Today, May 17, is the international day against homophobia and transphobia. Great! It is important to draw attention to the fact that many people who fall under the broad LGBTTQ* spectrum face harassment, discrimination and all too often physical violence because of who they are. Lots of organizations are celebrating this, or are they really? Read the rest of this entry »
One of the challenges when discussing my experiences with depression, transition and other aspects of my life with people who do not have similar experiences is that they don’t have the same points of references. Likewise when I hear about the experiences of those living on reserves in poverty and third world conditions I lack a point of reference to truly understand their experiences. I can, however, make the effort to listen to what they are saying.
When we take the time to listen and learn from the experiences of others, especially when they do not share reference points, we expand our own horizons. Actively listening to these experiences will likely be uncomfortable. Once these feelings start we can respond in a number of ways.
First, we can close our ears and try to hide from the feelings and shut down. We don’t listen to what the person is saying and we don’t try to understand or empathise. When we do this we reinforce our view of the person telling the story as ‘the other’ someone that is lessened because they are not part of our community or identity. Once we categorize someone as ‘other’ it is a lot easier to continue to ignore injustice being perpetrated against them.
Second, the response being made can be patronizing. Rather than respecting what the person is saying we respond in a condescending manner. What we are telling the person when we do this is that we either do not believe them or that their experience isn’t valid and doesn’t have value.
Third, we can stay silent and actively listen to what is being said. We can work to empathise with what is being said, even though it may be uncomfortable. This is probably the most difficult response. Empathising with the struggles and plight of other people is not easy and may trigger responses in ourselves that we don’t expect. It is when we listen and work to understand what other people have experienced, even though we haven’t shared that experience, that we expand our own horizons and can then take that knowledge to work with them to help them heal and to help make the world a better place.
One of the more interesting aspects of living in an urban area close to the downtown core is that there are a lot of people around from a range of social, economic and cultural backgrounds. Part of this diversity are those who have been marginalized by society. People who are living on the streets, people who may be prostitutes, addicted to various substances or drugs. In short people that are ignored by the rest of society. So how do we react to them when we see them? How do we react when they come through the doors of the church on a Sunday morning?
When it comes to the person on the street who is panhandling, possibly drunk or on drugs, most people walking by pretend that they do not exist. They are invisible. Others will react in more obvious ways such as crossing to the other side of the street, pointedly looking away. Sometimes even making derogatory comments about the person to those they are walking with or even directly to the person. Most people will avoid eye contact and when asked for change many won’t even acknowledge the request. The reaction when someone who appears to be ‘undesirable’ walks through the door of a church can be even worse.
Last weekend I had the privilige of attending the Trans Health Advocacy Summit in London Ontario. The summit brought together trans people and allies from across the province to discuss advocacy and health for trans people. The weekend was quite full and covered many topics.
Part of the weekend was spent with the people in each region getting together in small groups to discuss what the situation is across the province. Most of the activity, which probably isn’t a surprise to many, is happening in Toronto.
What particularly struck me is how much of the work being done, particularly in areas of advocacy and support is being done in isolation. We keep reinventing the wheel rather than finding out what others are doing and adapting it to meet current needs.t Part of the reason for this is lack of good communication. People in the different regions across Ontario don’t know what is being done elsewhere. Within the regions communication within the ‘trans community’ is often lacking with a number of different groups each doing their own thing. Another part of the problem is that we are not a cohesive community. We have different groups each doing their own thing, interpersonal conflicts, and rivalries and conflicts between groups.
Moving forward we – those of us in the ‘trans community’ – have the challenge of overcoming the differences that divide us and instead work to find common ground and share resources, avoid reinventing the wheel, and working towards improving the situation for trans people across the province.
With Pride events happening all over North America and overseas through the summer a question comes up in some quarters, “What is Pride?” Last night on Google Plus we had the first Plus Pride public hangout to discuss Pride, what it is, and why it’s important. To see comments posted by those watching visit What is Pride
Updated 2012-06-21 14:25 This list contains current actions in the push for trans equality in Canada. I do not claim this to be a comprehensive list of current action and welcome submissions of other activity that is going on in Canada.
