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Equal Rights For Transgender Canadians – Bill C-279

Next month, in April, an extremely pivotal bill is going to be up for debate in the Canadian parliament. It’s Bill C-279, which will add gender identity and gender expression to the list of statuses protected under the Canadian Human Rights Code, and amend the pertinent sections of the Criminal Code in regards to anti-transgender violence, assault, and harassment.

Currently, transgender Canadians have no such protections, and may be discriminated against on the basis of their gender by employers, businesses, shelters, institutions (public or private) and individuals without any legal consequence. Effectively, I can be turned down for a job, barred from entering a restaurant, denied admittance to a shelter or hostel, or forced to comply with male dress-codes at public institutions without my having any recourse. If I am harassed, assaulted or murdered on the basis of my being trans, this does nto qualify as a hate crime. I am in the position of having to depend simply on the mercies of a legally empowered majority to choose not to exercise their right to openly discriminate against me.

This is not okay.

I find myself increasingly frustrated by the amount of energy the LGBTQ rights movement expends on issues such as marriage, adoption or DADT. It seems like a rather explicitly classist mentality to prioritize the ability of those already comfortably situated as full participants in society to pursue middle-class, nuclear family privileges while others do not yet even have the basic level of protections required to be able to seek employment, or at least receive assistance from institutions like emergency shelters. While we celebrate the ability of gay and lesbian Canadians to marry one another, transgender Canadians are forced into homelessness or survival sex work because they do not have the assurance that they won’t be laughed out of a job interview simply for being something other than binary and cisgender, and do not even have the assurance of being able to seek income assistance without their identity being denigrated, mocked, invalidated, and exposing themselves to the risk of public or personal humiliation.

How many trans people (including myself) have been openly and loudly misgendered at the welfare office? How many trans women have been kicked out of women’s shelters on the basis of being “really men” and forced to humiliate themselves and risk violence or sexual assault trying to be accommodated by men’s shelters? How many have been turned away from food banks on the basis that they don’t have “proper” identification? How many of us, exposed to this bigotry, humiliation, invalidation and risk simply stop trying to seek work or assistance, and end up falling between the cracks of the system, all because nobody can even be bothered to acknowledge this crucial gap in Canadian human rights law? And what good are marriage or adoption rights when you don’t even the basic necessities to take care of yourself, let alone a family?

Bill C-279 has received virtually no media attention whatsoever. A considerable majority of my friends here in Canada, most of whom likely consider themselves allies of the trans community and supporters of our rights, have never even heard of this bill. A considerable majority of Canadians have absolutely no idea that trans people are NOT protected from direct discrimination. And when cis Canadians are informed of this problem, they often act momentarily appalled, only to completely forget about the issue a couple hours later, and file it back under “somebody else’s problem”. In complete honesty, I’d like to ask any cis Canadians reading this: Did you even know about Bill C-279 before now? If you did know of it, did you remember its name, and know that it is being debated in a couple weeks? Did you know that transgender Canadians can legally be turned down for employment or shelter simply on the basis of their gender identity or gender expression? Were you even aware there was a problem? Have you ever seen this discussed on the news? Did you know this was an issue during the last election, and that the original bill (that would have passed, prior to the Tories claiming a majority through their rigged election) had been killed by the dissolution of the previous parliament? Have you done anything about this?

This bill has been ignored. And if it continues to be ignored, it will not pass. Please try not to read that in a Gandalf voice. I’m trying to be serious (yes, it’s very difficult). Stephen Harper believes he has a mandate to allow the majority of Canadians, the most privileged and comfortably situated Canadians, to speak for all of us. Democracy cannot be a majority deciding on the rights of a minority. Were that the case, there would never been any civil rights progress at all. And trans people are absolutely a small minority. The only way we have ANY chance of achieving this basic and fundamental level of protection, being treated as fully equal members of our society, is by TALKING ABOUT IT. We need this to be heard. It needs to be understood by the Canadian people our parliament claims to represent that there is an entire class of Canadians who do not presently have legal protections for their basic, inalienable human rights. It needs to be understood by the Canadian people that we currently live in a nation where overt, institutionalized discrimination is still tolerated.

