Bill C-16 passes second reading

Bill C-16 hit Parliament for the second time and was passed 248-40, now proceeding along to the next step of Canadian law resolution. All 40 votes against were from the Conservative party.

A bill meant to enshrine the rights of transgender people by adding gender identity and expression to human rights and hate crime laws is heading to the justice committee.

The House of Commons voted by a margin of 248 to 40 to pass the legislation, known as Bill C-16, at second reading.

Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould and New Democrat MP Nathan Cullen – political rivals who have found common ground on the issue of trans rights – hugged each other on the floor of the House after the vote.

The legislation would, if passed, make it illegal under the Canadian Human Rights Act to deny someone a job – or otherwise discriminate against them in the workplace – on the basis of they gender they identify with or outwardly express.

It would also amend the Criminal Code so that gender identity and expression would be included in hate speech laws.

The bill will ultimately have to get through the Senate, where an earlier private member’s bill put forward by NDP MP Randall Garrison was gutted and died when the 2015 election was called.

While I am glad that we may finally have some legal recourse when we are discriminated against, it is still worth noting that it is mostly accessible to those trans people who already had some privileges in other ways. We still have an ongoing crisis for health, housing, and violent crime especially among trans women of colour, and I stress that this is meant to be the first–not the last–step to empower trans folk.

Assuming the Senate doesn’t gut it, again.


I wish this was easy to answer

Content Notice: Discussing bi erasure, intersex erasure, street harassment

*twitch twitch*

This is a splendid example of why trans feminists often struggle to be succinct. There are layers to this question and follow-up statement. I’m not really interested in razzing on trans women who aren’t academic or more generally feminists, simply because we as a demographic are a lot less able to access academia. But I am going to make an honest attempt to address the question and statement, because there’s a lot that makes my eyebrow twitch here.

1) Nobody calls gay people “straight to gay”

…Except that they do. Any time a bi+ individual engages in a hetero-passing relationship after having been in a same gender relationship, it is often assumed–even by other stripes in the rainbow–that the person has “gone straight,” the assumption being they were “gay.” People really do suck at wrapping their head around polysexual identities. It is worth noting that fixed notions of sexual orientation have certainly contributed to the discourse around gay rights by framing it as an immutable human characteristic, but in so doing the same discourse refuses to acknowledge the fluidity of other identities. Someone like me specifically identifies as Queer in part because of its political association with fluidity.

This is also to say nothing of the fact that the reason closets exist is because people assume you’re straight until you tell them otherwise. In a sense, coming out is going from straight to gay, at least in the perception of others. So, you know, this is a thing.

2) So why do people call trans females “male to female”?

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Transition Reactions p7: Feeling unsafe vs. Being unsafe

Content Notice: Abuse and violence of all stripes.


I haven’t had a great year, so far. I left an abusive relationship in which I was sexually assaulted, and my vindication (snark) was to lose my chosen family because I spoke out about it. I had all the sting of family rejection–plus a generous helping of self blame. After all, I chose them. I don’t even have the excuse that they were thrust upon me by circumstance. I trusted them, and was rewarded with cold shoulders, victim-blaming, “taking no side”ism, etc. I had trusted friends tell me they believed my story and then… nothing. My abuser was still welcome at every venue we shared. “No drama” became the watchword. Shouting me down was the response any time murmurs of coming forward surfaced. That’s what my reputation became: dramatic, a ticking time bomb. Unreliable. Untrustworthy. Don’t play with her, she’ll malign you over a silly mistake (a “silly mistake” that has landed me in trauma counselling). Soon the rumours make a round trip through all the lovely cogs of rape culture and I get the freeze for “spreading rumours.”

Trying to grapple with that and the fallout of leaving an abusive relationship, including the PTSD?

Yeah. 2016–worst year of my life. And it’s not even over.

During all that I lost gainful employment, just as the economy started to really tank. What was painful about that was that it was a work place where I could be openly trans. I swore off the private sector after routinely being told to endure abuses from my coworkers. My boss basically said it was on me to go back in the closet if I wanted the workplace harassment to stop. Government employers actually did something about it, when it happened. And non-profit? I’ve never had a problem with a bigoted coworker. After all you don’t get far working for crisis resources by being an insensitive asshole. Emotional intelligence is a prerequisite.

