This Sunday, March 31, cities accross the world, including Portland, will recognize International Transgender Day of Visibility. But there’s at least one nearby town where it decidedly won’t be observed: the Clackamas County town of Canby.
Earlier in March, a number of trans community members approached Canby City Councilor Sarah Spoon and asked if she'd submit a proposal to have the city council acknowledge the memorial day during a March 20 meeting.
Spoon, a known ally to Canby's LGBTQ community, didn't hesitate.
“There were a few people who are trans in Canby who had hoped that this would be something in Canby that could happen," Spoon told the Mercury. "They thought it would be really meaningful if the city acknowledged them, and recognized them.”
But Spoon’s attempt was blocked by Canby Mayor Brian Hodson.
Hodson's refusal to put the proclamation on the agenda was first reported by the podcast Canby Now. Canby Now obtained emails in which Hodson explains to Spoon his reasoning for not allowing the proclamation.
“By doing this proclamation then where does the litany of requests end?” Hodson wrote. “I will have proclamation requests to favor all individuals, because setting aside one group based on race, sex, age, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, or other characteristic would be discriminatory. Don’t you agree?”
Hodson’s line of thinking was echoed by several Canby residents who spoke during the public comment period at Wednesday’s meeting, when they praised Hodson for his decision and admonished Spoon for introducing the proclamation.
“We don’t need to go out of our way as a city to do these things,” said David English, who spoke at the meeting. “As a city council, I don’t see any reason for us to take a stance on such a divisive issue that is a political issue…I just don’t think the city needs to specifically endorse that activity and that thought process.”
You can watch all the comments here, starting at around the 2:05:30 mark. (A warning: It features a number of transphobic comments.)
Spoon told the Mercury that Canby has recently issued proclamations for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Women's History Month, and in support of military veterans. To her knowledge, this is the first proclamation Hodson has declined to endorse.
“As long as we’re handing out proclamations like candy," she said, "we shouldn’t be saying 'yes' to everyone except one group.”
Spoon has spoken with some of her trans constituents since the Wednesday meeting, and said that it had confirmed "exactly what they’re afraid of, which is that they’re not safe here."
"I hate that they’re feeling that way right now," she added.
The Mercury was unable to speak with Hodson before publishing this story. (We'll update this post if that changes).
Canby's next city council meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, April 3. Spoon said she has no plans to bring up this issue herself, but that she wouldn't be surprised if it came up again during the public comment period.