Monday February 14, 2011
Fear and loathing still alive and well
Submitted by Shannon Blatt, Lawyer
ranssexual and transgender ("trans") people often face shockingly high levels of discrimination and harassment in employment, housing, contracting and access to services. Trans people are also sometimes subjected to hate-based and brutal violence specifically because of their gender identity or gender expression.
Accordingly, Bill C-389 has two purposes: 1) To make existing human rights protections for transgender and transsexual individuals explicit, thereby providing equal protection of the law, and 2) calling for courts to examine moral and legal sanction for crimes motivated by hatred based on gender identity or gender expression, so that violence in these instances is less likely to be regarded as reasonable or inconsequential.
Prior to it's passage on February 9, 2011, media coverage of Bill C-389, An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code (gender identity and gender expression) was sparse. Some individuals had received attention purportedly representing the "other" side of the debate by suggesting that this bill will enable washroom predators.
Yet trans people have used washrooms consistent with their presentation for decades, and over 130 jurisdictions in North America have trans protections in law (some as far back as 1975 --
http://www.transgenderlaw.org/ndlaws/index.htm#jurisdictions). In all of these instances, there has not been any reported incident, much less the rash of assaults envisioned by these individuals. Further, illegal and inappropriate behaviour in public spaces remains illegal and inappropriate.
The "bathroom bill" argument is entirely spurious, and a mischaracterization of the aims and effects of Bill C-389, intended to stir up fear and prejudice -- exactly illustrating the need for clearly-stated legal inclusion.
Bill C-389 makes existing protections explicit for an often disadvantaged group based upon the personal characteristic that their gender identity or gender expression does not match gender expectations for their sex assigned at birth. This includes, but is not limited to transsexual, transgender, and gender non-conforming Canadians.
Transsexual and transgender people come from all walks of life, and seem invisible because many simply wish to assimilate in society, which we understand makes it difficult for people to learn our stories. We are concerned that because of this lack of visibility of trans people, more
attention has been given to myths than actual trans experiences. As informed trans Canadians, we are available to discuss those experiences, and how Bill C-389 is beneficial, in greater breadth and depth. We would be happy to offer our stories and insights, in order to facilitate a greater understanding of this issue.
For more information visit Shannon's Facebook page here.
Shannon Blatt is an American Attourney based in Arkansas.
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