From November 14 to 18, the University of Toronto facilitated a number of campus-wide events in honour of Trans Day of Remembrance & Resilience and Trans Awareness Week. In doing so, the university hoped to reaffirm its support for transgender individuals within the U of T community as well as denounce transphobia.
First observed in 1998, Trans Day of Remembrance & Resilience is internationally recognized on November 20 each year. It aims to remember and honour the lives of transgender and nonbinary individuals that were lost due to transphobic violence.
The week leading up to Trans Day of Remembrance & Resilience is Trans Awareness Week. According to U of T’s Sexual & Gender Diversity Office (SGDO), this week-long commemoration “uses education and celebration to encourage awareness of and advocacy around trans rights and inclusion.”
In an email to The Varsity, a spokesperson for the University of Toronto explained that “We all have a role to play in creating a supporting and affirming community for employees and students alike. The University of Toronto continues to challenge marginalization and discrimination based on gender identity and gender expression.”
The spokesperson recommended regularly sharing pronouns as an “inclusive gesture to trans and nonbinary colleagues [that] signals you aren’t making assumptions and are willing to invite space for others to share their pronouns as well.”
In honour of Trans Awareness Week, the SGDO hosted several events for students, faculty, librarians, and staff. These included a number of workshops, discussions, webinars, guest lectures, and a vigil.
Resources and initiatives
The university offers a range of resources and initiatives to support trans and nonbinary members of the U of T community.
As of July 1, 2022, the University of Toronto began offering a $10,000 gender affirmation health care benefit for transgender and nonbinary employees. The extended coverage was the result of a two-year collaboration between benefits provider Green Shield Canada and the SGDO, and it applies to the one per cent of U of T employees who identify as trans. It includes reimbursement for core surgeries, vocal surgeries, chest contouring, breast reduction, laser hair removal, nose surgery, and other services that are essential for many trans people. However, some gender-affirming items that are not considered to be medical grade, such as shapewear, are not covered by the benefit.
According to Allison Burgess, Director of the Sexual & Gender Diversity Office, the extended coverage represents a huge step forward. “When someone has to argue for things that are essential — things that are critical to the core parts of who they are and that can significantly impact their experiences of navigating through the world and coming to work — it can be an extraordinary burden,” she said in an interview with U of T News. “This is a truly significant change and step forward in terms of being able to affirm our trans and nonbinary staff.”
In addition to the support provided for trans employees, the University’s Health and Wellness Centre at the St. George campus provides gender-affirming healthcare appointments for students.
Identity management tools are also available through the SGDO website. These resources enable students, faculty, librarians, and staff to make name or gender changes in the university’s records without changing their legal names.
The SGDO also provides accessible career resources in the form of recorded discussions and publications. These resources serve as a workplace guide for both transgender individuals and allies in order to foster more inclusive work environments.
Members of the U of T community that are currently transitioning and seek further support are encouraged to contact the SGDO or visit their website. Additional information can be located at the UTM and UTSC Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Office websites. There are also opportunities to connect with U of T 2SLGBTQ+ communities such as Queer U of T Employees and Queer & Trans Connections — a new program for 2SLGBTQ+ and questioning students.