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Signal boosting: A Guide for Understanding Transgender Children Debates

A brief preamble before I give you today’s recommended reading material.

Julia Serano–yes, that Julia Serano–penned a piece on Medium called Detransition, Desistance, and Disinformation: A Guide for Understanding Transgender Children Debates. Before I give an endorsement of her piece, I’ll reiterate a few important points for you to consider as a presumably trans ally:

The first is that because Serano is discussing transphobic “debate” tropes in the media, she is using the same rhetorical technique that I frequently use–she is accepting the premise of her opponent’s argument in order to demonstrate that the reasoning itself is flawed. The premise that she argues from is rather unsettling, and it has been pointed out to me by self-identifying cisgender gender non conformists (whew, that’s a mouthful) that classifying gender nonconformity per se as trans has unsettling applications for Othering children with uncommon gendered interests. In addition, she accepts another premise–that it’s necessary to separate those who seek medical intervention in their transition from those who don’t–only for the sake of argument. She tears that premise apart later on in the article, but it could be distressing to see someone try to argue by accepting that point, even if it’s to demonstrate why it’s problematic to believe.

The second is that Serano does take time to point out why it’s a superbly bad idea to conflate GNC with trans, but that comes after she tries using the premise in an argument. So please don’t panic–a highly influential trans feminist hasn’t gone full TERF, she’s just demonstrating how misinformed these debate tropes are and how they’re not even internally consistent.

The third is that I have a largely semantic disagreement with Serano on her use of the word transphobia. She recognizes that deliberate actions manifesting an anti-trans bias could easily be called transphobia, but then uses the same word to describe things like “the assumption that cis identities are valid while trans are not.” I preferably delineate this with the term cissexism to differentiate it from actions. “Cissexist beliefs inform transphobic actions. All people are cissexist, however we can interrogate that prejudice and reduce the likelihood we manifest transphobia.” Serano does not subscribe to this model. Cissexist is a word that shows up at no point, despite describing multiple instances where the word popped in my brain.

C’est la vie. This does not take away from Serano’s fantastic work.

Anyways, the intro to her post:

But lately, as transgender people have become more visible and have garnered increasing media scrutiny, trans-unaware politicians, pundits, and journalists have suddenly swooped in to weigh in on these important issues — issues that (conveniently) they themselves are not personally invested in. Some of these people have very clear anti-trans agendas. Others are (perhaps well-meaning) interlopers who believe that by simply reading a few research papers and interviewing a few people here and there, they can acquire an “objective understanding” about this complex subject that spans a half-century of history. And sadly, they often center their op-eds and think-pieces on an especially vulnerable segment of our community: transgender children.

You’ve probably seen some of these articles. They raise concerns about “80% desistance,” and offer examples of trans people who have since “detransitioned,” and they will leave you with the impression that trans health practitioners are engaging in some kind of reckless sociological experiment. Whenever transgender people object to these misrepresentations or the old gatekeeper ideologies, these pundits and journalists will decry “transgender activists are attacking science!” without ever acknowledging the countless trans advocates, researchers, and health providers who actually agree with us on many of these matters.

Rather than write a short pithy critique or rebuttal of the latest “children are at risk!” or “activists are out of hand!” article-du-jour, I decided to write this lengthy nuanced piece. It is intended to be a step-by-step guide for anyone interested, one that fills in all the holes, reads between the lines, and unpacks the many assumptions that riddle the typical op-ed or think-piece about transgender children.

Many of the aforementioned problems begin with an over-simplification of either trans terminology and/or the breadth of transgender experiences, so that is where this guide will begin. I will also provide necessary background regarding gender transition in adults before addressing the more controversial topic of transgender children.

Go check it out. (Don’t read the comments).


Academic transphobia and The Media: The persistence of the “activists vs science” false dichotomy

Content Notice: Transphobia

Introduction to the False Dichotomy of Scientist or Activist

The rise of visibility of transgender people correlates with an increase in the sheer and committed dishonesty of many media outlets any time they cover trans issues. There are the usual suspects: budding radfem academics penning unsubstantiated diatribes riddled with fallacies; established academics angrily penning burning letters to the editor any time their pet pseudoscience is called out for being pseudoscience; religious fundamentalists who can’t decide if they’re sticking to noninformation or disinformation; and the many ignorant journalists caught in between this shitstorm. Many of these trans-antagonistic figures are represented by said ignorant journalists as “martyrs for an inconvenient truth,” where trans-affirmative opponents to these figures are engaging in “pointless witch hunts” that result in these brave champions being “suddenly and unceremoniously fired” while repudiating Real Science™.