I have long believed that a culture, society or nation is judged not by the affluence of its most privileged, but by how it takes care of its most vulnerable. What does it say about our nation that there are still a class of human beings who can be openly hated, ridiculed and denied their rights on the basis of an unchosen, innate, harmless condition of their identity? What does it say about us that we choose to allow our most vulnerable to be kicked to the curb, and we choose to ignore it, choose not to even speak about it? Choose to allow bigotry and discrimination fall beneath the threshhold of our notice? Choose complacency in the denial of Canadians’ human rights?

But more than an abstracted, ethical, socio-political issue, this is an issue that affects individuals. Actual living, breathing, human beings who only wish to be treated with a basic level of respect, tolerance and decency, who only wish to be accepted as participants in human society. As was said by a friend of mine at a Transgender Day Of Remembrance rally at Berri Square in Montreal, we aren’t seeking any special rights or considerations. Most of us simply want to get jobs, pay taxes, perhaps have families, participate in public life, and just live our lives. When equal rights for trans Canadians are denied, it is not simply an issue of law, or an issue of our abstract, theoretical notions of gender. It isn’t about what is or isn’t a man or woman, or how far we should extend human rights law, or about urban Canada vs. rural Canada, progressive Canada vs. conservative Canada, secular Canada vs. Christian Canada, or social justice vs. “family values”. It is about what happens to actual human beings. Human beings whose rights are being denied, identities being invalidated, ability to participate in our society being hopelessly compromised, ability to live without fear of assault or harassment being taken away, and pursuit of simplest forms of happiness, fulfillment and life’s rewards being rendered untenable, impossible. Real living, breathing Canadians being denied their chance at anything resembling a full, rewarding and safe life by the complacency of an uninformed public.

Real living, breathing Canadians like my friend Sonya. She can’t find work because her identification doesn’t match her presented gender. Her identification doesn’t match her presented gender because she has not yet had lower surgery, required to obtain an updated gender marker on one’s birth certificate. She hasn’t yet had lower surgery because she can’t afford to see a psychiatrist for her required assessment and approval. She can’t afford to see a psychiatrist because she does not have work, and lives on the pittance offered by Quebec’s income assistance. Do you see the problem here? And this is to say nothing of those transgender Canadians who don’t even wish to undergo SRS.

Or real living, breathing Canadians like my friends Catherine and Emily, who have to work tirelessly to sustain struggling independently owned businesses in order to scrape by because nobody will hire them. Or my other friend named Emily who despite her staggering and beautiful intelligence has had her bright academic future derailed by the negative preconceptions that exist even amongst the educated towards those who don’t quite fit into our expectations about gender. Where once she would have been assured an eventual tenure-tracked position, her future now hangs in anxious uncertainty, and her ability to earn (deserved) respect from her peers has been hamstringed by the potential to see her as a “tranny” first, and gifted thinker second. Or real Canadians like Kaitlyn Borgas, once a prominent and rising star chef in the upper class Vancouver restaurant circuit, forced into unemployment and poverty, her once weighted name dragged through the mud and now attended by derisive, snide giggling and hateful gossip, subjected to insensitive and insulting newspaper columns, ending up sending out scores of resumes to jobs for which she was grossly overqualified, only to not even be called in for an interview, as her family struggled to survive. Real Canadians like Saige, a woman I knew from the Vancouver trans community who ended up taking her own life last year due to simply being unable to cope living in such a hostile environment. Real Canadians like Shelby Tracy Tom, murdered in the Downtown Eastside after needing to turn to sex work to survive. Real Canadians like Kimberly Nixon, rejected from her position at Vancouver Rape Relief for being transsexual and therefore not a “real” woman and not able to “understand” the experiences of other women who had experienced rape or sexual assault. Her case against Vancouver Rape Relief was won in a case heard by the human commission , but overturned in appeal, on the grounds that although Vancouver Rape Relief did not dispute rejecting her on the basis of being trans, they were perfectly entitled under the law to do so.

And countless other cases of direct, overt discrimination against Canadians, with real, lasting consequences, all being enabled and approved by the law. A law in our country saying “yes, you are allowed to discriminate against this class of human beings. Go ahead. You have our blessing.”

