Why do you care?

Following up with the previous post on changes to the United Kingdom’s process for Gender Recognition Certificates, Ezra describes one part of the application which boils my blood–submitting personal details in front of a panel of disinterested bureaucrats to decide if you’re real enough for legal recognition:

“I can’t do it,” she said, line crackling slightly. I could still hear her voice break. “It’s too horrible.”

This is the only conversation I had with my wife before our wedding in which she cried, despite the thousands of stressors and disagreements over tiny things like flower arrangements and bridesmaid dresses. And it is still, to this date nearly 5 years on, the only conversation we’ve ever had about her attempt to get a Gender Recognition Certificate.

All she wanted was for our marriage to be considered a gay marriage, not a straight one. By this point she’d been living as a woman for 3 years, and was on HRT. She had a diagnosis of gender dysphoria and a doctor’s letter to the same effect. Her passport, driving license and medical records all indicated that she was a woman. If it weren’t for the marriage certificate, there would be nothing that described her as the wrong thing, that made reference to the fact that her body had not always matched her overtly feminine, defiantly woman self.

As far as the legal requirements went, she was a perfect candidate for a GRC. But there was much beyond the legal requirements that no one had ever talked about. Justifying whether or not you’d had surgery, when you planned to have surgery, why on earth you hadn’t had it yet if you thought you deserved to be recognised as a “real” woman. What kind of sex you have. Is it with women? Is it penetrative? Because of course, that would rule you out, if you were using your genitalia in a way that the government didn’t think coincided with your gender identity. How long have you lived as a woman? Can you prove it? Where’s your evidence? No evidence, no GRC. Can you provide two (expensive) detailed reports, from two separate clinicians? Stop right there if you can’t. Go no further. Provide a “statutory declaration”. Get it witnessed by someone with a “reputable” profession. Outline every discomfort you’ve ever had about your gender. Tell us when you first bought knickers. Why didn’t you change your gender on your passport right there and then? Why did you wait until you were in your twenties to transition? Are you married? Then we need a declaration from your spouse too. Just to make sure your stories match up. On bad terms with your spouse about your gender? Estranged from them? Too bad. They have a veto on this. You can’t just enter them into a marriage to someone of a different gender. If you’re divorced, we want definitive proof of that divorce. Just to make sure you aren’t dragging an innocent ex into this. Oh, and pay us £140 for the privilege of being able to have your documents provide your correct information. Thanks.

The current process for British trans folk is labyrinthine and dehumanizing. There are already consequences for lying during a statutory declaration, so they really have no excuse to keep dancing around self-declaration as the system they should be using.

-Shiv

This is what transmisogyny looks like

When a Twitter user at the handle afroSHIRL requested a voluntary sterilization, she was told she shouldn’t get the procedure because she wasn’t married and her future husband might want kids. She rightly pointed out that this implicitly meant to the doctor that her body belongs to a man she hasn’t even met yet. The trope itself is the meeting point of two virulently misogynistic ideas: The first that a woman’s worth is defined by her appeal to men; and the second that procreation is her duty. 

Most self-identified feminists will recognise why these premises are troubling. What I hope is that we’ll start to recognise them when they’re being wielded against trans women, too:

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Anything but trans

Given that trans-antagonism still possesses enough social capital to be routinely published in mainstream media outlets, we ought to consider its influence on those questioning their gender identity. There is an entire sub-genre within the topic of “questioning” prompted by notably not-trans people that I’m calling the “anything but trans” narratives.

Questioning your gender? Take a shot of Pimozide. Results supporting this idea may be based on a single case study and not an actual sample, but anything to not be trans, right? (This is entering not even wrong territory–the WPATH recommends psychosis be “managed” before transitioning but no longer considers it an automatic exclusion from gender dysphoria).

Questioning your gender? Hey, this anonymous Tumblr survey circulated by TERFs says 20% of “detransitioners” actually had Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder instead, they just fixated on gender. What a relief you’re not trans!

Questioning your gender? Hey, this “expert” says autistic people are disproportionately represented among gender dysphoric youth. You’re “just autistic,” and not trans. Whew!

Just Autism. Just OCD. Just a perception disorder. Just mommy issues. Just a sexual fetish. Just a phase. Just personal preference. Just PTSD. Just just just. On and on it goes, a never-ending refusal to actually listen to trans people in a desperate bid to find a cis explanation for a not-cis phenomenon.