Jesse Singal is at the centre of this “activist versus Real Science™” narrative by implying both that activists were the ones that had Galileo’s Middle Finger pulled from Lambda and that said activists are uninterested in “truth, accuracy, or fairness in argument,” having shared on Twitter:

“Lambda Literary has withdrawn Alice Dreger’s book from consideration for its nonfiction literary award. The (very strongly) implied message here is that you can’t be an advocate for social justice and care about the principles of truth, accuracy, and fairness in argument.”

He also penned an article about Dr. Zucker, a notorious conversion “therapy” advocate who was finally discredited and shut down in Ontario after decades of abusing gender nonconforming kids. In this piece, Singal pushes the narrative that anti-science activists are at fault for the clinic’s closure: (emphasis mine)

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Transition Reactions p5: Feelings

Starting with the usual disclaimer: Transition Reactions is a mostly anecdotal series covering the weird shit people say to me when they find out I’m trans, please do not take this as a monolithic commentary on gender variance in general.

There are a few tropes that are quite stubborn in the trans community, and perhaps the most determined of these is the notion of being overwhelmed with emotions when transfeminine folks start estrogen or get a boost in their estrogen dose.


Hormones occasionally take an almost religious role in parts of the trans community. It’s difficult to dispute their effects on physiology. For transfems, skin becomes softer, hair becomes lighter, beards grow a lot slower, fat moves from your tummy to your hips, muscle doesn’t bulk as quickly, your breasts grow, your skeleton over decades will tweak your profile, etc. These changes are easy to observe, and in many cases are even theoretically measurable. These changes are sometimes enough to alleviate dysphoria in some trans women. They’re important changes.

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“Sex and gender are dials,” offers Psychology Today, citing multiple discredited researchers

Psychology Today attempted to step into the complex world of sex & gender diversity and it’s a flaming hot mess. It’s a pretty lengthy read (although it at least has citations), and it will take me quite a few writing sessions to get through it all.

So I’ll probably do another series, the same way I’m doing with CBS right now. Because it’s a lengthy read, I wanted to introduce folks to the article and get them reading along with me in bite size chunks.

The author, Dr. David P Schmitt, makes his foray into GSD with an okay start.

It has become more and more common for young people around the world to describe themselves not as a “man” or a “woman,” but as “something else.” One term for this something else is transgender. Transgender is an umbrella term for a wide variety of different identities (e.g., genderqueer, gender variant, gender fluid, gender non-conforming, hyper-feminine gay man, asexual, etc.). The common core of transgender identities is they don’t fit within traditional cisgender binaries of men versus women (“cisgender” refers to people whose sexual and gendered identities align in typical ways).

At face value, there’s nothing overly contentious concerning Dr. Schmitt’s representation of GSD theory. Of course, the first citation for transgender leads to an article with a number of follow-up readings. One of those readings performs the faux pas of using “transgenderism,” rather than something less gross like “gender variance,” to describe the concept of  non-normative genders.

This is a particularly uncomfortable phrasing of the concept, because it frames gender variance as an ideology, an -ism, when it simply broadly represents personal narratives that are mostly contrary to normative gender. In other words, I feel it can contribute to this notion that a personal decision to transition somehow has political implications for other people in the way that identifying as a feminist or capitalist does. This belief of gender variance as an ideology mischaracterizes gender variance as something besides a purely personal experience. It would be like arguing that contraction of cancer is a political statement and calling cancer survivors cancerists.

The second citation is the American Psychiatric Association, which has a less bad page, I guess.

Schmitt moves on:

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HIV+ Trans women speak out

We are Greater Than AIDS has released a campaign sharing the stories of HIV+ trans women. The videos are only a couple minutes a piece, and I strongly encourage you to check them out. Also give them a quick like on YouTube, because haters gonna hate:

As Caine has pointed out before in their post Face Time Works, hardline prejudice against trans women by complete strangers drops significantly after having an ordinary, every day conversation with one of us. So please, share these videos and put faces to the concept.


Edited a couple typos.

