Coming out as a trans woman in Surrey at the age of 19, the first place Tara Chee looked for support was the online world. That’s how she first met another trans woman, anti-oppression activist Tami Starlight, and eventually became an activist in her own right.
Tami had been organizing for trans, indigenous, and sex workers’ rights for many years in the Downtown Eastside. By assisting Tami in her advocacy work, Tara waded into the world of community organizing.
A few years later, Tara and her friends heard about a pharmacy for women in the Downtown Eastside that refused to serve trans women. That’s when what had started as a potluck circle morphed into the Femininjas, a collective using media and grassroots strategies to pressure the pharmacy to include all self-identified women. The Femininjas were instrumental in seeing the pharmacy finally drop its ‘womyn-born womyn only’ policy in January 2010. This victory sent a clear message throughout the city that trans women are women, too.
Coming from a Chinese Canadian cultural background, Tara was also keenly aware of the way queer and trans people of colour face marginalization within broader queer communities, as well as many linguistic and cultural communities. This drove her to become the first trans board member of Our City of Colours (OCC), which works to address the issues of LGBTQ people of colour. Tara’s smiling face appears in OCC’s poster campaign, which raises the visibility of trans people of colour from the walls of libraries, community centres, clinics, business, and schools across Canada.
Now Tara is beginning a new chapter in her life. In 2015, she earned her Bachelor of Social Work and began working with queer and trans youth living in emergency shelters. Just as Tami Starlight inspired Tara to fight for social justice with an intersectional lens, Tara will no doubt inspire many youth to carry on the work of building a more equitable world.