Letter: Trans students are campaigning for their lives

This article contains discussions of suicide and transphobia.

I am tired.

I am tired of waking up every day wondering if today someone close to me, in my community, will be killed, wondering if I will be killed for existing and trying to live in peace in the world and within ourselves.

Other Trans students probably feel the same way.

When I moved to Vancouver in 2022 to pursue my PhD, I was promised an inviting place, full of liberals and fellow ‘woke’ folks, as Vancouverites are often described.

When I arrived, the city and the people in it were anything but.

On February 13, I attended AMS Council, and during a five-hour discussion, I witnessed many of my fellow Transgender and gender-diverse folks stand up for our right to health care and for our right to exist as students on UBC campus.

However, at the same time, I noticed councillors not paying attention. I witnessed councillors staring down at their phones, texting and scrolling social media.

I saw them exchange glances and judgements as we spoke. As my friends and I broke down standing at the back of the room, councillors were smirking.

I thought to myself, what is bringing them joy in this moment? Is it our fear? Our ability to risk our lives by speaking up and exposing ourselves to the Council? Or is it their fear?

Maybe it’s their fear of being exposed for supporting Trans lives. Their fear of making the wrong decision for cisgender students — seeing as roughly two per cent of undergraduate students identify as Trans, non-binary, Two Spirit and/or gender-diverse, according to the 2019 AMS Academic Experience Survey, as one of the councillors indicated in their statement.

We begged for our rights and at the end of it all, we remained unheard. We stood there and listened to our concerns belittled by a majority vote that summarized Trans health care and our lives in a short sentence: “Do you support an increase of $8.00 to expand your student insurance fees to include gender-affirming care?”

One AMS exec looked us in the eyes and assured us Council would campaign to get this referendum passed stating, “the only thing [AMS executives and councillors are] good at and competent at is running in elections and getting students out to vote."

This campaign is a campaign for our lives. My life is being put up for a vote.

Transphobic comments impact me, whether that's at UBC or beyond. Comments like these forced myself to lose who I am after being manipulated for months to think I was lesser than cis people. I heard several remarks that by being Trans I would ruin someone’s life. That it must be so hard to exist as Trans due to the world’s hatred of us. And in November 2022, I tried to take my own life.

As I am writing this, it is clear that my attempt was unsuccessful — however, that in itself is a success. I am so grateful to still be here. This is the current reality of many Transgender and gender-diverse students at UBC and beyond. My story does not mention the physical violence that I have endured on campus, or the stories of violence, transphobic comments or hatred experienced by my community at UBC.

AMS Council’s refusal to listen to our experiences is dangerous for gender-diverse students. By putting gender-affirming care up to a vote, the AMS is increasing the visibility of Trans and gender-diverse individuals. Standing there, hearing cis folks tell us that what they are doing is in the best interest of the students to maintain transparency, while students were standing there telling them this is not a good idea was simply egregious. This visibility can increase harm done toward Trans students, leaving us without healthcare and unsafe.

This seperate referendum item encourages the idea that Trans people are different from our cis peers. While this motion passed, all I could think about was whether I would be safe to enter my classes in the upcoming weeks. Whether they believe that $8 is worth more to them than our lives.

My Trans friends and I disclosed personal aspects of our lives that we should never have had to publicly disclose. That night, I had the same thoughts as I did back in November — standing there for hours hearing that we were wrong made me feel inferior, made me feel as if my voice did not matter and that my life does not matter.

I felt and feel helpless.

Councillors did not care about Trans students during the Council meetings and this can impact how they campaign. But, through the hopefully successful referendum, I hope that they prove me wrong by ensuring our safety while campaigning.

And to those councillors who supported us, thank you. We see you, and we appreciate you. UBC is a beautiful campus with many beautiful qualities, and I am very fortunate and privileged to be a student at UBC, as we all are, but this referendum question gives us an opportunity to shape this campus into an equitable and inclusive space.

So vote. Vote so that we may start to see a day where Transgender lives are not up for debate.

My life should not be up for debate — lives should not be up for debate.

The author of this letter is a UBC PhD student. In accordance with The Ubyssey's opinions and anonymity policies, their identity has been withheld.

The Ubyssey released an editorial in support of the Trans Coalition's efforts on March 3.

You can submit an opinion at ubyssey.ca/pages/submit-an-opinion.