Activist Death Blamed on Transphobia in Healthcare System at Memorial

Friends say Hayden Muller Died of Inadequate Care Due to Being a Trans Person

Hayden Muller was well remembered by the people who knew them, some of whom mourned the activist while protesting transphobia in healthcare Tuesday evening. Courtesy Julien Crête Nadeau

Hayden Muller was an activist, labour organizer, and an inspiration to the 50 or so people who gathered in front of the Collège des médecins du Québec building to remember them Tuesday evening.

Muller passed away Sept. 7 at the McGill University Health Centre, from stage four breast cancer surrounded by people who loved them.

“I spent 10 hours a day while they were in their [hospital] bed holding their hand—they inspired that kind of loyalty,” said Dexter Xurukulasuriya, friend and memorial organizer, known as Dexter X.

The remembrance doubled as a protest against transphobia in the Canadian healthcare system; protesters blame Muller’s death on the medical professionals who dismissed their complaints and delayed cancer diagnosis.

The crowd chanted “Transcare is healthcare,” and sang songs accompanied by a tuba player and a trombone player. The heavy rain didn’t seem to bother anyone except the passersby.

The activist was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer after having had their complaints of chest pains dismissed as anxiety, said Béatrice Lauzon of their late partner.

A left lumpectomy, or breast conserving procedure, was done—despite Muller saying they wanted a double mastectomy, or breast removal surgery, to be safe. The procedure and chemotherapy failed to rid Muller of the late stage cancer cells.

Julie Michaud, the outreach coordinator for the Centre for Gender Advocacy, was a friend of Muller’s. Michaud battled breast cancer and has had a double mastectomy. She said she wasn’t thinking of the impact the surgery would have on her gender presentation.

“Gender is not about body parts,” she said. “I wish more patients knew that.”

Michaud spoke about how doctors will advise against a full mastectomy based on personal views on gender. “The last thing you should have to worry about is a doctor coercing you into medical decisions that aren’t right for who you are,” she said.

“This isn’t about a few bad apples,” she said. “Doctors need to have basic education on gender, on what is trans identity, and what choices might be appropriate for their situation.”

At the gathering, Muller’s ashes were circulated in a light pink urn by Lauzon.

“They were my partner, my love—I remember their eyes that had so much brightness in them,” she said. “They were so cute—we would smile whenever we saw each other.”

Dexter X remembered times when Muller spent hours cutting paper hearts out and stood on the street handing them out to strangers on Valentine’s day. Muller provided incredible moral support to friends and peers, they said.

“They talked many people down in their darkest moments. It was inspiring just being around them.”