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By: Ruchika Gothoskar

In 2013, the House passed Bill C-279, which seeks to add gender identity to the Canadian Human Rights Act. The bill is set to go to third reading in Senate and has yet to become law. However, a new amendment to the bill creates a divide between transgender folks who have had a surgical sex change, and those who haven’t.

It is noted that, “the legislation will not apply to ‘sex-specific’ federal facilities like women’s shelters, bathrooms, locker rooms and prisons.” It’s important to also understand that this exemption applies exclusively to trans folks who have yet to have sexual reassignment surgery, thus implying that sex is defined wholly by what’s going on between one’s legs.

Transgender folks have the right to be angry. As a marginalized group that faces harassment, micoaggressions, transphobia, threats to their general safety, and direct violence on a daily basis, this is yet another disappointment and injustice. Western culture is often quick to view gender as a specifically binary concept, assigning people the fixed titles of either male or female at birth. However, rather than viewing gender as something that is binary, we must begin to view it as a fluid continuum, one that is not solely defined by anatomy.

As allies to the trans community, we need to actively use the privilege granted to us as cisgender folks to listen to what the trans community is saying, understand their difficulties, and help our trans brothers and sisters fight for their rights.

Trans rights activist Susan Gapka, who heads the Trans Rights Lobby Group in Toronto, said, “passed twice by a majority of elected MPs in Parliament, C-279 was amended yesterday at Senate Committee to exclude trans rights protections in sex-specific space like crisis centres, washrooms, change rooms and prisons on a six to four with one abstention vote. I feel angry about this injustice. When I feel angry I become defiant. Subsequently, today and everyday afterwards I will boldly go into public washrooms and change rooms to use them for my own use. I will perform this act of defiance every day.”

Trans activist and Toronto resident Alec Butler posed the question, “do genitals make a person the gender they are? There are lots of people who are intersex, where they have ambiguous genitalia.

How are they going to handle people like that? Does a man who was injured, and he loses his genitals, does that make him less of a man?”

Statements put forward by members of the trans community are ones we must listen to. These ludicrous amendments passed by Senate not only force trans folks into getting invasive surgeries that they may not be comfortable with but cultivate a divisive culture of otherness. In a society that claims progressiveness and acceptance of all, this amendment to Bill C-279 is a step back, and one we must actively fight towards changing in order to create a world that is more widely inclusive of all trans people.

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