TW/CW: This story contains references to hate crimes, sexual harassment, rape, bullying, homicide and attempted suicide.
Canby Mayor Brian Hodson on Wednesday night announced his decision to deny a requested proclamation for International Transgender Day of Visibility for the second year in a row.
The request was for a local observance of the annual event dedicated to celebrating transgender people and raising awareness of the discrimination they face. Members of the Canby Transgender Alliance and other supporters have pleaded for the proclamation, saying it would help marginalized LGBTQ residents and youth feel safer and more accepted in their community.
Others, like Marine veteran Jordan Tibbals, who spoke at the Canby City Council meeting this week before Mayor Hodson announced his decision, don’t see how denying the proclamation equates to harming or rejecting trans people — or anybody else, for that matter.
(“As a Christian, I am called to love my neighbor as myself. I am not called to judge others. I believe we will all stand before the Lord one day and account for how we spent our time on this earth. I recognize not everyone in our community shares my beliefs, and I respect their right to believe what they feel is right. As a veteran of the Marine Corps, that is one of the many reasons I served this great country. But I also expect the same respect to be reciprocated to people of faith. Instead, what I see is a visceral attack on individuals for having a biblical worldview, and standing firm that the word of God is above any cultural norms we’ve adopted as a society.”)
“If the objective of the proclamation is unity and equality, I believe it achieves the opposite, in tribalism and division,” he said. “We should be highlighting what brings us together and not what separates us.”
If a proclamation must be made, Tibbals concluded, let it be for a “Canby Unity Day,” where all citizens of Canby are celebrated.
Mayor Hodson began his remarks by apologizing and taking full responsibility for his delay in addressing the matter, not only the more recent request but last year’s as well, in which he had privately denied the proclamation but never fully or publicly explained his reasons for doing so.
(“I will not be making a proclamation for the Transgender Day of Visibility this year. When we look at our list of proclamations for the past almost-20 years, they do not put one group or type above another. Not man over woman, not one gender over another or one faith over another. This is not a religious decision, as has been said the past couple meetings. I’m not going to start doing this now. By singling out, or putting others above oneself, we all lose.”)
Mayor Hodson said he’s glad the Canby Transgender Alliance is getting involved in the community, and encouraged them to recognize and celebrate the Transgender Day of Visibility in their own way, even offering the use of city parks and other facilities open to the public.
Much of the community’s discussion around this topic has concerned the issue of safety. Trans advocates — and trans individuals themselves — have described harassment, bullying in schools and even violence against the LGBTQ community, right here in Canby.
Safety and security is also important to the mayor, and during this discussion last year, he pointed to the city’s Statement for a Safe Community, which “condemn(s) the use of statements, symbols, actions or activities that would convey messages of hatred, or in any way seek to deprive any person of their fundamental rights.”
This week, he said he met with Police Chief Bret Smith and Superintendent Trip Goodall to discuss the reported incidents concerning trans youth and families.
(“I met with our police chief to discuss the safety issue in Canby regarding this issue. And they went back 10 years in police archives, and there are no reports or harassment or violence against members of our transgender community. I met with the Canby School District superintendent, and there are no reports or harassment or violence against transgender community members that they have had at the school district.”)
Mayor Hodson stressed his conviction that all people feel safe in Canby.
“I bring this up, because we all need to know that our PD is here for all of us to be safe,” he said. “If you are not safe, they need to know. I need to know.”
Several members of the CTA responded to the numbers Hodson presented, saying many instances of harassment and violence against trans people go unreported, for a variety of reasons. They may fear or mistrust law enforcement, or the process of investigating and revisiting the crime may be as traumatic as the crime itself — which is also one reason sexual assaults and rapes are believed to be vastly under-reported.
Canby resident Amira Stanley expressed her frustration with the mayor leaning on these statistics, seemingly over the firsthand experiences she and other members of the CTA have offered.
(“Part of my struggle with you has been, again, I genuinely think you’re a nice guy. And when I shake your hand and smile, it is genuine. But this is the type of thing that is frustrating, when you’re being asked direct questions, or you’re pulling up these facts, and you have all of us. You have me, and I have been nothing but respectful to you.” Hodson: “Absolutely.” “You have all of us to tell you what’s been going on, and you pull these facts like you’ve done something amazing. I’m disappointed by that.”)
Mindy Montecucco, a lifelong resident and chair of the Canby Bicycle & Pedestrian Advisory Committee, said she has a family member who is gay, who remembers the hate crime murder of a gay man that happened here when he was 10 years old.
“My 10-year-old family member saw that he could be killed, just for being who he was, in his own hometown,” she said.
In college, he became depressed and suicidal. One night, he tried to throw a chair through a window in his dorm room so he could jump. Fortunately, the window didn’t break.
“He would have been gone,” she said.
As chair of the Bike & Ped Committee, she referenced a proclamation their group has long sponsored: Walk and Bike Challenge Month, which has been declared in May each year for at least the past several years.
(“I would give up that bike proclamation. Because now, I think it’s fairly known that it’s important for bike safety and exercise and things like that. That proclamation does wonderful things in our community. You have an opportunity to do something wonderful for your community, in teaching us to open our arms and love one another, for people who are suffering in our community, and our children, and our family members we don’t want to lose. It’s life and death. It truly is.”)
After the meeting, the CTA announced Leading With Love, a public event on March 18 at Wait Park to “celebrate the contributions and accomplishments of the transgender community.” After the park event, the group will walk to the City Council meeting that night at the Canby Civic Center, in an effort to continue to show their support for the LGBTQ community and the Trans Day of Visibility.
“We will joyfully walk, dance and chant with our friends and neighbors to City Council,” a flyer for the event says. “Hold space, support one another, show our community we are here!”
Text of the proposed proclamation:
City of Canby Proclamation for International Transgender Day of Visibility
Whereas; we reaffirm our commitment to our statement for a safe Community by promoting the full inclusion of transgender residents in our community.
Whereas; The International Transgender Day of Visibility celebrates transgender representation and equality; and
Whereas; we come together as a community to promote visibility and fairness to all people, including our Transgender citizens; and
Whereas; we acknowledge the resilience of transgender individuals through history and how they have contributed to the betterment of society and made our American tapestry even more vibrant; and
Whereas; we honor The bravery of the many transgender individuals who live, work, or play in our great City; and
Therefore, now I, Brian Hodson, mayor of the city of Canby in the state of Oregon, do hereby declare March 31st, 2020 Transgender Day of Visibility in the city of Canby
Video of the March 4 Canby City Council meeting: