By: Alexander Sallas
Content warning: article contains mentions of suicide
On March 6, Hamilton city councillors approved a new transgender rights protocol. Trans people can now use bath and change rooms based on their gender identities. A blank write-in box will be added to city forms beneath the male and female options and disclosing someone’s gender identity without their consent is an official form of discrimination under the Ontario Human Rights Code.
Lawyer Nicole Nussbaum called the motion “on the cutting edge of best practice”. The move is also in alignment with McMaster’s Trans Inclusion Project, which is in the process of degendering at least one washroom per campus building and providing education and outreach materials.
These are positive steps forward to the quality of living and inclusion of trans people in our city and school. Unfortunately, one of the main concerns that continues in spite of these actions is the regressive thinking on this topic that still runs rampant.
The most frightening evidence related to this is how the abnormally high suicide rate among the trans population, 41 per cent compared to 4.6 per cent of the overall U.S. population, is largely a result of this societal rejection. A 2012 study found 57 per cent of trans youth who did not have supportive parents attempted to commit suicide in the past year, while just 4 per cent of transgender youth with “very supportive” parents did.
Unfortunately, one of the main concerns that continues in spite of these actions is the regressive thinking on this topic that still runs rampant.
A 2014 Williams Institute study found the prevalence of suicide attempts among trans and gender non-conforming people is elevated among those who disclose to everyone that they are trans or gender non-conforming and among those that report others can tell always or most of the time that they are trans or gender non-conforming even if they don’t tell them. It is clear that the ostracization and ridicule performed by anti-trans individuals greatly increases the number of the trans and non-gender identifying attempting to kill themselves.
These startling statistics are proof that we need to continue to work towards inclusivity. Hamilton’s and McMaster’s advancements towards understanding, including and accepting its trans community are great steps, but they should be seen as progress rather than an as end goals.
These actions also represent steps forward in policy based on health care as the medical community increasingly sides with the pro-trans movement. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the standard criteria for the classification of mental disorders, was updated in 2013 to replace the diagnosis of gender identity disorder with gender dysphoria.
This original GID diagnosis was interpreted by some to imply that gender variance was mentally unhealthy, that it reinforced the binary model of gender and that it resulted in additional stigma for trans people. The new gender dysphoria classification, in comparison, applies only to the discomfort experienced by a person that results from gender identity issues. These policy adjustments by Hamilton and McMaster represent the ability to update to modern definitions and try to leave behind outdated perspectives on those affected.
The left is often accused of emotional pandering and prioritizing feeling over fact. In these cases of increasing the mental wellbeing of those affected by reducing societal rejection and making decisions based on the most recent developments in psychology, facts are on their side.
I applaud the Hamilton city council for this recent move and McMaster’s continued efforts on their Trans Inclusion Project.