Sunday, June 13, 2010

Bill C-389 - Including Protections For Transgender People

A private member's bill tabled by MP Bill Siksay, Bill C-389, has been wending its way through Parliament in recent months.

Bill C-389 would amend our criminal and human rights laws to explicitly provide protections to members of the transgender community by adding the terms 'gender identity' and 'gender expression' to the Human Rights Act and to the Criminal Code. The bill itself is brief, but to members of Canada's transgender community, filled with positive implications.

Of course, Canada's wingnuts see it through a far different lens, and are quite unabashed about showing us their ignorance, too.

Let's start with McVety mouthpiece C.F.A.C, run by Brian Rushfeldt hand in hand with McVety. From their website, the following bit of inspired stupidity:

Dear members of parliament,

Beware of the ramifications of Bill C-389, An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code put forward by Siksay.

If you legislate this ill defined and unsubstantiated definition of “gender expression” as Siksay talks of below you will have just opened the door to every uncommon, unnatural and dangerous sexual expression that can be imagined.

From Hansard May 10, 2010 – Siksay said “Gender identity refers to an individual's self-conception as being male or female, their sense of themselves as male or female. Gender expression refers to how a person's gender identity is communicated to others through behaviour, speech, dress or mannerisms.”

Just as Svend Robinson scammed wording changes and definitions through parliament now Siksay is trying the same thing. His use of “gender expression” is not only foolish it is dangerous.

Reject this attempt to legalize all sexual behaviors.
Pedophilia is already being argued as a sexual identity/ orientation. Will it now be argued that it is a “gender expression”?

I ask you as legislators - reject this attempt to change both Human Rights code but more startling the Criminal Code. Reject it before the second sober thought Senate has to do so.

This only underscores Rushfeldt's ignorance - he is busy misunderstanding the distinction between gender identity and sexual identity. Contrary to Rushfeldt's alarmist rhetoric, it would be impossible to argue that pedophilia has anything to do with someone's gender identity. Although sexual identity is intertwined with our gender, there is no meaningful way that one can claim that pedophilia is a form of gender expression.

Then we have LifeSite spewing Gwen Landolt:

Landolt said that the bill "goes to show that homosexuals are never satisfied and will push the situation as far as it will go." She warned that it could "create all sorts of difficulties to ordinary, everyday communication in society between men and women," such as the use of public washrooms.

Of course, trust Landolt to play the bathroom card along with the "trans people are homosexuals" card. Yet another example of how the right wing assumes that anything they cannot be bothered to truly understand is automatically conflated with a dozen threats - all of which are imaginary.

Then there's what one of the idiot Con$ said in the House of Commons during debate over this bill:

Daniel Petit, parliamentary secretary for the Minister of Justice, said Tuesday that the amendments proposed "are useless and unclear." "Transsexuals are already protected against discrimination based on sex under the Canada Human Rights Act, a federal law," he said, noting that "the courts have upheld the validity of discrimination complaints filed by transsexuals."

That's part of the problem - transsexuals are protected - but often only after surgery, assuming they are legally recognized in their chosen gender.

The problem is that those protections don't extend to people who don't transition fully, or who are in the midst of transition but have not yet started to live full time in their chosen gender role.

There are risks aplenty to those who find themselves between the normative gender structures that society has. The amount of systemic discrimination that exists throughout our social and legal structures that place transgender people in multiple forms of jeopardy is astonishing, and the impact on individual lives is astonishing.

Of course, it does not surprise this writer that the Con$ would happily throw transgender people under the bus.

I hope that Siksay's bill makes it through parliament and gets signed into law, but I'm not holding my breath - it's a private member's bill to begin with, and there is a high probability of an election sometime in the next six months.


Jessica said...

Under current human rights practice, dating back to Sheridan v. Sanctuary Investments, a 1999 decision of the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal, from the moment transsexual people begin their transition we are recognized as our target sex. This decision was specifically in response to Tawni Sheridan's being barred from the women's washroom.

The discourse around the bill is explicitly "transsexual and transgender people" because to speak only of transgender people does the very thing we argue THEY do to us, erase us.

Some people seek to change their gender; some people seek to change their sex.

Some people are unable to achieve their sex change; some have no interest in doing so.

To achieve our common goals of equality and freedom it is not required we have an enforced common identity. To enforce a common identity keeps us from what we espouse.

Hence, "transsexual and transgender people." This is the debate in the House of Commons.

MgS said...


A few points here:

(1) The language of Siksay's bill doesn't explicitly talk about a distinction between transgender and transsexual people. It uses the language of gender identity and gender expression, which is consistent with the use of the term 'transgender' as an umbrella concept that encompasses all whose behaviour and appearance transgress societal norms about gendered behaviour.

(2) I am loosely familiar with the Sheridan decision (but I haven't exactly gone out of my way to read it in depth), however, I would argue that most people aren't even aware of its existence much less content and implications.

One obvious concern I can see arising is the implications of denoting when an individual "begins their transition" in legal terms.

As I am sure you understand, transition is a process not an event; and for many it is a fairly lengthy process even before they choose to make their journey public knowledge. During this time, it is not clear at all that the protection extended under Sheridan applies. Siksay's bill uses wording that does enable those protections explicitly.

(3) I appreciate and understand the differences between the various subgroups that are commonly understood to be part of the broadly defined 'transgender' umbrella.

Whether or not Transsexuals should be viewed as separate and distinct from the Transgender umbrella is a philosophical point that I may consider addressing in a future post on this blog. For the purposes of this post, I am assuming that the common understanding in the public is that transsexuals are one part of the overall spectrum of Transgender experience. (which is certainly consistent with the way Siksay's bill is worded)