Working for equality
Marni Panas protects the rights of
Alberta’s transgender community
Marni Panas has purpose and meaning in the face
of big changes. She was identified as a male at birth but
always knew she was female. In 2014, she began openly
living as a woman and has been working to protect the
rights of the transgender community ever since.
“What I thought would be a barrier in my life actually
became an opportunity,” Panas says, “and it far exceeded
anything I would have imagined.”
Her decision came eight years ago after the death of
one of her twin boys. “That whole experience taught me
the value of living life without regret. To take the time to
appreciate each special moment and the meaning behind
that,” says Panas, who works for Alberta Health Services’
human resources department.
Motivated by the support of her family and co-workers,
Panas has been on a mission to give Alberta’s entire
community the same rights as other Albertans.
“When rights are not specified, they’re easily forgotten
Panas became a key voice in efforts to include the
transgender community in the Alberta Human Rights Act.
The act was amended in November 2015 and is expected
to have a profound effect on the lives of transgender and
gender-diverse Albertans in the workplace, community
and even the health-care system.
“When we’re talking gender identity and expression,
we now know those are protected grounds so you can’t
fire somebody because they’re transgender. You can’t
fire somebody for the way they express their gender.
You can’t deny services based on their gender identity or
expression,” Panas says.
“This does more than change peoples’ lives,” says Dr.
Kristopher Wells, PhD, assistant professor at the University
of Alberta’s Faculty of Education. “Particularly in the
Panas is encouraged by what has already been
accomplished, but says her fight for change is far from
— Francis Silvaggio
Marni Panas’s work to change to the Alberta Human Rights Act will have a
profound effect on the lives of transgender and gender-diverse Albertans.