student, is so vital to me,” said Villeneuve. “I think about the trans and queer politicians in our government right now. That visibility is so important to the community because younger trans people, or those who are questioning, can see we have a life, and we have possibility, and we can survive the hardships that we face.”

If you’re a trans or queer person looking for local supports, Rainbow Resource Centre, Klinic, and Sunshine House are good places to start. On campus at UWinnipeg, you can find the Rainbow Lounge and Queer Students Association.

If you’re looking for a bit more community-building and activism, a new group is on Instagram called the Manitoba Trans Tuesday Group.

For allies and anyone else, access to good information is important. Schulz recommends Momentum Canada, and also said people should get curious about what they have been taught about gender.

“It can be uncomfortable to have to unlearn some of that,” he said. “But it’s worth it because you’ll have better relationships with people around you, and probably your own sense of navigating gender.”

“There are probably trans and queer people in your life, whether you know it or not,” he added. “So you should be behaving as though there are trans and queer people in your life and that you care about them. You may save a relationship you don’t even know you’re endangering.”

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