Cowichan Valley resident Willa Atkinson is planning a Gender Identity Expression Day for Tuesday, May 28. (Facebook photo)

Cowichan transgender woman hosting Gender Identity Expression Day

“We need to have a public conversation about this.”

As a transgender woman in the Cowichan Valley, Willa Atkinson hasn’t always been comfortable about putting herself out there.

She decided that had to change recently after a presentation against SOGI 123, a program designed to improve the safety and inclusion of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities in schools.

“My bubble had been disturbed,” she said.

In response, Atkinson is organizing a Gender Identity Expression Day at the Cowichan Community Centre next Tuesday. Her hope is to bring Valley residents of all backgrounds together for a discussion “about transgender people and their place in this community and the world.”

“The conversation about transgender is dictated by the media and what people say on social media,” Atkinson said. “And we need to have a public conversation about this.”

Atkinson is the creator of Visibly Transgender, the first open and public group on Facebook for transgender people, and is also behind the Cowichan Valley Gender Identity Facebook group. At Tuesday’s event, she will host a public and open discussion about transgender people in our community, where participants are encouraged to ask questions and make comments.

“Having not spoken in public in 20 years, standing in front of an audience sharing my story and views is a form of my gender expression as I have found my voice and platform as a woman,” she wrote in the flyer for the event.

The special guest is Cynthia Fortlage, the CIO of GHY International who has been recognized by OUTstanding as one of the top 100 LGBT+ executives in the world for 2018.

“Her support and appearance at the Cowichan Valley Gender Expression Day is an honour,” Atkinson wrote in the flier. “She would be a wonderful transgender role model for everyone to meet.”

Fortlage’s next scheduled speaking appearance after Tuesday’s event will be at a global business leaders conference in Israel in June.

Other scheduled speakers include a Cowichan Tribes elder, Duncan United Church minister Keith Simmonds, and “transgender warrior” Bodhi Thompson Gardner.

Gender Identity Expression Day will take place on Tuesday, May 28 at the Cowichan Community Centre’s Somenos Room from 6-9 p.m.

Just Posted

Robert Barron column: Where are the fringe candidates?

Make this election more interesting and informative for everybody

Somenos Marsh viewing tower near completion

October a busy month for the Somenos Marsh Wildlife Society

Andrea Rondeau column: Reckoning coming on vaping

Those producing and selling vaping products have convinced a whole new generation to smoke

Popular Parkrun comes to Cowichan

Shawnigan Hills joins global phenomenon starting on Sept. 28

VIDEO: Grizzly bears fight along northern B.C. highway in rare footage

Cari McGillivray posted the head-turning video, shot near Stewart, B.C., to social media

VIDEO: A moment to remember during the World Lacrosse Men’s Indoor World Championship in B.C.

Diego Hernandez Valenzuela’s team lost, but he felt like a winner Saturday

Handgun crackdown, health spending and transit plans latest campaign promises

Friday was the end of a busy week on the campaign trail

B.C. woman photographs massive ant swarm on Abbotsford driveway

She asked what the ants were doing? The answer: war

Iconic 90s TV show ‘Friends’ celebrates 25th anniversary

The iconic, decade-long television show aired its first episode 25 years ago today

Police arrest B.C. phone scammer linked to illegal call centres in India

Person arrested in Burnaby here on a work visa, says police

Air Canada forced girl, 12, to remove hijab: civil rights group

The San Francisco Bay Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations calling for change

Man from Winnipeg who was hiking alone found dead in Banff National Park

RCMP say the man was hiking alone on Mount Temple Thursday

Most Read