|Home | About Us | Contact Us | Advertising | www.fsu.ca|
|Friday, May 24th, 2013|
Why Bill C-279 is important to Canada
Special to Interrobang
Click here to read more Interrobang articles written by Kimberley
Published: Tuesday, April 10th, 2012
It has been two years since I was first approached to be interviewed by Interrobang. Admittedly, I was torn over this because of my position within our college community as a professor and the implications of that should my identity become public. Equally, I felt obligated to continue in my role as a transgender advocate. I say advocate rather than activist because I truly prefer to work behind the scenes and within our social and societal systems.
Since that time, I have written several feature articles for the opinion pages of Interrobang. I hope that others within our college community from student to administration have taken pause to reflect upon these writings. I know for a fact that some have, and for them, I have nothing but the greatest respect and admiration. More than one of these people I can count as a friend.
I have met with and enjoyed social time with our own Spectrum group, and I have found common interests with more than a few, despite our separation of generations. Art, music, culinary arts and sciences are among many subjects having been points of discussion over a coffee or online. These are truly wonderful people that I can say give us hope... all of us.
I have taken the opportunities to outline and even detail the obstacles we in the transgender community face on a daily basis, and I have even provided some rather startling statistics from research studies both here and abroad. Not surprisingly, the results of these independent scholarly endeavours reinforce one another’s findings.
I have outlined the causalities of transgender to definitively refute commonly held beliefs rooted in misinformation, twisted logic and some religious belief (although I truly do try to avoid this specific subject). No doubt the scientifically proven causes as being in physiology and neurology came as a surprise to those who have read my articles. Even today as our scientific knowledge advances, the depth of our understanding increases... or does it?
Perhaps it is our resistance to change or the challenges to our belief systems that hold us back. As individuals, we must examine our own consciences to answer such questions. Today, our lawmakers are having such a struggle... or are they? I would hope they have taken the time to educate themselves and wrestle with their own prejudices as they debate Bill C-279 in the House of Commons. This bill will provide specific protections for gender identity and gender expression within Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We will be hearing about this legislation a lot into the future. It is worth noting that our College has a very detailed policy on discrimination that equates to our Human Rights Legislation. We also have one of the most progressive LGBT programs in the province in the form of our Positive Space Program.
With Bill C-279, there are multiple arguments against that range from “bathroom” issues and supposed deception to realistic ones that present a case that gender is covered under the umbrella of sex within our Charter. So, let’s address the fear before we address the reality. First, the bathroom issue. Could there be a more ridiculous argument, ever? Let’s be honest here, we use washrooms for singular purposes. Sure, a bit of conversation may ensue or touch-ups to hair and makeup, but really, “stalkers”? A transwoman generally has about as much interest in sex as a rock in the driveway – particularly once she has started a regimen of hormone replacement therapy. The medications involved effectively lower a person’s libido to next to nil. Sexual activity actually becomes a challenge for most of us. So, if this is the case, exactly what is the argument? Is it about a sociopath or psychopathic stalker?
Well, if that is the case, then we are not talking about gender identity, are we?
Next, religion. As I said, I prefer to steer clear of this volatile subject. I will say this even though every major world religion preaches love, not hate and not sex. No church I know of requires its people to go for reasons of sex.
So, to our Bill C-279 specifically. While it is true that “gender” is covered under the umbrella of sex within our Human Rights legislation, the problem the courts both domestically and internationally have repeatedly struggled with is the definition of gender. This lack of clear definition has led to decisions that both favoured the transgender community and, on as many occasions, discriminated against us. The courts have repeatedly asked our lawmakers to more clearly define gender and have been ignored each time. Here in Canada, Conservatives and Liberals are equally guilty of this ignorance, at least until they sit in opposition, and even then, sometimes with reservations. It is why we continue to struggle with this issue of discrimination; no one, it seems, wants to stand up and be counted for doing what is right: promoting Human Rights and equality for all. It isn’t popular, and if we are to be brutally honest here, popular buys votes.
This lack of clear definition in law has exposed the transgender community throughout our society to “legalized” discrimination. We have been denied housing, healthcare, education, religion, among many others. We have been beaten and ignored by law and law enforcement. I personally can point to people I know who have suffered each of the preceding and more. We each deal with these discriminations differently; often negatively by hiding. This is an unacceptable way for any human being to live. The consequences of this are horrific, not only for the transgender community but for our society at large.
The transgender community, and particularly transwomen, are the most exposed. The transgender community is without question the most discriminated against, disenfranchised and marginalized within our society. We are generally well educated, even surpassing the norms of society at large, but our talents and abilities to contribute are denied. This places the transgender community in the position of extreme unemployment and dependency upon social systems. This is unfair to both society at large as well as our community.
The costs of healthcare initially denied are exponential down the road as our mental health system is accessed for long-term treatment. Medications are required because of chronic major depression and anxiety. These are lifetime, expensive and, again, at the taxpayer’s expense. The human cost for the roughly 40 per cent who commit suicide cannot be overlooked either. Families really do love their children and there is no greater loss than a child or sibling.
The importance of Bill C-279 cannot be overlooked for these and many other reasons and scenarios. As a society, Canada can do better. We can promote health and healthy living. We can help the transgender community through barriers to employment, effective healthcare, access to housing, education, etc.
When one contributes to society, everyone benefits. When one is denied contribution, society suffers on multiple levels and that costs a lot more in the long term than providing equality so that everyone benefits. Those costs are, as I pointed out, economic, cultural, scientific and social. We make those choices both jointly and severally.
As a concluding thought, I would like to remind people that sex is between our thighs, gender between our ears (figuratively and literally). We need to support this bill and be open to the diversity we so like to proclaim, only now, without condition.
Kimberley is an advocate for transgender rights, active in the LGBTTQQI community, and a part-time professor with Fanshawe College. She is a co-founder of the Steel Butterflies Transgender Social/Support Group of London, Ontario, a member of PFLAG among many other organizations.