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Vague rhetoric and female “spaces”

Siobhan — then you agree that cis women have a right to their own spaces, that trans women have privileges from having been brought up as boys, and that cis women have a right to talk about how their female bodies shape their experiences of oppression?

This is an extremely common tactic I see deployed in criticisms of my work. I don’t know if the people using it realize just how loaded some of those word choices are, and I wanted to pause a moment to unpack that.

For starters, a lot depends on what exactly we mean by the word “spaces.” Are we talking about a Sunday scrap-booking club or a crisis shelter? The differences between the two touch many areas–legal, practical, ethical, just to name a few. A private interest group needs absolutely no justification for setting its boundaries. In addition, no self-respecting trans person wants to curry favour with people who treat them like they’re untouchables. But when trans women (and it’s usually trans women who are the subjects of exclusion) talk about accessing “female” spaces, we’re not typically signing up to be the subjects of mockery at a poncy tea party. We’re usually talking about accessing the same life-or-death safeguards as cis women, those precarious flotation devices tossed overboard in a desperate bid to keep the drowning above water.

The problem is when a service that typically falls under “public accommodations” is treated as if it were legally and morally equivalent to a private interest group. The standard sleight-of-hand for the trans-exclusionary type is to drop a byline about “supporting trans resources” but unsurprisingly, not a single “womyn-born-womyn” radfem cent ever actually goes to trans-specific startups for that exact purpose. If a particular jurisdiction has few or no resources to help trans women in crisis, I feel fully justified in interrogating the motives of trans-exclusion from the existing services. It is, after all, directly and immediately contributing to the catastrophic civil and health outcomes of trans people.

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Baptist schools told to stop being a dick; say “no”

The poor persecuted Christians are in the news again. After a lengthy investigation conducted against the two Baptist schools who refused to follow Bill 10, a Progressive Conservative law that obligated all schools to permit the formation of a gay-straight alliance should the students request one, the Education Minister has finally issued a “Ministerial Order” to comply with the law.

The schools, of course, said no.

Society chair Rev. Brian Coldwell admitted last year in an interview with a social conservative publication he had worked behind the scenes with representatives of both opposition parties. He is also member of the board of Parents for Choice in Education, a supposedly non-partisan group that advocates home schooling and private schools and enjoys loud support from the Opposition parties.

So it is hard to believe there is no political side to Rev. Coldwell’s insistence the schools will never comply with the law’s requirement students be allowed to form GSAs.

Determined to proceed cautiously, even at the risk of leaving LGBTQ students vulnerable, Eggen appointed Edmonton lawyer Dan Scott in September last year to inquire into the activities of the two schools. Mr. Scott handed his report to the government in November 2016 and nothing much happened until yesterday, when the report was released to the public and Mr. Eggen ordered the schools to comply with the law.

Now, this is a rural Baptist school with little political clout other than its convenience for conservative martyrdom. The bigger problem will be what we do about the constitutionally-protected Catholics (yes, we are talking about Canada) when they, too, disclose that they intend to inject psychological abuse and misinformation into their curriculum. Politically, it would be effective self-sabotage–and yet, the only Catholic school board to have met all human rights requirements was Red Deer.

Clearly it is possible for Albertan Catholics to enjoy their special snowflake status without violating human rights laws as a matter of policy. It’s just that most are choosing not to.

-Shiv

Sadistic Catch-22s

The legalities of gender variance in its most benign form can be a matter of tedium. This is what I have to cope with–an initial not insubstantial cost to request my first legal change to my name, and from there, just a long series of much smaller requests with much smaller fees. For the most part, my difficulty is discovering the sheer number of databases in which I exist–and in which I must request changes.

Compare that to this trans teacher in Wisconsin. State employees recently had a policy change instituted seemingly without warning on gender designation changes, and now it has suddenly erected onerous bureaucratic barriers that needlessly involve courts and doctors. Perhaps the most insidious requirement is “proof” of gender change–in this case, surgery.

Remember that the Affordable Care Act prevented discrimination from insurers against trans people, and that the provision was removed by a Trump order. Having had no direction to include trans people within their coverage, the State of Wisconsins’s health insurer reinstated the ban on transition-related surgeries. Now trans people have to pay between $15,000-$25,000 out of pocket to get bottom surgery, assuming they even want it in the first place (which most don’t).

On top of that, after yanking out coverage for surgery, Wisconsin is now implementing a requirement for the surgery they just denied coverage to in order to change your documents. Talk about sadistic!

