by Laura Track, human rights lawyer, November 20, 2020

Today, November 20, is Transgender Day of Remembrance. It’s a day, in the words of the Vancouver TDOR chapter, to “mourn for the dead; fight like hell for the living.” It’s a day to remember those who have been lost as a result of transphobia worldwide, and to draw attention to the issue of transphobia and violence against trans people.

Despite many gains, transgender people remain among the most marginalized in our society. BC’s Human Rights Tribunal has found that trans people face barriers to employment and housing, inequitable access to health care and other vital public services, and heightened risks of targeted harassment and violence. The results include social isolation, as well as higher rates of substance use, poor mental health, suicide, and poverty.[1] Trans women of colour face particularly high rates of discrimination and harm. For transgender children, anti-trans bullying leads to higher rates of absenteeism and poorer educational outcomes, which then has ripple effects for their health and future prospects.

The marginalization, stigma, and discrimination faced by trans people show  how much work remains to be done to make the Human Rights Code objective of an equal society a reality.

“Gender identity and expression” was added as a protected characteristic to BC’s Human Rights Code in 2016. This amendment gives clear and explicit protection from discrimination to trans people in BC, who previously had to rely on the ground of sex, or even disability, to make their claims of discrimination. It also raises awareness of the importance of trans rights, and reminds duty-bearers of their obligations under the Code to respect trans people’s human rights and protect them from discrimination.

The inclusion of gender identity and expression in the Code means that employers, landlords, and service providers must act to prevent and respond to discrimination against trans people. This may mean an employer ensuring that trans staff have a safe and appropriate place to change or use the washroom at work; a landlord taking steps to address a transphobic tenant who is bullying their neighbour; or a university taking care to ensure that trans students are referred to using their correct name and pronouns.

Trans rights are human rights. On this Transgender Day of Remembrance, we honour the lives, spirit, and resilience of the trans community, and the work left to do to ensure their equality, dignity, and rights.


[1] Oger v. Whatcott (No. 7), 2019 BCHRT 58.