And real Canadians like myself.

Hello! I’m Natalie! I’m a transgender Canadian. I was born in Victoria and raised in Chester, Nova Scotia. I’m 27, and live in East Vancouver, and enjoy linguistics, feminism, neurobiology, Doctor Who, My Little Pony, poetry, comics, fashion, post-punk, goth and shoegaze rock music, “experimental” literature and contemporary art. I have a mom named Susan in England, and a dad named Alex in Montreal. I have two brothers in Alaska and North Carolina. I like to go to skeptic-related events, and have a bunch of friends here in Vancouver through the skeptic and trans communities, respectively. I love Thai and Indian food, studied poetry at the Evergreen State College, and I really love dogs. And bats. And sloths. And otters. My favourite books are Don Quixote and The Unconsoled. My favourite band is The Velvet Underground. My favourite poets are Paul Celan and Robin Blaser. I have a stuffed Totoro on my dresser.

I am unemployed, and live on income assistance. I have been unemployed for a very very long time. I scrape by with assistance from food banks (all of which require submitting to leering stares in the crowded line-ups, submitting identification that says “M”, ticking the box on their form that says the same, signing those forms with my birth name, etc.). After enough incidences of not even being considered for a job interview after employers noticed that little “M”, eventually I stopped feeling it was even worth bothering. It is only through an extremely unlikely series of fortunate coincidences that I now find myself writing for a blog network that pays me in return for my work, that this pay does not exceed my “earned income” credit under my “persons with persistent multiple barriers” status at the Ministry Of Housing And Social Development (earned by submitting to the classification of myself as suffering from Gender Identity Disorder- having to bend the truth and claim this was a barrier in terms of its effects on my mental health, despite the fact that I am now happier and healthier than I have ever been, rather than that it is a barrier in terms of the discrimination I face in the hiring process), and am moving into a cheaper apartment, the combined effect of which will finally allow me to make ends meet (though not end my reliance on food banks).

Bill C-279 would have direct benefits for my life. It would make things immensely easier for me, to finally know that I am supported and recognized by my government, that they acknowledge my gender and that I deserve equal protection under the law. It would not stop the current of bigotry against which I need to constantly swim upriver just to survive, to hold on to hope, to maintain my confidence and sense of empowerment in a world that at all times assails me with the message that I should be ashamed for being the disgusting, sinful, abomination and joke that I am… but it would significantly slow it, and at least remove the tacit approval of that dehumanization by our democracy. It would not end transphobia and cissexism, but it would at least send a message that such bigotry is not condoned and blessed by our nation’s representatives, laws and ideals.

This bill is not an ethical abstract. It is something through which we can directly, concretely work towards ending the appallingly inhumane treatment of transgender people in this country. Real Canadians, like Sonya, Catherine, the Emilies, Kaitlyn, Saige, Shelby, Kimberly and myself.

But it will not pass if people don’t know. As long as it’s considered simply a theory, and the various MPs who will make the decisions, and the voters in their ridings, can view trans Canadians as simply some kind of faceless abstract, as long as they’re able to ignore the real human consequences, affecting real human beings, as long as it’s ignored, or discussed quietly and silently behind closed doors, as long it is goes completely unmentioned by the media, it will not pass. Our lives will continue on in needless difficulty. Our rights will continue being denied. Members of our community will continue to give up, continue to be pushed out on the streets, continue to be laughed out of job interviews, continue to be forced into sex work, continue to turn to addiction as the only possible comfort, continue to fall through the cracks of our system, continue to die. Our government will continue to approve. And they will do this on behalf of a complacent public. A public who are happy to ignore that their friends, daughters, sons, children, sisters, brothers, siblings, cousins, nieces, nephews, mothers, fathers, parents, co-workers, roommates and fellow Canadians are suffering and being denied equal rights. A public who will allow people to die, and choose not to act.

We cannot, must not, let this happen. If we do not do everything we can to let this be heard, let it be talked about, and let people understand that Canadians are being denied their human rights, then we are a part of it. We have participated in it. We have let down the vulnerable in our country, and we have let down the ideals on which this country was built.