Before I get to discussing the additional demands ETF is making, let me point out a very broad problem, and that is the idea that agents of the state can change one’s legal status retroactively at any time. Imagine, for example, if the state decided that it wished to make it harder for people to get married, and so it imposed a new requirement–that in order to have a marriage recognized, residents would have to provide DNA evidence proving they and their spouse are not related (an expensive prospect). Then imagine that all married state employees were informed that their status had been reverted to single in employment databases and systems, because they had not complied with the DNA test requirement when documenting their marriages. That’s not the way regulatory changes, mundane or shocking, operate–they are applied going forward, but not retroactively.

Now, as for the new procedures for gender transitioning, there are three requirements listed by ETF. The first is that the employee must notify ETF directly, providing their old and new names, old and new gender markers, ETF ID number, and a declaration that they are gender transitioning. Previously, employees notified HR at their place of employment, and employer HR staff changed the gender marker directly in the benefits system. But now ETF will centralize control over implementing transitions, and maintain a database of gender transitioners. In essence, we are being required to register with the state. As a Jewish person who lost extended family in the Holocaust, I find this extremely creepy.

The second thing trans people are required to do is provide “proof of identity,” such as a driver’s license or military ID showing the new name and gender marker. That’s what we had to do in the past, and my wife and I can easily produce our Wisconsin driver’s licenses showing our names and most correct binary gender markers. But now ETF is demanding more.

We are now being required to produce a third item, “proof of gender.” This is very strange, because a driver’s license already provides state-recognized proof of one’s gender. Requiring more serves no purpose other than to make it harder for people to get their identified genders recognized. And the new “proof of gender” items are difficult and intrusive items to get.

Let’s look at the options. One is a court order of gender change. To get one of these is difficult, expensive, and in many states, like Wisconsin, requires a doctor to testify that one has had surgical sex reassignment. Now, some people cannot have such surgery for medical reasons. Others do not want it–they desire social recognition of their identified genders, not a program of body modifications. And nonbinary gender transitioners often find they are denied access to surgeries. But let me underline that in any case, the very surgeries that ETF is making necessary in order to have one’s transition recognized it has also categorically excluded from insurance coverage. My wife and I have been waiting for years to access some surgical interventions that would make our lives easier on many levels, one of which is being able to access things like a court order of gender change. But we can’t afford them without insurance coverage. It’s a Catch-22, and seems deliberately cruel.

All of this contributes to a very roundabout “unpersonhood” of trans people. The retroactive editing of legitimately modified documents is un-fucking-believable and nothing less than a directed attack against us.

-Shiv

Meet the new Bishop

Same as the old Bishop.

“(Bishop Fred Henry) was a very bold bishop in terms of his statements. I’m sure that he has created controversy. I don’t think it’s for that purpose. I think he wants to be provocative, he wants to sort of allow people to understand the truth that might be at stake in some of these social issues,” said William McGrattan, 60.

Coming from Peterborough, McGrattan will be installed as Calgary’s eighth bishop at a mass Monday at St. Mary’s Cathedral, attended by 30 Canadian bishops, local priests and an expected crowd of about 1,000. He is taking the helm of a diocese that covers 79 parishes and missions, 317 Catholic schools and more than 400,000 parishioners who have been guided by the same faith leader for almost two decades.

Bishop Henry was a polarizing figure. Lauded for his work with the poor and on climate change, his conservative positions on same-sex marriage and gender identity were often at odds with those outside, and sometimes inside, the church. He spoke against students receiving the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine, encouraged the Catholic School District to abandon casinos as fundraisers and closed three aging churches in Lethbridge in favour of a 1,200-seat mega-church. 

Right, so the Catholic church’s previous representative in Calgary was a science denialist piece of shit who openly flouted Alberta’s human rights laws for the entirety of his tenure. And, as we’ve previously discussed, the current government has the unenviable position of discovering the extent of human rights abuses perpetrated by the Catholic church in this province and now has to deal with the prospect of reining them in or joining the Progressive Conservative’s legacy of tolerating the abuses.

None of this is surprising, particularly to Queer Catholic and ex-Catholic Albertans. So meet the new boss, same as the old boss:

“With regard to gay-straight alliance, even that very terminology creates a sense of what I would say not an agenda but is promoting a certain lifestyle. In Ontario, we call that respecting differences so that we allow young people to know there are differences and that we need to respect those without labelling them with those particular terms.”

Perhaps the most controversial issue in Alberta schools of late is the NDP government’s new guidelines to protect the rights of gay and transgender students and teachers.

