Michelle Boyce, the executive director of the Alphabet Community Centre, has advocated for transgender rights for 25 years. She said there’s been a lot of progress in that period of time.
“25 years ago, trans people were at risk for being beaten up walking down the street. Now, 25 years later, Pride London facilitated that the flag flying at City Hall, which is pretty amazing.”
The flag was flying in honour of Transgender Day of Remembrance. Boyce said the gesture was just one sign of progress.
“25 years ago, trans people couldn’t get a doctor to treat an ear ache, because they didn’t understand their bodies. Now, doctors are taking in trans patients and helping with transition. Our government has finally recognized gender identity and gender expression under the Human Rights Code.”
Boyce added the city-wide suicide rates for transgender people have dramatically dropped, and all social service agencies are trans positive. She also won the first case under Toby’s Act in 2013.
However, she acknowledged that there are still some institutions that have some barriers.
“Every single time a trans person has checked into an institution or hospital in the city, the hospital or institution refuses to recognize their name or their gender,” Boyce explained, “It’s a major human rights issue. The Human Rights Commission themselves and the Human Rights Tribunal have both stated that it’s completely discriminatory for them to do that.”
She added while prisons are improving, there are still some issues. “Prisons still try to put trans people either in solitary confinement, which is awful, horrible and unusual punishment, or they are putting them in the wrong prisons completely.”
However, Boyce acknowledged the London Transit Commission changed their policy “out of goodwill” to accommodate transgender rights, and “the school board brought out the best policy for gender diverse students in all of Canada, and they did that without having to be taken to court.”
She also recently trained Fanshawe College staff on transgender identity, and said it was well received. “Fanshawe took on themselves to do that work,” Boyce said, adding the college, Western University and both of their students councils have always been on board.
Although she said London “is one of the best cities in the world to transition in,” students can always talk to upper staff if there are any problems.
The Alphabet Community Centre runs Trans Youth London meetings on Thursdays from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the London Public Library Central Branch, for people ages 12-20.