When Transphobia Trumps Statistics


As a transgender Canadian, I’ve been hawkishly poring over the many debates on Bill C-16, a human rights bill that would add “public incitements of violence,” “willful promotion of hatred,” and “advocacy for genocide” as activities outside of “acceptable speech” concerning gender identity and expression. It would also add bias against a victim’s gender identity or expression as an aggravating circumstance for criminal sentencing. Any business under federal jurisdiction — including the postal service, telecommunications, banks, and airlines — that discriminates against an employee or hiree on the basis of their gender identity and expression would be penalized.

In short, Bill C-16 a good step for trans equality in Canada, strengthening our legal protections. And the data shows they’re much needed.

In 2011, the National Task Force for Transgender Equality published one of the most comprehensive reviews of discrimination against trans folk that finally paints our picture in detail. A brief snapshot: 90% of us experienced workplace harassment or discrimination. 26% of us lost our jobs and careers when we came out. 19% of us have been homeless, and another 29% have been turned away at homeless shelters specifically because of our identity. 19% of us had been refused service in health care, and 57% of us experienced some kind of significant family rejection. Those statistics were based on the responses from trans people of every race; it should be noted that every single outcome is worse if you’re also black and trans.

These are the facts, and though they are nothing new for trans people, they demonstrate that Bill C-16 is necessary to explicitly protect Canadian trans people who have largely been relegated to patchwork federal case law and legal gray areas until very recently.

When the results from the National Transgender Discrimination Survey (NTDS) were released, I naively hoped these statistics would offer a chance for those who didn’t know them to get a big-picture view of some of our crises, amd that the NTDS would enter the conversation on public policy.

After all, legislators are passing policy for everyone, so they’d want the full picture, right?

Apparently not. The necessity of a human rights bill like C-16 ought to be self-evident given the outcomes of the trans community, simply because of the appalling frequency and degree of discrimination that trans Canadians continue to face — but you do need to be aware of that fact first for it to be obvious. The law has been passed in Parliament but awaits further voting in the Senate, and during these debates, the data is seldom, if ever, mentioned.

Read more on The Establishment.

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