We owe it not only to trans people to ensure that this law passes, but we owe it to the principles of a free and democratic society. We cannot and must not be complacent in overt, institutionalized discrimination, bigotry and the consequential suffering, violence and death. It is our responsibility, and the time to stand up and say that transgender Canadians, all Canadians, deserve equal rights and protection from bigotry is now.

If we fail in this, we do not deserve to call ourselves a democratic nation.

At the very least, should this bill be blocked by Harper and his Conservative “mandate”, our nation should be made aware that his party opposes the principle of universal, inalienable rights. That they have directly and knowingly stood on the side of bigotry and intolerance, and said it is acceptable to deny a class of Canadian citizens their status as equal under the law.

So please, share. Talk. Shout. Make this known.

ETA:

Suggested actions include writing your MP, especially if he or she is a moderate or socially-progressive Conservative. You can also sign this petition or start a new one of your own. I’d also STRONGLY recommend contacting your local media to inform them of this story, ask if they were aware of it, and if so ask why they haven’t covered it. Make Facebook statuses and tweets. Do whatever you can to get people informed and talking.

Comments

  1. says

    I screen background checks as a part of my job, and it frustrates me that the government site we use asks for gender and provides only 2 options, M or F. I don’t know what that field is used for, and I wonder if some of the people I clear have had a hard time deciding which box to check.

    Has there been a rash of transgender Industrial Terrorism that I’ve never heard about that makes gender an important factor?

    • says

      Making matters worse is that such screenings may end up disqualifying you for having “lied” about your gender by ticking the “wrong” box.

      Background checks and security clearances are definitely a very real and ongoing problem for trans people, yeas.

    • Movius says

      I work in a government department that is a merger of many other ex-departments. Some of those were strictly male/female for gender others allowed for a 3rd option (which i believe was for intersex rather than trans or ‘other’. ) so some sections of the new organisation have to deal with both systems simultaneously.

  2. Interrobang says

    Sorry, but the bill won’t pass anyway; it doesn’t matter whether people ignore it or not. We have this little problem right now called a neocon government, and they’re never in the business of giving _anyone_ civil rights; they prefer to take them away instead (as they have been doing slowly and steadily for years now).

    • says

      It’s attitudes like that that enable institutionalized bigotry. Hopelessness is no excuse for complacency. I hope that your cynical sense of superiority over those of us who are fighting for our lives feels warm and cozy.

      • sonyafiset says

        A long, long time ago (actually, it was last May) a lot of people thought that voting for the NDP would be a wasted vote and that they could never get seats.

        Then something miraculous happened and almost 90% of Quebec voted NDP because they were fed up with the Tories and the Liberals.

        Trying to pass a human rights bill by the tories might seem hopeless, but it can be done. We DO have some tory MPs on our side, as unbelievable as it may be, and we just need to keep flooding the unsupporters’ boxes with e-mails and letters to make them change their minds. :D

    • walton says

      That’s not a reason not to try. Activism often feels like an uphill struggle, but it does achieve things. A century ago women couldn’t vote. Just fifty years ago there was institutionalized racial segregation in the US, and interracial marriage was illegal. Just a few decades ago being gay was criminal in most US states, and gay marriage seemed like an impossibility. Things have improved on all these fronts. Institutionalized bigotry is powerful, but it isn’t impossible to defeat it.

      And we can achieve equality, justice, and protection against discrimination for trans people. It’s happened in Britain. It happened last year here in Massachusetts. It’s happened in several other jurisdictions across the world. It’s not hopeless.

      Believe me, I understand the temptation to be cynical: I’m involved in activism for immigrant and refugee rights, and it often seems hopeless, against the backdrop of a virulently anti-immigration political culture in which undocumented immigrants are stigmatized and dehumanized. But that isn’t an excuse to stop trying. So, too, we have a responsibility to stand in solidarity with Natalie and other trans activists and to work for justice for trans people, across the world, without giving up.

    • Anon says

      This bill probably won’t pass, yes. If it is just ignored, and society is just left to stew the exact same will apply to the one after it. And the one after it. Even if it can’t pass it needs to be known of, and people need to be held accountable for it not passing, so that we aren’t stuck in this cycle indefinitely. Even if this bill fails, some good can come of it, but only if it is known, and “eh, whatever, it won’t pass and I don’t need to do anything” is profoundly unhelpful.

