It’s the actual Pride Parade today, although in my city “Pride” is about a week and a half long and includes all kinds of Queer events, not just the parade.
I do one of these each year, although this is the first time I’ve had a platform like FtB to do it on.
So, discrimination is bad, right? Most people will pay lip service to that idea. Discrimination bad. *nods along*
But what does discrimination look like?
Generally speaking, discrimination occurs in three areas: individually, institutionally, and structurally.
If you live in Canada, you’ve probably heard of Bill C-16, which in recent memory is the government’s second attempt to explicitly protect trans rights at the federal level (thereby obligating the provinces to follow suit). That means discrimination’s over!!
…Except, not really. First of all, the Bill hasn’t passed yet. The Senate is still stacked with Conservatives, including Don Plett, who was responsible for killing the last Bill. Even if it passes in Parliament, it still has to go through them before it goes to the Queen for
rubber stamping Royal Assent.
Second, those pesky levels of discrimination come into play anytime a minority’s rights become enshrined in law. Institutional discrimination, where minority rights are either omitted, unaddressed, or actively antagonized, is what ends when a government declares that this is unacceptable and follows through with changes in its own policy.
And if everyone subscribed to their various institutions flawlessly and without question, that would be the end of discrimination. However, there’s still structural discrimination (where minorities receive unintentional fallout as a result of a law that never had them in mind) and also personal discrimination.
Thirdly, just because something is illegal, doesn’t mean it never happens.
Unfortunately, there are many sectors of life where opportunities for personal discrimination can occur. An employer can still secretly dismiss a candidate for being trans, as long as they pay lip service to something about merit. A landlord can still evict a tenant for being trans, as long as they find some slight to exaggerate as a violation of the tenancy agreement. A teen can still lose their home if their parents decide to kick them out. People legitimately feel justified in murdering trans women in what would otherwise be recognized as barbaric “honour killing.” That murder has always been a crime and, with Bill C-16, a hate crime, is small consolation to my deceased sisters and brothers.
Sixty-three percent (63%) of our participants experienced serious acts of discrimination—events that would have a major impact on a person’s quality of life and ability to sustain themselves financially or emotionally. Participants reported that they had faced:
- Loss of job due to bias
- Eviction due to bias
- School bullying/harassment so bad the respondent had to drop out
- Teacher bullying
- Physical assault due to bias
- Sexual assault due to bias
- Homelessness because of gender identity/expression
- Loss of relationship with partner or children due to gender identity/expression
- Denial of medical service due to bias
- Incarceration due to gender identity/expression
“Despite being very well educated, we found that trans people have a median income of $15,000* a year,” she said.
*$15,000 CDN/year. To put that in perspective, the general population for non-family adults had a median income of $23,000 CDN/year in 2013.
You know which ones I’ve endured? School bullying, loss of job and sexual assault. I couldn’t get the latter prosecuted as a regular crime, never mind a hate crime, so Bill C-16 offers me no vindication on that front. As for the loss of job, it’s laughably easy for an employer to exaggerate the faults of an employee and fire them under the pretense of performance. Or not hire them in the first place for the same reason.
Change isn’t going to occur until people start changing their minds about the trans community, until they understand the needs unique to our lived experiences, until they understand the poison that informs so much of our discrimination on a personal level. People need to acknowledge and yes–check–their privilege, because without doing so explicitly they will find their opinions to be subconsciously informed by prejudice. Some of these people will have institutional power over me. Some of them will know to pay lip service to the areas (skill, merit) where it’s legal to discriminate. Those people will not have their mind changed by Bill C-16 alone.
So, this year? I need Pride because the people opposing Bill C-16 are trying to paint me as a predator despite the fact that I’m several orders of magnitude more likely to be a victim at cis hands than their cis, gender conforming girls. I need Pride because there are wiseguys picking up on the cues offered up by the likes of Governor McCrory and bringing that bullshit here. I need Pride because trans activists are being assassinated, whose murderers are treated to judicial slaps on the wrist, whose deaths broadcast a message: “you are more expendable than a man’s so-called honour.”
Most of all, I need Pride because there are a lot of people, including ones in Pride, who don’t seem to give a shit about these problems. The cis gays might be ready to just throw a massive week-long party, but I’ve still got swords to sharpen and battles to fight. I can celebrate that Bill C-16 has been introduced while also acknowledging that it has a long way to go before becoming law, and even if it passes, that informal social change is still necessary for integrating trans people into broader society.
That’s why me and my conditioned booties need Pride this year.