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Squamish marks Transgender Awareness Week

More visibility and acceptance mean a more hopeful future for one local dad.
Flag raising
Pride Squamish members, Mayor Karen Elliott and District staff were on hand for a brief ceremony Monday morning to mark Transgender Awareness Week. Once the worst of the storm passed, the flag was raised above Muni Hall.
For Squamish's John French, who is the father of a transgender child, Transgender Awareness Week symbolizes hope for the future. 

"As the parent of a trans child, every day I am worried about my child," said French, who is speaking publicly with his daughter's permission.

"It is things like this that bring acceptance, and every time acceptance inches up, I worry a little bit less about my child who is vulnerable."

In honour of this being Transgender Awareness Week, Pride Squamish members and supporters were on hand at Municipal Hall for a flag-raising ceremony on Monday morning. 

While the storm meant the flag couldn't be raised at 11 a.m. as scheduled, staff later raised it atop city hall and above Brennan Park Recreation Centre.

It is the first time the District has raised the Transgender Flag, and Squamish is one of the few places in the province to do so thus far. 

"When people see the Transgender Flag flying in Squamish this week, we hope they will be inspired to find resources to learn about trans and gender-diverse people, along with the challenges and discrimination they continue to face. More Squamish residents speaking up as allies, making the changes necessary to ensure our homes, schools, businesses and public spaces are welcoming, inclusive and safe for all trans and gender diverse people, is definitely needed," reads a post from Pride Squamish. 

The Howe Sound Women's Centre will mark the week on Nov.16 from 12 to 2 p.m. at the newly renovated centre at 38021 3rd Ave. The open event is an opportunity for attendees to connect and learn more about transgender advocacy. 

On Nov. 20, a candlelight vigil will be held at 6 p.m. at the centre for Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR), the annual day to honour the memory of the transgender people who were killed by acts of anti-transgender violence. 

French said before learning his daughter Claire was transgender a couple of years ago, he didn't think about the injustices or vulnerabilities transgender folks face, but now he sees these everywhere and every day. 

"I just see inequality and lack of justice all over the place, through media and just making my way through the world," he said. "Before, it wasn't something I put too much thought into." 

French said while out and about, he is far more alert to people speaking disparagingly about transgender people or issues, for example, he said. "It really gets my attention and it didn't before. Now I am quite surprised by how often I hear and observe comments and behaviour that are negative or aggressive toward transgender people." 

French said that while he has a lot of fears as a dad, he is also very proud of and happy for Claire, who is currently pursuing a master's degree. 

"She has found herself in a way that she didn't know when she was younger," he said. "She has also found people who relate to her for who she is and accept her completely for who she is." 

When he and Claire's mom, Heidi, first learned Claire was transgender, they set about educating themselves, French said, acknowledging he still sometimes slips up with his daughter's name or pronouns. 

Thankfully, Claire has been very patient, he said.

Advice for other parents

French said he and Heidi learned very quickly that transgender children who do not have supportive families often don't fare very well. 

"Transgender people who don't have the support of their families are at real risk for all kinds of hazards in life: drug addictions and violence being the two most significant," French said. 

They are also far more likely to attempt suicide and die by it. 

"We were always happy to have our child be who they are and we were supportive of that right from the very beginning. Knowing those statics of how difficult it is for transgender people who do not have that support of their family, it was clear for us right from the beginning that we needed to be there for our child and accept everything that was going on and do what we needed to do as parents to support our child. And we did exactly that," he said. 

French said that his advice for parents who learn that their child is transgender or anywhere on the Two-Spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex (2SLGBTQI) spectrum is to first listen to what their child has to say.

"And listen like their life depends upon it," he said.

"If you can't trust your own parents, who can you trust?" 

After listening, set about being an excellent parent, he said.

"Put aside your own fears, biases and concerns and just be the best parent you can be for that child, because that is what they need in their life at that point," he said. 

To the wider Squamish community, French says: "Let people be who they are." 

This applies to not just transgender folks, but everyone, he said. 

"For people who are struggling with mental health issues, addiction issues, visible minorities, physical disabilities — I see a world that would be so much easier to navigate if we as people were far more accepting than what we are in this society." 

For more information, Pride Squamish has plenty of resources for locals to access, as does Egale, a national advocacy and education resource. 


Video from the brief ceremony at Municipal Hall Monday morning.