    • sambarge says

      This bill was tabled by the NDP and is a private member’s bill. Accordingly, the Harper Cons may not “whip” that vote and my allow their MPs to vote their conscience (versus the party line). Their majority isn’t massive. It’s possible this bill could pass.

      People with fiscally-conservative Con MPs need to target and lobby them on this. Don’t bother calling up Vic Toews, but Peter McKay may well support this. Not all Cons are mouth-breathing, born-again haters. Just most of them…

    • valeriekeefe says

      While I do agree that we’re not likely to go from 8 Conservative votes for this bill to the required 20+, there are a couple of things to consider:

      First of all, it’s important to work on peeling off MPs on this bill, as it’s been one of the few where parliamentarians don’t vote along party lines…

      Second, I’m not about to see the NDP as some fantastic savior who will institute trans rights upon their election seeing as they’ve still got Michelle Landsberg signing fundraising letters, oh, and there’s the little matter of pulling the plug on parliament and letting the bill die in committee just to get tactical advantage over the Liberals, as well as their party being the last to defund transition medicine (Doer Government, Manitoba, 2009, vaginoplasty/phalloplasty) at any level of government.

      So yeah, if we get our majority for this bill from some more John Bairds, that’s fine by me.

  3. embertine says

    Have sent the following email:

    “Hello,

    I just wanted to voice my support for Bill C279 which is up for debate next month in Parliament. Trans people face terrible discrimination in terms of employment, housing and in their day-to-day interactions. This discrimination forces them onto the streets, frequently into sex work just to survive, and drives many individuals to suicide.

    At the moment, Canadian law allows, and by omission endorses, this inhumane treatment. I believe this needs to change and I am hopeful that this bill is a sign that others do too.

    Thank you for reading.

    [my name]”

  4. walton says

    A very powerful post. I’m not Canadian myself, but I strongly support your campaign, and will pass this post on to the Canadians I know. Trans people should have equal rights throughout society.

    Here in Massachusetts, the Transgender Equal Rights Act finally passed last year, and protects trans people against discrimination in housing, employment and credit – but, during the debate over the Bill, the Joint Committee on the Judiciary removed the provisions protecting trans people from discrimination in public accommodations. (Thanks to a horribly transphobic scare campaign about public bathrooms.) The Act will come into effect this year.

    In England, where I’m from originally, there are protections against discrimination for trans people, though most are relatively recent. Trans people are included in the Equality Act 2010, which generally prohibits discrimination in employment, housing, and the provision of goods, services and facilities. And since the Gender Recognition Act 2004, trans people can get “gender recognition certificates” recognizing their identified gender for legal purposes.

  5. says

    If this passes, I’m moving to Canada!
    Except I’m not, because one does not simply walk into another country.
    But I wish them the best possible outcome.

  6. sonyafiset says

    Actually, a small correction Natalie;
    (why do I always think your name has an H in it?)

    I do have my psych papers now, but I had to almost starve myself and in-debt myself (by not paying my bills and threatening legal action against debt collectors) to scrape what little money I could get to get those papers. I’m still poor and now I have debt collectors on my door, but hey! At least I’m moving forward. I think. Maybe.

    However even though I have my surgery date now, it won’t allow me to get my new ID for at least another year and a half, because the name/genderchange process in Quebec is so pants-on-head retarded that it takes almost 10~12 months for them to correct a single letter on your birth certificate and send it to you. :)

    I’ve already visited my district’s federal deputy’s office to let them know that C-279 needs to pass and gave them concrete examples of discrimination that would be (while not quelled) lessened by it’s passing, so now they’re totally on board. :)
    Granted my district’s federal deputy is part of the NDP and they’ve already unanimously voted in approval of C-279, but at least it’ll give them a little extra motivation. :)

    I’ve also been picking up any offers for video interviews on the issue to try and raise awareness. Just did one yesterday with some folks from Concordia ~

    But thank you very much for this post. <3
    Even though I may have lost faith in the government system as a whole, I'm still clinging to the marginal chance that they do the right thing. Or at least depending on the NDP to keep pushing until they do.

