“You Can’t Get Rid of Us”: Montreal Trans Community Protests US Legislation

LGBTQIA2S+ Montrealers Denounce Transphobia in Front of American Consulate

Gabrielle Laperrière-Leblanc

In the first three months of 2023 alone, over 400 bills targeting the trans community have been proposed in 44 American states.

To show solidarity with their American counterparts and friends, Montreal’s trans community and allies of all ages rallied together on the doorstep of the US Consulate on March 17 at 3 p.m. The rain dampened their clothes, but not their energy.

“By protesting in front of the consulate, I want to call on the Canadian government to speak out against what’s happening [in the US],” said Alex, one of the protest’s organizers, who did not wish to share his last name. 

He explained that the media hasn’t sufficiently covered American anti-trans legislation, so he wished to raise awareness on this issue. 

“One of our demands is to guarantee asylum to people fleeing from unsafe places where their rights are being taken away," Alex said in reference to the e-petition “call[ing] upon the House of Commons to extend to transgender and nonbinary people the right to claim asylum in Canada by reason of eliminationist laws in their home countries, whatever country that may be.”

While trans and non-binary people can, in theory, apply for asylum in Canada, the acceptance rate from American applicants was low in 2022.

Alex emphasized the importance for the Canadian government to grant asylum to trans people living in the US. “We’ve seen more and more states adopt these laws and pass these bills, and there is really no guarantee of safety even by going to a more liberal state,” he said.

Approximately 100 protesters held up signs, flags and umbrellas as they chanted. 

Trans advocate Celeste Trianon delivered the first speech, calling out bills prohibiting minors from transitioning.

“Shame!” yelled demonstrators. “Protect trans kids!”  

One of the signs in the crowd read “Transition is suicide prevention.” 

“Many of these bills are based on templates and other models created by far-right evangelical [groups] in the United States who want to specifically eliminate trans people from existence,” Trianon told The Link a week prior to the protest, specifying “these bills are clearly introduced with malicious intent.” 

She added that Canada is “not impermeable” to American politics despite the country’s “reputation of being progressive,” which they stated is false.

“So much of American discourse leaks into Canada or gets adapted by Canadian far-right figures as well,” she said, citing the Ottawa freedom convoy as an example. 

At 3:45 p.m., Sainte-Catherine St. closed between Stanley and Peel as the crowd grew to over 250 protesters.

Members of the crowd were encouraged to take to the mic, with folks sharing transition stories, commemorating missing and deceased loved ones, and calling for change.

“As long as there’s been gender, there’s been trans people,” one speaker affirmed. “You can’t get rid of us.”

Skyanna, one of the protesters who came out as a trans woman in 2016, shared with The Link her experience with the trans community in Montreal. “This is one community. We have each other’s backs. I feel warm and welcome in our community,” she said.

However, Skyanna has not felt this acceptance from society at large.

“Society, leaders, governments need to listen to trans people, not make laws about trans people without consulting trans people,” she said.

Speeches targeting Quebecois politicians were given in French. “Premier Legault, I know you’re listening,” Trianon said. “I’m asking that you defund [Pour les Droits des Femmes] immediately. You’re giving $143,000 per year to a transphobic organization that goes against principles of gender equity and equality.”

Speeches ended at 5 p.m., with organizers thanking everyone for having withstood the rain and the cold to unite against legislated transphobia.