November 20 is Transgender Day of Remembrance; a day to honour the trans, two-spirit and gender-diverse people who fall victim to hate and intolerance each year. In Canada, hate crimes committed against the LGBT community continue to be the most violent.

This year, Trans Remembrance Day will be held as the Progressive Conservative party convention is debating a re-write of the sex-ed curriculum. Specifically, convention delegates want to return to a binary definition of gender, effectively erasing any discussion of transgender, two-spirit and gender-diverse people from the curriculum.

Only time will tell whether this will be the first of many policy proposals aimed at weakening the community’s rights and visibility. This particular move, however, poses a direct threat to the safety of trans, two-spirit and gender-diverse Canadians.

A look at recent data shows that the majority of individuals accused of hate crimes are between 12 and 24 years of age. A study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry found that young perpetrators of hate crimes often feel emboldened by a “perception that society sanctions attacks on certain groups”.

“In some settings, offenders perceive they have societal permission to engage in violence against certain minority groups.”

That’s why it’s crucial to engage youth in discussions about gender identity and gender expression. Addressing these topics as part of the sex-ed curriculum provides a critical opportunity for cisgender students (students who identify with the gender they were assigned at birth) to better understand their trans, two-spirit and gender-diverse counterparts.

For the trans community, it’s a matter of life and death.

A 2013-2014 Trans Youth Survey found that 36% of trans youth (ages 14-18) had been physically threatened or injured in the past year; more than one in three had attempted suicide.

We can’t ignore the very real violence that our trans, two-spirit and gender-diverse friends face. We also can’t stand by while governments try to erase their existence – a move that can only lead to more violence fueled by ignorance and intolerance.

If you would like to become a stronger ally for the trans, two-spirit and gender-diverse community, we encourage you to consult the following resources:

* The language around gender identity and expression is evolving quickly. While this guide is dated and uses terminology that has fallen out of favour, we still recommend this publication for local leaders who want to support transgender members through their transition and beyond.

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