  7. Emily says

    I wish I could help. I am neither a Canadian, nor do I know many Canadians, and the ones I do know I am telling. I don’t exactly have a wide range of influence. I do, however, post things like this on my facebook wall ( and I often post links to your blog posts ). I happen to live in a state that has Sexual Orientation protections, but not Gender Identity/Expression protections. ( I did post a facebook message pointing out the employment protections patchwork and how this should be more important than gay marriage and gay adoption ( both things I’d like to do someday ), and how DADT did not repeal existing restrictions against trans people from serving.

    I might not have much of a voice, but I use it the best I can.

  8. says

    shared on facebook, will tweet later, as well.

    and maybe, this is the right place to ask a question that came up in a conversation about the legal definitions of gender identity and gender expression as protected classes.

    basically, a sociologist pointed out to me that the lack of clarification that race is a social construct in these protective laws has caused problems with people reifying race. So now, definitions of race tend to make it clear that it is a construct, not biological. She used an example from the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, which ultimately settled on saying that it doesn’t matter that “race” is not biological, because “so long as the idea of group identification is firmly established in the mind of the perpetrator who demonstrates the requisite special intent to destroy a group in whole or in part, through words and deeds”, protection for that group is necessary.

    so; gender expression is similarly not biologically (whether phenotypically, like sex, or psychologically, like gender identity) gender- or sex-linked. my question then is, do you think making the distinction similar to that now done for race would be a good idea, to prevent reification of gender expression as a biological thing? would it make sense to define as protected gender expression all appearances, behaviors, and expressions that have been culturally established as being gender-related?

    or would such a clarification be incorrect, inappropriate, or make the process of getting protection laws passed even more difficult?

    (again, sorry for rambling)

  9. embertine says

    Oh, and OT, but this blog has put me in touch with other blogs which I now get a lot of enjoyment from reading and a lot of education too. So The Nerd, KatLorraine, Quietmarc and Jadehawk, helloooooo and nice to meet you!

  10. says

    Retweeted and posted to my facebook (I have a handful of Canadian friends that I think really ought to know). Keep fighting the fight, Natalie; you’re doing some really great work.

  11. says

    Okay, I’m here to answer your questions (as a Canadian left-wing cis woman who tends to follow politics) as forthrightly as I can:

    1. Did you even know about Bill C-279 before now?

    Vaguely. I knew that a bill concerning trans rights would be re-introduced at some point.

    2. If you did know of it, did you remember its name, and know that it is being debated in a couple weeks?

    No.

    3. Did you know that transgender Canadians can legally be turned down for employment or shelter simply on the basis of their gender identity or gender expression?

    No. Before now, it was my impression that gender, like sexual orientation, had been read into the Charter.

    4. Were you even aware there was a problem?

    No. I’m actually kind of surprised since, if sex and sexual orientation are protected classes, it seems logical that a court would have ruled by now that gender and gender expression would also be protected. I also don’t know what protections are afforded (if any) to trans people by provincial human rights codes. However, I was aware that neither sex nor gender are protected under the hate propaganda laws (though sexual orientation is). I was also aware that the Cons’ recent air travel regulations about appearing as the sex identified on identity documents was blatantly discriminatory toward trans people.

    5. Have you ever seen this discussed on the news?

    No. However, since the Conservatives won the last election, I withdrew quite a bit from closely following political news. I anticipated that I would just get too angry and frustrated at what was going on and felt I had to take a break. I’m only now starting to pay more attention again.

    6. Did you know this was an issue during the last election, and that the original bill (that would have passed, prior to the Tories claiming a majority through their rigged election) had been killed by the dissolution of the previous parliament?

    Yes. And I did support it then. I didn’t know about the urgency of it (since I was under the impression that the courts had already dealt with it as I said above), but privileged to say, I didn’t investigate at all.

    7. Have you done anything about this?

    No. But after reading this I will.

