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The city has Canada's highest proportion of transgender and non-binary residents, Statistics Canada finds
This week, Statistics Canada released 2021 census data in which Greater Victoria has the highest proportion of non-binary people in Canada, the second-highest proportion of transgender people, and the highest proportion of both groups combined.
The 2021 census provided, for the first time, the direct option for respondents to specifically identify themselves as transgender or non-binary. The survey found 0.41% of Greater Victorians aged 15+ polled marked themselves as non-binary on the census—about 1 in every 255 residents, the most of any Canadian city. Additionally, 0.33% (one in every 300) marked themselves as transgender—second only to Alma, Que. (0.35%), and about tied with Halifax, NS.
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Among the 41 large urban centres (Census Metropolitan Areas), Victoria was first in combined proportion of transgender and non-binary people (0.75%, or 1 in 133), followed by Halifax (0.66%), Fredericton (0.60%), and Nanaimo (57%). Vancouver was 14th.
BC had the third-highest rate of people (0.44%) who reported being either transgender or non-binary, after Nova Scotia (0.48%) and Yukon (0.47%). The Canada-wide total was 0.33% (1 in 300), reflecting a total of 100,815 census respondents.
Statistics Canada said that Canada is now the first country to collect this information as part of the standard mandatory census; places such as England and Australia have included similar questions on optional census sections or other population surveys.
There were significant generational differences in responses; Canadian respondents in age cohorts below 30 described themselves as transgender or non-binary at rates above 0.70% (1 in 140) while those in the age cohorts aged 45+ did so at rates below 0.20% (1 in 500).
The 2021 Canadian census also included an open-ended gender descriptor box in which respondents could describe their gender identity more specifically. This incorporated categories such as gender-fluid and two-spirit (an umbrella term used to refer to a range of genders in different Indigenous cultures).
As Capital Daily has reported before, Greater Victoria is already home to the world’s largest collection by and about trans, non-binary, two-spirit, and other gender-diverse folks. At the University of Victoria, sociology professor and Chair in Transgender Studies Aaron Devor has led research in the area since the early 1980s.
"I have never had a gatekeeper role in relation to the trans community," Devor, who is openly trans himself, says. "I have been able to build alliances and relationships and form access to the community in a way that many people who have approached it academically have not had—especially in those early years."
Despite growing visibility within BC and across Canada, non-binary and trans folks have still often found themselves ignored—from inconsistencies around tracking hate crimes to frustrations in navigating Canada’s health systems.
For trans and non-binary comedian Zane Oak, who uses they/them pronouns and hosts Vicious Poodle’s Queer Comedy Night, reclaiming their identity has come through the world of standup.
"Now, knowing who I am," Oak says, "performing, and being on this journey as a trans person, has given me confidence to take up more space."