Oh, Canada

My Canadian friends, whether you realize it or not, you play an important role in U.S. politics. We lag behind you to a disgusting degree, but we do see your progressive politics, and they do have an effect on us. When you made same-sex marriage legal in 2005, we couldn’t pretend that this was some strange, exotic thing.

You share a border with us. You hardly even talk funny. If you can do things like that and not have disaster follow, it gets harder and harder for us to pretend we can’t.

That’s why I signed a petition yesterday encouraging Canada to pass bill C-279, otherwise known as the Trans Rights Bill.

Bill C-279 seeks to “amend the Canadian Human Rights Act to prohibit discrimination on the grounds of gender identity or gender expression, as well as amending the Criminal Code to include gender identity and gender expression as a recognized group when offences are motivated by bias, prejudice or hate.”

We have some protections in the U.S., but they’re spotty, state by state or municipality by municipality. We need something more solid, and so does Canada. Natalie, as usual, does an excellent job of explaining why:

Real living, breathing Canadians like my friend Sonya. She can’t find work because her identification doesn’t match her presented gender. Her identification doesn’t match her presented gender because she has not yet had lower surgery, required to obtain an updated gender marker on one’s birth certificate. She hasn’t yet had lower surgery because she can’t afford to see a psychiatrist for her required assessment and approval. She can’t afford to see a psychiatrist because she does not have work, and lives on the pittance offered by Quebec’s income assistance. Do you see the problem here? And this is to say nothing of those transgender Canadians who don’t even wish to undergo SRS.

Or real living, breathing Canadians like my friends Catherine and Emily, who have to work tirelessly to sustain struggling independently owned businesses in order to scrape by because nobody will hire them. Or my other friend named Emily who despite her staggering and beautiful intelligence has had her bright academic future derailed by the negative preconceptions that exist even amongst the educated towards those who don’t quite fit into our expectations about gender. Where once she would have been assured an eventual tenure-tracked position, her future now hangs in anxious uncertainty, and her ability to earn (deserved) respect from her peers has been hamstringed by the potential to see her as a “tranny” first, and gifted thinker second. Or real Canadians like Kaitlyn Borgas, once a prominent and rising star chef in the upper class Vancouver restaurant circuit, forced into unemployment and poverty, her once weighted name dragged through the mud and now attended by derisive, snide giggling and hateful gossip, subjected to insensitive and insulting newspaper columns, ending up sending out scores of resumes to jobs for which she was grossly overqualified, only to not even be called in for an interview, as her family struggled to survive. Real Canadians like Saige, a woman I knew from the Vancouver trans community who ended up taking her own life last year due to simply being unable to cope living in such a hostile environment. Real Canadians like Shelby Tracy Tom, murdered in the Downtown Eastside after needing to turn to sex work to survive. Real Canadians like Kimberly Nixon, rejected from her position at Vancouver Rape Relief for being transsexual and therefore not a “real” woman and not able to “understand” the experiences of other women who had experienced rape or sexual assault. Her case against Vancouver Rape Relief was won in a case heard by the human commission , but overturned in appeal, on the grounds that although Vancouver Rape Relief did not dispute rejecting her on the basis of being trans, they were perfectly entitled under the law to do so.

And countless other cases of direct, overt discrimination against Canadians, with real, lasting consequences, all being enabled and approved by the law. A law in our country saying “yes, you are allowed to discriminate against this class of human beings. Go ahead. You have our blessing.”

And real Canadians like myself.

You Canadians reading this can do quite a bit about this bill, which is so far getting no traction. You can talk to your MP (no matter how unreasonable or what kind of reception you get, talking to them matters). You can talk to your friends. You can ask, loudly and insistently, why a bill this important isn’t getting any press. And you can sign that petition, which is languishing with appallingly few votes at the moment. You can make it known that there are voters who strongly support this bill.

Those of you who don’t live in Canada can also sign that petition. You can sign it because you know someone in Canada who wants it to pass (like Crommunist or Jason) or because you know someone it will affect directly (like Natalie). Or you can do the same thing because these rights are important everywhere, or because a uniform rights landscape makes it possible for marginalized people to travel with the same freedom the rest of us experience. These rights may be critical to someone you know (or several someones, in my case). Canada has an excellent chance here to demystify the recognition of these rights, which puts the same rights closer to our grasp.

Whatever your reason, please make some noise about this issue and this bill.

Oh, Canada

4 thoughts on “Oh, Canada

  1. 3

    I sent a letter to my MP. He’s a Tory, and I got a “if you’re not with us you’re against us” feel from him in the election so I’m not too hopeful.

    No response yet, but I only sent it last night.

    For Canadians here, you can find your MP by searching with my postal code here. It will pop up with the MP’s contact info and website.

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