If you know of current actions please add to the comments or contact me directly via Facebook or Google+
Recently Xtra published an article / opinion piece by Rob Salerno called “Another take on the ‘trans rights’ bill RIGHTS / Does insisting on enumeration actually reduce trans peoples’ civil rights?”. Xtra also published an excellent response by Christin Malloy, “Toby’s Act is more than symbolic”. I recommend you read both articles. As I was thinking about the article by Rob Salerno something was bothering me that went beyond the main argument. The problem? Rob Salermo sounds a lot like Conservative MPP Randy Hillier when he wrote about Ontario’s Bill C-13, the anti-bulying legislation currently before the province that was introduced by the Liberals.
Salerno states, in a paragraph of its own:
But it’s unclear if the bill will actually help trans people. On the contrary, it seems the ongoing debate is doing more harm than good.
This sounds a lot like Hillier:
However, this policy will have dire consequences for those it is intended to benefit.
The last thing a vulnerable child needs is more differentiation from others in the schoolyard. The result will be nothing less than painting a bull’s eye or target on their backs.
From my perspective Rob Salermo is coming across less like an ally, but more like those who are anti-trans. How would Salermo respond if the argument was that sexual orientation should not be added in to the Ontario Human Rights act because the Ontario Human Rights Commission already considers homosexual people to be protected under the existing human rights legislation. This is, of course, a hypothetical example. The Ontario Human Rights Code does include sexual orientation as an explicit group to be protected.
All we are asking is to be treated equally under the law, not treated equally if we file a complaint and the person hearing the case decides to go along with established case law.
Update: This information has also been moved to a post that will always be on the main page of this blog.
I haven’t blogged much over the past month and a half or possibly a bit longer. Life got in the way, plus being ill on and off throughout with a couple of different bugs that were making the rounds.
With all the media attention over the past few weeks around Transport Canada’s regulations that state someone who doesn’t look like the gender in their ID is not permitted to fly I thought I’d take a look at where things stand with regards to transsexual and transgender rights in Canada.
Federally we have seen the spotlight shine on Transport Canada’s regulation. There have been a number of articles and blog posts about it. One result of this regulation being put in the spotlight is that it highlights the problems that someone who transitions has in terms of having identification that reflects who they are. The importance of having a sex marker on one’s identification that matches what one looks like is much more important.
The suicide of Jamie Hubley in October was a rude awakening for the people of Ontario. His suicide after suffering from depression and being bullied in school for being gay was a shock. This doesn’t happen in Ontario, especially in a city like Ottawa. In response the Liberal party, current governing party in Ontario, proposed Bill 13 and put it before the legislature. The Conservatives didn’t like this legislation and proposed their own, Bill 14. Conservative MPP Randy Hillier has been particularly vocal about it with an opinion piece in the Ottawa Citizen that was also posted on his web site. Mr. Hillier suggests that many who support Bill 13 (the one from the government) have not read the legislation. I have. I have also read Bill 14 put forward by Elizabeth Witmer of the Progressive Conservatives. In this post I am looking at the two pieces of legislation as well as Mr. Hillier’s post about it. Read the rest of this entry »
Thanks to Anne’s comment on my post Identification, Sex Marker and Passport Canada I found out about their request for feedback with regards to new fees being proposed with the introduction of e-passports. I read through their proposal and sent a response:
To whom it may concern,
My name is Talia Johnson and I have some concerns about the new ePassport fees, in particular how they impact transsexual people who are in transition and currently are only permitted a two year passport.
Under Passport Canada’s current policies we are only allowed to get a two year passport that cannot be extended. this means that we will be paying $60 per year when the consular fees are included, whereas those who are able to obtain a full ten year passport will only be paying $16 per year.
If these changes take place without changes to the current discriminatory policies of Passport Canada those people who have transitioned, but are unable to have surgery, or are facing delays in having surgery will be facing discrimination to an even greater degree.
This week I received a reply from them that did not address the concern at all, passed the blame to another part of Passport Canada and was, in my opinion, rather insulting and dismissive:
Thank you for your correspondence.
As the issue you raise in your letter is related to entitlement policies, we have transferred your correspondence to the appropriate group. Someone from that group will get back to you soon.
Should you have additional input, please do not hesitate to contact us again.
I have not received a response from the group that he mentioned in this email, but it has been only a couple of business days at this point. Realistically I do not expect a response from them until January.
I am also composing a response to the email.
This is another example of why Bill C279 is so important. Rights for Transsexuals and Transgender people must be added to the human rights code. Once the protections are implemented in law getting policies changed will be easier, and challenges under the Canadian Human Rights Act will have a better chance at succeeding.
Bill C279 is currently awaiting second reading in the House of Commons.