Canadian Blood Services p3: You’re like, halfway there

As part of an ongoing series investigating the research CBS claims to have in support of their new policy, you can follow the progress of my communications with related parties here (list updates with every new related post):

  1. One Step Forward, Two Steps Back
  2. That’s Not The Question I Asked
  3. You’re Like, Halfway There


Canadian Blood Services has now posted an information page specific to trans folk, which is an improvement over inserting us as a foot note under the “men who have sex with men” policy. You can check it out here. There’s a few pieces I will draw your attention to.

The first:

We are also working on updating our computer system so that donated blood components can be processed to reduce the risk of transfusion-related acute lung injury (TRALI) without donors having to be identified as female.

Credit where credit is due, I suppose. As aggravating as CBS’ announcement has been, it’s still progress to acknowledge that trans men generally don’t want to be called women. TRALI is an elevated risk in blood from people who have at some point been pregnant. Under a cissexist system, this means any women who have been pregnant have their blood flagged for additional screening–this policy appears to redress the fact that trans men can also have pregnancy somewhere in their history, which still justifies flagging their donations as a TRALI risk, but without forcing trans men to suffer the indignity of misgendering in order to donate. As I observed previously, the correct risk factor is “has been pregnant,” not “was assigned female at birth.”

Things still crash and burn elsewhere, even if this policy is a good start.


The second:

Canadian Blood Services is dedicated to providing the safest possible blood to transfusion recipients. Donor criteria that affect recipient safety should be based on available scientific evidence. And, these criteria must be approved by Health Canada, our regulator.

I’ll also draw your attention to the word “available.”

There is little information available on the safety of subgroups of trans* individuals and blood donation.

That’s practically an admission they drafted policy this policy without accurate data.

There is very little information available on the risk of HIV in trans* individuals in Canada, as they are not included in a separate risk category by the Public Health Agency of Canada in their annual reports of HIV and AIDS in Canada.

You don’t say.

However, in a review of available studies,

The same ones that lump sex workers and needle-sharers in the same risk category as monogamous MSMs?

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Signal boosting: The science of misgendering

Over on Zinnia Jones’ trans issues website, Gender Analysis, an interesting perspective was brought to my attention considering the phenomenon of misgendering and gender perception:

It’s common nowadays to hear someone make the apparent concession that, for instance, a transgender woman should be allowed to use women’s restrooms – provided she “looks like a woman”. This standard has been advanced by opinionated cis people ranging fromJoey Salads to Peter Sprigg, a spokesman with the Family Research Council.

At first glance, this seems like an intuitive idea. It would supposedly minimize any disruptions, and many trans people do voluntarily choose which bathroom to use based on their current gender presentation. But this expectation could never function as a consistently applicable standard in practice, because it relies on false assumptions about how individuals perceive gender. In everyday life, interactions between the expression and interpretation of gender are so diverse that whether someone “looks like a woman” isn’t always entirely predictable.

This naïve model of gender perception treats gender as a property emitted from an individual, with all others as passive receivers who simply accept this expression at face value. Yet this is precisely backwards – expressions of gender are not objective and singular; they are subjective, interpretative, and multiple. The same trans person, on the same day, with exactly the same appearance, can still have their gender read entirely differently depending on who’s looking at them. Why does this happen?

At least in part, it’s because many of the variables involved here aren’t located within the one person being observed, but rather the multiple people observing them. Research on gender perception has provided extensive evidence that there is a wide array of factors which can influence how each person will see and interpret someone’s gender or the gendered features of their appearance.

When I’ve discussed the question of whether a trans person should disclose their gender history before entering an intimate relationship, many commenters have claimed that this probably isn’t an issue for me because, to them, I’m immediately visible as a trans woman regardless.

Yet when I later posted a video showing that using women’s restrooms is something I do without causing any disruption or alarm, I was repeatedly told by others that this proved nothing because I “look like a woman”. My own real experience as an actual trans woman was dismissed as irrelevant for the specific reason that I did not look like a cis person’s imagined stereotype of a trans woman.

Allow me to repeat this message for the public good:

My own real experience as an actual trans woman was dismissed as irrelevant for the specific reason that I did not look like a cis person’s imagined stereotype of a trans woman.

I may touch on this in greater detail later, but this, right here, is precisely why cis people can scream from the fucking mountaintops until they faint: I will not give a single fuck about their opinion on gender variance as long as they do not possess institutional authority over me.