Since my post on Wednesday, June 24, Please Hold, Your Medical Transition is Important to Us, the Globe and Mail has reported that “Ontario to expand access to publicly insured sex reassignment surgery” The article has very few details as to a timeline and what the new regulations will say. The article also states that “[t]he government is not planning a formal announcement” about the changes. The article also points out that there will be a review of the regulations in order to find “the best way to increase access beyond CAMH.” To my mind this raises more questions than it answers. What will the new regulations look like? How well will they follow the WPATH Standards of Care (SOC)? Another question that notably was not answered was the question of WHEN the new regulations will be put in place. What is the consultation process that will take place with regard to this increase in access?
With the increasing visibility of trans people in the media recently there has been a renewed focus on the status of health care for those seeking a medical transition in Ontario. Specifically, the focus is on the process one has to go through in Ontario to access the various surgeries that one may need when medically transitioning. Under the current benefits schedule requires one to be assessed and gain the approval from the Center for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) Adult Gender Identity Clinic in Toronto. There are no other providers in the province who are allowed to perform this assessment and make the appropriate referrals and funding requests. What does this mean for trans people? A very long wait for needed surgeries. What does this wait look like, and how long is it really?
This is the process in Ontario:
This afternoon as I was walking in The Glebe with my housemate we witnessed what was, apparently, a young man being verbally and physically abusive towards a young female. My estimate at initial look was late teens or early twenties. Both of us stopped and observed what was going on. Being familiar with the stats of how often people respond me instinct was to respond and intervene. At the same time I was aware that as a trans woman I would also be placing myself in a vulnerable position. Further, my housemate has a disability and walks with a crutch, also a vulnerable position. There were two other people present, one of whom seemed to be about to intervene and one was about to call 911.
While observing the two young people were moving away and were half way down the block, but it seemed that the abusive behaviour was escalating. I was not able to run after them, slippery sidewalks and a knee that has arthritis in it does not make for safe running on ice. My response was one of decisive action using one tool at my disposal that tends to work well, my voice. I projected at full volume and dropped my register a bit saying, “Hey you, stop right now!” At that point the male did stop his abusive behaviour and turned towards me. At first I wondered if he was going to come after me. What transpired was not quite what I expected.
A number of years ago I took the Dale Carnegie course on human relations and one of the “golden rules” taught is “Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” This is an interesting rule, and for the most people it is true. For many of us, however, the name we were given at birth may not be the sweetest sound. While I know this from the perspective of a trans person, there are many reasons why someone may not feel that the name they were given at birth is the sweetest sound. Many people change their names for reasons other than transition. My experience talking to people is that when they do choose a new name, for whatever reason, it is so that their name matches who they are as a person and reflects their journey in life.
Since my epiphany, transition and my coming out as a woman who is also trans I have been following, and I have been involved in various levels of activism. One of the areas of activism that I find particularly poignant and important centers around oppression and the intersectionalities of oppression. I also tend to get rather irked when I see situations of injustice, which usually involve people who are oppressed in some way. With a number of Pride events taking place around the world through the month of June issues around oppression within LGBTQ ‘communities’ have occasionally been raised. The issues that get raised center around issues of poverty, race, and transmisogyny – usually, but not exclusively, directed against trans women of color – in LGBTQ communities. When these issues are raised, the responses by those in privileged positions often takes the form of gaslighting, erasure and dismissal of concerns without any real hearing.
Reflecting on these through the various lenses with which I view the world I have noticed that these systemic oppressions tend to follow that of the ‘straight’ patriarchal world. Those who are masculine, particularly cis male and masculine, are privileged over those who are female or feminine. Those who are white are privileged over people of colour, those who follow gender norms and / or are cisgender are privileged over those who are not, and those with money are privileged over those of us who are struggling to get by. As one friend posted when some of these issues were pointed out with regard to how Pride events tend to be organized the response is commonly, “please don’t talk about these things, we just want to party and never talk about the problems that many LGBTQ people still face.” Once Pride events are over many, if not most, of those in privileged positions then go back to their normative lives that fit in nicely with mainstream society and still want us to be quiet about the injustices we face. We only need to look at how many, if not the majority, of mainstream articles refer to LGBT stories, either we’re all lumped under the “Gay” umbrella (for example blogs about trans issues under the “Gay Voices” section on Huffington Post), or those who are not Gay or Lesbian are not part of what is categorized as an “LGBT” story.
When I’m asked for a biography of myself there is always the question of how I want to identify, a woman, a trans woman, a transgender woman, and the list goes on. In the most recent version of the self identification portion of my biography I state that I am “a woman who is also trans.” I do this knowing that it is an unusual way to self identify, the two most common self identifications for those on the transfeminine spectrum that I have seen lately are “trans woman” or “transgender woman.” So why this way of putting it, after all, it might confuse people. I describe myself this way because I am more than the trans part of my identity. In terms of my gender identity I am female, a woman, and a rather femme woman at that. I also happen to be trans, have a trans history. There is also more to my identity beyond the trans aspect. All too often people think that if one is trans, and especially those of us who are also activists on trans issues, that being trans or transgender is the entirety of our existence. There is an implication that being trans rules all aspects of our lives. I am more than the trans part of my identity.
Across North America we are seeing a general move toward marriage equality. Canada has had it for almost ten years, various states within the United States of America have either passed legislation or their laws against equal marriage have been struck down by the courts. On the religious side there are a number of Christian and … Read more
One of the more interesting things I found when I started my transition and investigating the various ways one can transition was the predominance of one way of looking at transition. The expectation of both the medical professionals and from a large percentage of the trans community is that it’s like following a roadmap. One just has to follow all the steps and one will have transitioned and be a whole person. For some, yes, their transition does follow a relatively straight path. The expectation from others in the trans community often follows this same pattern and many people say that one can set a hard and fast timeline. In reality transition is not so simple. As Kat “Kyosuke” Callahan stated in a recent post on Jezebel, “Transition doesn’t come with a fucking GPS.”1 Yet the pressure is that there is this GPS that one is supposed to follow or one is accused of “doing it wrong.” Critisism that one is doing it wrong comes from multiple sources, psychologists, medical doctors, psychiatrists, other trans people and cis people to name a few. All think that they know better than the individual trans person what the person’s transition or non-transition should look like.
This week we saw, in all its painful glory, the arrest of Justin Bieber. As is the nature of the Internet a number of memes and jokes quickly started making the rounds. One of the most troubling to me is one that shows Bieber side by side with Miley Cyrus. The implication being that they may be the same person, or that it would be funny if Bieber was trans. Once more trans women are made out to be jokes. On the surface one might be tempted to say, “well, it’s only a joke.” The problem is that it is not a joke. It is one more microaggression that adds to the very real challenges and microaggessions that trans women deal with on a daily basis. The giggles or laughter at a trans woman who doesn’t meet what society expect women to be, or all thy can see is “a man in a dress”. These ideas are entrenched in popular culture.
Trigger Warning – Discussion of Suicide.
I haven’t been posting or spending much time at all on social media or blogging lately. In large part this has been a self-care move with the start of the Winter school term, other things going on in my personal life, and also a lack of energy for social media.
Early in the week I also saw a post about another trans person who took their own life. I suspected the person was someone I was acquainted with. I had this confirmed late on Thursday.
I pray that Amanda has found peace and that her suffering has ended. I also pray for those whom her life has touched and are hurting at this time.
I know some of the particulars and issues that led to her taking her own life, but will not go into them at this time. The issues are too important for me to write about before finding out more information and putting a lot of thoughtful consideration on how to frame things. They do need to be discussed, and not just by those in trans communities.