    I’m sorry that I’ve been pretty much completely unaware of the problems trans people face and haven’t even bothered to get myself educated about it. This situation is shameful. It’s kind of like finding out about conditions at Attawapiskat or Davis Inlet. The tragedy is going on for years before someone from outside brings it to the attention of the public. I will write to my MP (who’s a Conservative cabinet minster so I don’t know how much good it will do) and a letter to the editor for the local paper. Do you know if this is coming up for debate before the “women aren’t human beings but foetuses are” motion?

  12. says

    I have a correction to make, now that I *have* investigated further. This bill will not do anything to the Charter (which makes sense, since it would require a constitutional amendment to do that). This bill is to a) amend the federal Human Rights Code which will prevent discrimination with respect to those things that fall under federal jurisdiction: goods & services, accommodations, employment, equal pay etc. and b)the Criminal Code with respect to hate propaganda and hate crimes sentencing.

  13. Alex says

    I emailed my MP and sent her a link to this blog post. Maybe if 20 other people do so this bill can actually pass.

  14. says

    What we need is one of those petition things that automatically emails a form letter to the PM, party leaders, your MP, and the appropriate ministers and critics.

    I will include bill C-279 in my usual email to my MP, Peter MacKay. He will ignore it, as he has ignored all my emails for the last 3 years or so. Staffers in his office don’t even reply anymore. Hell, I get more responses from various party critics.

    But someone will still keep track of it, and it will be noted. I’m not saying Harper would overwhelmingly come out in support of trans rights, but he’s a poll-watcher. If the government was slammed with a deluge of correspondence, it could happen, even in the current government. Above all else, Harper loves power, and anything he can do to get and hold it, he’ll end up voting for. That’s why we can still get gay married and have abortions in Canada, even though he has the power to toss those rights away.

    That, and a certain brilliant jurist named Beverly McLachlin.

    It certainly won’t happen unless people try.

  15. says

    The more people that put the word out about this the better. The more people who contact their MPs the better.

    It’s critical that we get the Conservative MPs who are more centrist socially to vote for C-279.

  16. Eris says

    Kimberly Nixon, rejected from her position at Vancouver Rape Relief for being transsexual and therefore not a “real” woman and not able to “understand” the experiences of other women who had experienced rape or sexual assault.

    *strains*
    *twitches*
    *has a stroke*
    *falls over*
    *dies*

  17. SaintSuelle (Stefanie Daniella) says

    The COLOR (Qualitative Specifics) of my SEX (GENITALIA, my body) or my GENDER (IDENTITY, how I see myself and present myself) is NOBODY’S BUSINESS, and should NOT be the basis of discrimination for Identity ‘verification’. My NAME and PHOTO should be more than sufficient on my ‘legal documents’.

  18. A. Person says

    Natalie,

    You may want to add a section to your post on actions to take, which includes the petition and how to contact your MP.

    At least on my view of Google, you are the fourth result for C-279, and only the second of the four relevant first page hits.

  19. says

    This was a good kick in the pants and made it easy not to be indecisive about what to do. And a great, concrete explanation to link people to; I’d be completely useless trying to talk about Canadian politics. Also yay for Dale making the petition.

  20. Rasmus says

    Looks like there are 190 signatures so far. Not sure if that’s good or bad, but I bet that there are more than 190 FtB readers who would like to sign.

    The petition site has an option to withhold your signature from being displayed on the internet which gives you a pretty good degree of privacy against all but the most persistent of conservative bigots that you might have in your meatspace social sphere… If that’s a problem that you have to consider in your social situation.

    Here’s the link to the petition again.

  21. Myoo says

    I signed the petition and I’ve mentioned the bill at a forum I’m part of, but some of the responses just piss me off.
    “oh, what’s the point of adding another category to the list, the law should protect everyone!”
    Yeah, but it doesn’t, and this is the best option at the moment, so stop being such privileged asswipes, ugh.

  22. Rasmus says

    It’s past 470 signatures now.

    It looks like a lot of Canadians who hear about it agree and want the bill passed into law. If only more people would hear about it…

  23. ischemgeek says

    My letter to my MP:

    Dear Hon. [MP’s surname]:

    I am a resident of your riding and am writing you to urge your support of Bill C-279, which will add gender identity and gender expression to the list of statuses protected by the Canadian Human Rights Code and amend the criminal code in regards to anti-transsexual violence, threats, and harrassment.

