First transgender person to be given key to the city in Toronto a ‘role model and inspiration’

 thestar.com  5/17/2018 6:40:35 PM 

By David RiderCity Hall Bureau Chief

Thu., May 17, 2018

Toronto’s annual flag-raising to mark the fight against hate toward gay and transgender residents got a key new element Thursday.

Before the rainbow and trans flags rose at city hall on the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, Mayor John Tory presented the ceremonial Key to the City to social justice advocate Susan Gapka, the first trans person to receive the honour for outstanding citizens.

Toronto Mayor John Tory, left, presents a ceremonial key to Susan Gapka on Thursday.
Toronto Mayor John Tory, left, presents a ceremonial key to Susan Gapka on Thursday.  (Andrew Francis Wallace / Toronto Star)

Tory told an audience that Gapka helped educate him personally, as well as the city and beyond, on the struggles and needs of people whose gender identity does not match the body with which they were born.

He called Gapka, who has lobbied politicians at all levels for funding of gender reassignment surgery, protections in the Canadian Human Rights Act and more, a “mentor, role model and inspiration.”

Gapka, who grew up on a Trenton military base and later became homeless and substance addicted, said transgender people were “brutalized, prosecuted and criminalized … Coming out meant living as an outcast, an outlaw, and an outsider. We would lose our families, lose our loved ones and lose our self-respect and dignity along the way.”

She dedicated her key, an honour harking back to the days when cities had gates, to progress toward social inclusion, “a key for everyone to be included in the city of Toronto.”

Gapka was among seven people announced earlier this month as key recipients.

The others, who will be honoured in later ceremonies, are: politician and community leader Zanana Akande; philanthropists Wilmot and Judy Matthews; community advocate Pat Moore; musician and conductor Peter Oundjian; and philanthropist Fran Sonshine.

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