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Canada’s Trans Rights Bill C-389 Passes

Bill C-389, An Act to Amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and Criminal Code (gender identity and gender expression) passed at Third Reading, on a vote of 143 for to 135 against.

Third Reading took place nearly a month sooner than originally scheduled, because Olivia Chow traded her Private Member’s Bill spot so the bill could be read earlier.  This was due to concerns that a Spring election will be called, which would kill all bills still in the legislative process.

After the fold: what they said at debate on Monday, and what happens next (because it’s not enacted into law just yet):
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Bill C-389 Moved Up

The Member of Parliament who advanced Bill C-389, An Act to Amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and Criminal Code (gender identity and gender expression) — Bill Siksay — reports:

The next step in the process is one hour of third reading debate and a vote.  The debate is currently scheduled to take place on Monday February 7, 2011 at 11am. The vote will likely be on Wednesday February 9, 2011 between 5:30 and 6:00pm.  These dates and times are subject to change.  I will let you know if there are any changes to these dates or times.

This date was negotiated in an attempt to ensure that the bill goes to the final vote in the House of Commons as soon as possible, given the speculation about a possible spring election.

This is an important reschedule.  It had originally been slated for debate and third reading on March 7th.  A week ago, Egale Canada issued a request that people urge their MP to push for an earlier date, given the concern that an early election call was rumoured to be imminent, and would kill the bill.

So it has been moved up to Wednesday of next week.  There isn’t much time, but there is still more that can be done.

What can you do to show your support for C-389?

  1. You can thank those MPs who voted in favour of my bill at report stage and ask them to continue to support the bill.   Ask them to be sure to be present for the vote on February 9th.
  2. You can lobby your local MP to support C-389 at the third reading vote.
  3. You can contact those MPs who abstained or were not present for the vote and encourage them to be present to support the bill.

…I am optimistic about the success of my bill at third reading, but the vote at report stage was quite close, so it is important to encourage all MPs who voted in favour to be present for the vote.  We cannot take the final result for granted, and if only a few supporters are absent, the result could be different and the bill could fail.  If C-389 passes third reading in the House of Commons, it will move on to a similar process in the Senate.

MP contact information can be found here.

The Globe and Mail on Poly: The Ills Flow From What Exactly?

The editors at The Globe and Mail are apparently unable to distinguish one occurrence from all possibilities.  In “Draw A Legal Line on Polygamy,” they argue:

Testimony from three “sister-wives” this week in British Columbia underscores the ills that flow from this practice: the exploitation and coercion of teenage girls, trafficking of child brides from the U.S. into Canada, exclusion of young men and abnormally high rates of teenage pregnancy.

And without a doubt, many of the issues coming out of a BC court hearing a case discussing Canada’s polygamy law are serious.  Trafficking young girls across the Canada-US border for the purpose of marriage, coercion and exploitation in situations that hardly meet the standard of consent — all, if true, are urgent issues which need to be addressed legally.  And they are: human trafficking, child coercion and underage sex are illegal.

But they do not necessarily flow from polygamy.  They do, however, flow from a particular religious doctrine, which teaches the women involved that they need to behave a certain way, marry young, have many children and conform to and propagate these exploitive practices.  Something tells me that the Globe editors aren’t about to call for legally proscribing all religion.  Nor should they.

I discussed before how diverse the cultures of polygamy, polyamoury and ethical non-monogamy (and how all three are banned by Section 293 of the Criminal Code) are and have the potential to be.  The Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association goes further;

We have specifically identified 112 egalitarian, secular conjugal polyamorous families in Canada, including over 350 spouses. That was with a quick survey, mostly promoted on a few Internet mailing lists. Even that number is over three times the size of Bountiful…

Of these — and certainly of those people I’ve known in poly relationships — there is no requirement that any of the practices taking place in Bountiful be replicated.  Just as relationships overall have a diverse range of how responsibilities are shared, how power and authority are exchanged among consenting participants, expectations and freedoms, agreements and obligations and ethical or unethical behaviour, so too are polyamoury, polygamy, ethical non-monogamy and polyandry open to a myriad of ways that adults are able to define their own relationships.  It’s remarkably short-sighted and unimaginative to believe that Bountiful represents the whole… and to believe that legislation against polygamy and polyamoury will appropriately address the kinds of abuses being questioned at Bountiful.

Canada: Is the Conversation Lurching to the Right?

It’s been a busy time for the Canadian far right, as conservatives and Christian nationalists try to follow the US example of pushing the conversation so far to the right that even Gandhi looks like Josef Stalin.  Is it working?

Opposite Gender Day Confuses Parents

Student council at King City Public School thought it would be a fun idea to mark a day set aside to show school spirit by having an “Opposite Gender Day.”  This was a voluntary-participation event for students, ranging from kindergarten to Grade 8.  From Sun Media:

“They discussed the fun the day might generate, plus how the experience might help boys and girls understand a bit more what it felt like to be a member of the opposite sex… that was the plan,” he said.

A few days after the school’s principal green-lighted the theme day, she canceled it due to complaints from parents, for fear that the event might confuse kids.  Inevitably, the Scourge of Toronto, Charles McVety, sees a queer conspiracy, and as is typical, the media dutifully gives him their pulpit:

For his part, Rev. McVety said he found it hard to believe the students came up with the idea on their own and thought the cross-dressing plan reflected a dangerous kind of political correctness that lacks any moral standards in our schools.

