The Trans Winnipeg Working Group was started by Damien Leggett and Merrill Grant in April 2015. They felt it was time to give power back to the trans community and wanted a group for trans people, by trans people.
Many organizations are started by cis individuals who, despite having good intentions, will never fully understand how to help the trans community the way that trans individuals do. Leggett and Grant created a safe space, where trans individuals could come together and feel as though they have a place where no one is talking for them. Instead, they are having their own voices heard.
“We recognized that there was a need for the trans community to come together in a neutral setting that was not governed by cisgender folks, or people who were working ‘for’ us,” Leggett says.
The Trans Winnipeg Working Group discusses several important issues that trans people face in their daily lives.
The main topics include: difficulty with employment and subsequent economic disparity; housing discrimination; issues with police and incarceration; and difficulty obtaining necessary identification. Another important issue they feel needs to be addressed is health care.
Although it acknowledges that there are agencies advocating for the trans community, the group plans to take some matters into its own hands. The group strongly believes that experiential education for all people working in the health care field should be mandatory, as well as in having the trans community be an integral part of the education process. “We are leading ourselves out of govern- ing organizations with the goal of creating jobs for trans people,” Leggett says.
During the meetings, the group discusses the needs of the trans commu- nity and how people who are living with differently gendered bodies can have their needs met—from ensuring relevant education in the health care community to creating a trans health card that explains one’s gender identity, so they don’t have to explain it themselves in the state of an emergency medical situation.
We are leading ourselves out of governing organizations with the goal of creating jobs for trans people
Cisgender individuals are not allowed in the building during the meetings for various reasons, one being that trans individuals already spend so much of their time explaining themselves to people who are not trans. “Having a trans-only space allows our community to spend time in a space that is peerled (instead of instructive) and where there is less risk of gender policing,” Leggett says. The Trans Winnipeg Working Group strives to be a safe space, where trans individuals can be themselves without having to explain themselves to people who don’t quite understand.
The meetings take place at the West Central Women’s Resource Centre. The building is fully accessible, free childcare is available for those who need it, snacks are offered and people with cars often offer rides home to those who need them.
The group is open to all people who self-identify on the trans spectrum, as the trans community is made up of many different people with many different labels and identities. “Anyone who wants to help us make some changes for the betterment of our community is welcome,” Leggett says. The meetings take place in Treaty 1 Territory, where colonization has had an enormous impact on the issues they address.
The Trans Winnipeg Working Group is not only a place to discuss the issues that the trans community faces, it’s a place to make connections and new friends. It’s a place to be yourself and not have to explain yourself, unless you want to. “Thus far we have had a little over 40 unique participants join us for our meetings. We’re really proud!” Leggett says.
The meetings take place the third Thursday of every month at 7 p.m. at the West Central Women’s Resource Centre, located at 640 Ellice Avenue. Smoke, coffee and water breaks are offered during meetings.
–Faith Ginter is 19. They were born and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and identify as gender neutral. Their goal is to pursue a career in journalism and/or illustration.