    Currently, transsexual, transgender, and genderqueer people have no such protections and thus can – and often do – face discrimination in seeking jobs, social security, and travel documentation. As a student of [my university], I’ve had the privilege of getting to know a transsexual woman who a few years ago was the victim of a severe beating and faced harrassment at university on a daily basis. A friend of my partner’s family, who is a transsexual man, had his throat slit a few years ago in what his loved ones believe was a hate crime. This crime cannot be punished as such because of the current state of our laws.

    As a Canadian, I pride myself on living in a country where discrimination is a crime and where equality is considered a core value of our society. As such, the current state of affairs with regard to transgender and transsexual rights is not acceptable to me.

    Please do your part in rectifying this grave wrong to a segment of our population. Help transexual and transgender people have the rights and protection they deserve as people and as Canadians.

    Thankyou for your time,

    [My full name]

    If anyone wants to use this as a template (with appropriate substitutions), feel free. I chose to include the anecdotes to prevent it from feeling too formulaic.

  24. Rasmus says

    I just looked at your Twitter feed and saw that you were wondering why you initially only got a couple of hundred signatures out of 3000 unique readers.

    I’m not a journalist myself, but I once had a four-hour mini-practice session with a journalist when I was in elementary school. The first thing he told me about was the inverted pyramid. If you have a very important point to make, like “please sign this petition”, you will want to make it as early as possible.

    I was told that the rule of thumb is that only about 5% of your readers will read all the way to the end of a long article, not because there is anything wrong with your writing, but for all sorts of reasons. (Lots of times journalists will put some sort of cliffhanger at the beginning to lure you into reading the whole thing all the way to the end to find out how it went. I hate when they do that.)

    And only a fraction of the readers who find out that there is a petition will go and sign it, again for all sorts of reasons and not necessarily because they don’t agree that it’s important.

  25. says

    I have a question. In the USA, apparently the EEOC has ruled that transgender people should be protected from job discrimination under the Civil Rights Act. !!!!!!

    Does this mean that trans people in the USA now have more legal recourse than in Canada? Does it mean we’ll have to turn out into the streets and protest because they might try to pass legislation to take these rights away? Or does it not mean that much? I am bad at understanding legal implications and wonder if you (or perhaps anyone else who comes to this thread) know.

    • says

      Answering my own question: yes, this decision in the USA is a real victory, a big thing, that means trans people everywhere in the country have legal recourse against discrimination–they’re covered under sex discrimination. No, it’s not really reversible. I got this from being on a briefing conference call with the Transgender Law Center, it was really cool they allowed people to be on the call.

      I figure, hiring discrimination is really hard to prove and is still prevalent; but being fired because of starting transition or being outed, is probably a lot easier to prove.

  26. Roz says

    Thank you Natalie,

    I would also like to quote you? And, would like to thank you for your work on the behalf of trans gendered people.

    I will be presenting a number of issues to my union human rights committee and this Legislation will be front and center.

  27. Roz says

    I called my MP John Duncan, spoke to the assistant – requested he avid the vote. Tweeted
    Canadians et al who care about equality & rights of vulnerable folks, Bill C279 is being voted on Jun 6 call your MP freethoughtblogs.com/nataliereed/20…

Trackbacks

  1. […] Natalie Reed covered this topic to explain why this is so important to certain Canadians whose rights are being trampled legal without recourse: Real living, breathing Canadians like my friend Sonya. She can’t find work because her identification doesn’t match her presented gender. Her identification doesn’t match her presented gender because she has not yet had lower surgery, required to obtain an updated gender marker on one’s birth certificate. She hasn’t yet had lower surgery because she can’t afford to see a psychiatrist for her required assessment and approval. She can’t afford to see a psychiatrist because she does not have work, and lives on the pittance offered by Quebec’s income assistance. Do you see the problem here? And this is to say nothing of those transgender Canadians who don’t even wish to undergo SRS. […]

  2. […] recognition and rights, fought simultaneously for positive cisgender media attention. The first was Canadian Trans Rights Bill C-279 which would place gender identity and expression under the rightful protection of the Canadian […]

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