New West teen organizes Trans Day of Visibility rally in Vancouver

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A New West teen wants to provide a safe space where folks can celebrate International Transgender Day of Visibility.

7ven Perks, who identifies as gender fluid, is organizing a March 31 rally in support of Trans Day of Visibility, a day that aims to celebrate transgender people and raise awareness about the discrimination they face on a daily basis. The rally is being held at 3:30 p.m. at Grandview Park in Vancouver.

“Recently, I’ve gotten a lot more into the queer community, and I just I want to have a safe space for trans people and queer people to just go and sort of celebrate our existence,” said 7ven, who uses it/its pronouns. “But also, just to show that we’re here.”

According to Statistics Canada, one in 300 people in Canada aged 15 and older are transgender or non-binary. In May 2021, there were 59,460 people in Canada aged 15 and older living in a private household who were transgender and 41,355 who were non-binary; close to two-thirds (62 per cent) of the 100,815 individuals who were transgender or non-binary were younger than 35.

7ven (pronounced Seven) will turn 16 in a few weeks, but has already experienced its share of bullying.

“Mainly last year, when I went to the main high school; there was definitely a lot of bullying, which, you know, wasn’t easy,” it said. “But as I’ve transitioned to the alternate school, it definitely has gotten a lot better. I’ve been able to find a sense of community.”

Along with a supportive family and kind friends, 7ven attends some support groups in the Lower Mainland, including one led by a psychologist who does gender assessments. Many of the folks, 7ven meets through support groups and online groups don’t have the same family support it has had on its journey.

“And it’s really unfortunate to hear that. There are a lot of people who don’t have the amazing support that I do,” it said. “And so I feel like being there at a support group, it’s not just for me, it’s also helping them. It just builds a stronger community.”

A study by the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that transgender adolescents showed five times the risk of suicidal ideation and 7.6 times the risk of suicide attempt than cisgender, heterosexual adolescents (people whose assigned sex at birth aligns with their gender). The association said its findings highlighted the need for inclusive prevention approaches to address suicidality among Canada’s diverse youth population.

The results of that study come as no surprise to 7ven.

“It’s quite depressing, actually,” it said. “Honestly, it would be easier to point out the people who I know, trans people who I know, who haven’t contemplated or attempted suicide.”

That’s part of the reason the teen is organizing the March 31 rally.

“It’s more of a day to empower and honour trans people who are still alive, and not wait for them to pass,” 7ven said.

Given the suicide rate and the violence perpetuated against trans people, 7ven and some of its peers were surprised to meet queer elders, including a trans elder in their 60s or 70s, while attending a summer camp for queer kids.

“I remember how many of the people there were genuinely shocked that trans people could live that long,” it said. “And that was like, the moment where it was like, really hit me hard.”

Sven surrounds itself with people who can support it, but has had “multiple” negative encounters when out in public.

“It depends on how I dress, honestly,” it said. “And while it isn’t every time I go out that I’ll be pestered or harassed, it’s more that I’m constantly worried about that happening. So I am always looking over my shoulder.”

South of the border, some American states are adopting or considering laws related to transgender youth – laws that, if in place in Canada, could result in 7ven’s medical treatments being outlawed, it being removed from the family home, its parents being arrested and it being  unable to be referred to by its preferred pronouns in school.

“I’m hopeful that, for the most part, people here seem like it wouldn’t go that far. But I do worry that some more extremist people who are filled with hate might mirror those thoughts that are in the U.S.,” 7ven said. “That’s one thing I am really worried about.”

Here at home, 7ven and its friends have been on the receiving end of bullying, harassment and hate because of their gender. 7ven said its brother, who is trans, is “called slurs every day” at school.

“Of course, it in many places, it is a lot worse,” it said. “However, it’s very much not as perfect as you’d think. There is still a lot of hatred.”

7ven felt empowered and supported when attending a LGBTQ counter-protest to a group protesting a drag queen story time at the Coquitlam Public Library in January. It hopes folks will get that same sense of belonging at the Trans Day of Visibility rally.

“You not alone,” 7ven said. “And there’s a group of people out there who can hopefully, or to some degree, relate to what you’re going through and are there to help support you.”

7ven came out to its family in January 2020 as non-binary, but started identifying as gender fluid last fall. (Mom Naomi Perks explains that gender fluid refers to a person who embraces an adaptable nature to the concept of gender identity and gender expression; they can be one gender, multiple genders or no gender.)

7ven, not its birth name, adopted the name 7ven at the end of 2021, taking the name from a character on the TV show, Sort Of; one of the show’s creators is non-binary.

“One of my favourite characters, their name is 7 so I adopted it then,” it said. “It was the fact that they had the confidence to just be themselves, express themselves however they wanted, and that really spoke to me.”

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