By Villeneuve, Melissa on May 9, 2017.
Lethbridge will become one of the first cities in the world to have a transgender flag crosswalk painted on its city streets.
Council members voted 8-1 on Monday in favour of painting two temporary crosswalks this year – one rainbow LGBTQ+ flag and one transgender flag – across 3 Avenue at 6 Street South. Coun. Joe Mauro was the lone vote opposed.
Corbin Chenger, vice chair of Lethbridge Pride Fest, said they were happy with council’s decision.
“We’re going to be setting the standard for other cities – much, much bigger cities around the world – who have been debating and talking about maybe doing a transgender flag crosswalk. And we very well might be one of the first cities to be putting this on. It’s a huge deal to us.”
Some international cities currently having similar discussions are San Francisco, Washington, and Philadelphia.
The cost to paint the crosswalks will be borne by the Lethbridge Pride Fest Society, who first approached council on April 10 with a request for two permanent crosswalks.
At the time, the Pride Fest Society was unaware that redevelopment of 3 Avenue South is one project up for discussion in the City’s next Capital Improvement Program.
It was recommended that permanent crosswalks be placed at the 3 Avenue and 7 Street South intersection instead, should the 3 Avenue redevelopment be approved. Council also approved this request on Monday, with the Pride Fest Society bearing the additional cost to add the permanent crosswalks.
A decision on the Society’s request was postponed twice before as council debated whether a separate transgender flag crosswalk was warranted, and who should bear the cost to install the crosswalks. An earlier submission saw councillors vote 6-2 to eliminate the clause for a separate transgender flag crosswalk, as some believed the rainbow flag represented everyone.
Chenger said many council members were not fully informed about what the transgender crosswalk would mean to the trans community.
“We want to be an inclusive Pride that is open and accepting to all members of the community, not just typically lesbian, gay and bisexual people, but also the (transgender people) who are often left out and forgotten at our events,” he said. “So, for us it’s really important.”
After greater conversations between the Pride Fest Society and council members, Coun. Jeffrey Coffman said he believes there is a better understanding of why a separate transgender flag crosswalk is needed.
During debate, Coun. Rob Miyashiro noted councillors had received a number of calls and emails from the public regarding the issue.
One concern around the discussion is that the transgender population is discriminated against by other members of the LGB community, he said.
“We have a marginalized population that further marginalizes a smaller sector of their own population,” said Miyashiro. He said we need to do more work as a community to educate the public about all of these issues.
“Having a crosswalk … is not going to change the general public’s perception of the issues the trans population goes through. What it does though, is it shows that we’re going to support the trans population in the fight that they’re having, and I appreciate that.”
Miyashiro also wanted to remind the public that the City has allocated and constructed universal washrooms and changerooms at the ATB Centre.
That was the result of conversations with the LGBTQ+ community that it was a “safe thing to do and the right thing to do.”
Carlson said he appreciated the patience of the community. He believes the postponements gave council “the time to communicate a dialogue with our community, engage our public and enter into some excellent discussion and education opportunities.”
Coun. Liz Iwaskiw too changed her mind. She said she appreciated members of the trans community who shared with her why this really matters to them.
“I thought I understood. I did not, and now I do, so I have changed my mind,” she said.
Several councillors noted that as long as it wasn’t costing taxpayers any money, they were in favour. The permanent crosswalks were initially estimated to cost between $13,000-$18,000.
Before the vote, Coun. Coffman read from a letter written by organizers of Pride Fest. It stated that members of the trans community face an overwhelming amount of physical, systemic and cultural violence.
“This stems from an untrue narrative that members of the trans community are less valued, not deserving of full participation within society,” the letter read. “Investing capital in a group that is often told they do not have value begins the steps to reverse this narrative.”
“When I think about members of the transgender community that I know, I know this means a lot to them,” said Chenger. “They look to this symbol … and it’s going to say this city welcomes them, that we want to be inclusive, that we’re here for them, and we’re going to fight for their rights.”
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