Although new to the province, McGrattan did not sidestep the issue.

“I have found them to be a little more strident, a little more directive in terms of how they’re trying to promote this particular theory. And I refer back to that terminology. It is gender theory, it’s not truth and therefore I think we begin to organize our society and establish relationships based on a theory.”

“It’s not truth”?

And it makes you hope they’ll think the same thing about gravity, because then maybe they’ll just… float the fuck away.

–Tim Minchin

-Shiv

Torturing kids and tearing families apart, how very Christian of you

I’ve mentioned in passing before on this blag that children’s services and family court often collude to produce a living hell for trans people. We have yet another example of this in Illinois.

The parents of a young trans girl sought out medical care for their child’s type 1 diabetes and epilepsy at a faith-funded clinic called Advocate Hope Children Hospital. While both conditions have been confirmed by experts, the AHCH took it upon themselves to accuse the parents of child abuse because they were affirming their child’s gender. And, once again, it fucking worked–at least so far.

A lawyer representing the family told LGBTQ Nation this all started last month, with the parents trying to get medical help for their daughter, who has type 1 diabetes and epilepsy. Although they agreed to something called a “therapeutic separation,” the attorney confirmed the parents never signed any documents surrendering their parental rights or authorizing any treatment of her gender identity, and in fact have attempted to have her moved to another hospital.

But last week, the Illinois Department of Children and Families reversed an earlier decision to not get involved. DCFS took protective custody of Stevie on Monday, according to the family’s attorney, Rina Infelise. She told LGBTQ Nation in a phone interview Sunday evening that this kind of move requires a legal hearing, and so both the parents and DCFS are due in court this week to face a judge, who will decide Stevie’s fate.

A religious hospital fucking kidnaps a patient, and it’s the parents who are the abusive ones? Are you fucking kidding me?

I just wilt with impotent rage at these circumstances. Time and time again the experts have said that allowing children to explore and express their gender facilitates their health. Time and time again the courts have mandated gender policing despite its iatrogenic effects. When are these fucking dinosaurs in court going to catch the fuck up? How many god damn perfectly health and happy families are they going to torpedo while we wait for reality to sink in to these fuckers?

I hope the parents win their case. It’s days like these where I wish a just god did exist to smite these self-righteous assholes that do this to healthy families. I can’t fucking stand it. It’s scientifically illiterate, morally bankrupt, and all around a giant clusterfuck of wrong.

-Shiv

Institutionalizing gender roles

This topic would be more amusing to cover if it weren’t another example of trans kids having their lives ruined by trans-antagonistic parents.

In an ongoing parental custody dispute two Albertan judges have ordered that the child may not wear “feminine” clothes in public.

No, literally, I’m not making this up. Judges have decided to micromanage what clothes this child can or cannot wear.

What’s happening is the child, assigned male at birth, is questioning their gender. Their mother is supportive, indifferent to how her child chooses to express themselves as long as they are happy. Their father then told the courts that his child’s “gender confusion” was caused by the mother, and his tactic worked. The latest ruling gave primary custody to the father, who I assume is now forcing his child into a male gender role.

Smith and the child’s father are separated and share custody.

Smith says she told the father what had happened and about her decision to support their child. Weeks later he served her with papers seeking primary custody, blaming Smith for the child’s gender confusion and anxiety.

When the two went to family court in Medicine Hat in December, 2015, Judge D.G. Redman kept Smith as primary caregiver, but in his interim order, said the child will not be permitted to wear clearly female clothes in public, but if he chooses, he could do so in private.

Then earlier this year in February, the case went before Judge F.C. Fisher and in his interim order, he again stated the clothing restriction and granted primary custody to the father. Smith was given limited access.

By this past September, the interim clothing order was revised by a third provincial court judge. Judge G.K Krinke said after consulting with a parenting expert, the parents must provide both boy and girl clothing options and the child can then choose from those options.

Thankfully the third judge in this case has the sense to get the father to fuck off and let the kid decide for themselves. Hopefully the kid feels safe enough to persist in doing what they want concerning their gender expression, even if the father doesn’t like it. But that still leaves a nine month period where two judges felt perfectly justified to restrict what clothes a kid could legally wear, and more importantly it seems extremely unlikely the father will allow their child to seek our gender affirmative care in the event they do understand themselves to be transgender.

It cannot be understated how much I loathe it when parents weaponize their kid’s gender variance in custody battles. Dog above the mom better win. Thanks to Bill 7, she can submit a human rights complaint, and has.

-Shiv