He suggested it might have been an attempt by the school to move ahead on its own with Ontario’s proposed sex-education curriculum, which was ultimately quashed by the province.

The curriculum he refers to is a sex education curriculum which the Province of Ontario initially put into place and then rescinded after McVety raised fears that it would teach kids how to be gay, to masturbate or to have oral and anal sex.  The curriculum was said to be age-appropriate, but was nevertheless portrayed as explicit and likely to encourage kids to experiment, so Premier McGuinty backtracked.  The Hamilton Spectator link no longer works, but from my archived copy of the April 23, 201o “Province Backs Down on Sex Education:”

“I’m totally disappointed … This is management by reflex,” said Helen Kennedy, executive director of Egale Canada, a national organization committed to advancing rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans-identified people. “This is not about teaching kids to have sex. It’s about something bigger than that… It’s about healthy relationships.”

The references to sexual orientation and gender identity in the Grade 3 curriculum, for example, are made in the context of showing respect for people’s differences.

“The Stoning of St. Charles”

McVety is better known lately for having become a cause célèbre after CTS pulled his TV show, Word.ca, off the air, following a reprimand issued by the Canadian Broadcasting Standards Council (CBSC).  MgS provided an excellent dissection of where McVety violated CBSC standards by blatantly lying.  It’s actually not a CBSC violation to be anti-gay, or to voice it — however, it is a violation to repeatedly assert that homosexuality is clinically known to be synonymous with pedophilia, among several other fabrications.

Nevertheless, he was publicly reprimanded in a decision that was made last summer, although it wasn’t announced until last December — just in time for Christmas.  And naturally, the two week long “censoring” of Charles McVety turned into probably the most effective publicity campaign he could have wanted.  If the annual funds coming in from Focus on the Family and John Hagee weren’t enough, suddenly he emerged on the radar of the rest of the US Fundafringies as the preacher who was beating off the gays in Canada.  Well, not literally.

Charles McVety crying censorship is more than a little hypocritical.

Censorship For Nothing?

The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) is an independent NGO run by the Canadian Association of Broadcasters, intended to be private media companies working together to police themselves, and therefore acting as a buffer between media and the federal government-run Canadian Radio-Television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC).  The CBSC is better known south of the border as the agency which recently banned the Dire Straits song, “Money For Nothing” because of it’s use of an anti-gay expletive that starts with f.  The CRTC, ironically, has just asked the CBSC to reconsider this decision.

(I’ve been asked a couple times how I feel about that, and while I lean toward a censure-not-censor approach to most of these kinds of things, it’s also fair to point out that I’m not the person that word is commonly leveled at — or at least, not anymore — so I’m not sure my opinion is entirely relevant.  Plus, I have, in fact, used the word once myself, for the benefit of a filmmaker who saw no problem of using the trans equivalent to this f word gratuitously, and exploited real murders of trans people to promote his “camp” movie — and after it raised protest, proceeded to further insult and antagonize by releasing the DVD in time for the Transgender Day of Remembrance.  So I also can’t speak to this as someone who is entirely innocent.)

“Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.”

In a recent interview with Peter Mansbridge, Prime Minister Stephen Harper emphasized that he believes in the death penalty and outright bans on abortion, but won’t be enacting legislation to make them possible in Canada if he gets a majority government.  Of course, when you’re planning to oppose a trans rights bill, using the Senate to kill another on climate change, selectively axing funding for specifically pro-choice womens’ groups, hurrying to appeal a ruling that would decriminalize sex work, hamstringing or closing Human Rights Commission offices, overriding approvals processes to defund Toronto Pride, using a bit of leverage to try to get a far right “Fox News North” preferred carrier status and the like, it doesn’t hurt to point to a decades past non-issue that wasn’t on anyone’s radar to illustrate to centrists and moderates that you’re not a fringe right lunatic.

The trouble with normal is that it always gets worse.  (h/t to Nata for evoking Cockburn)

Something we’ve seen quite dramatically in the US has been the cranking up of the volume from far right conservatives and Christian nationalists to the point where “liberal” and “progressive” have joined “socialist” et al as villainized terms, driving even moderates into the closet.  Keith Olbermann departed from MSNBC on the eve of the takeover by right-wing Comcast, and if Rachel Maddow follows, the right-of-centre CNN may become the furthest left of US television media.  Some of this is probably also because moderates and left-leaning people have migrated to online media such as The Huffington Post or blogs like DailyKos, but the end result has still been invisiblization of the left from mainstream politics.  The systematic shouting down, punting and shaming of progressive views has served to silence the left, causing the entirety of national debate to lurch radically to the right.

In Canada, the right has had a bit more difficulty accomplishing this thus far, although McVety and company seem to be favorite commentators at Sun Media, and conservapundits Ezra Levant and Jonathan Kay have steered The National Post in the same direction.  But it’s not for lack of trying, and we can expect more overblown rhetoric, distortions of language (chanelling “death panels?”) and outright lies in the years ahead, regardless of what the election outcome is.  The right cannot be moved, will not be moved, and has discovered the power of shouting down opponents with rhetoric and sensationalism.  Having tasted power and becoming energized since same-sex marriage was legalized, it will be a mistake going forward for Canadian progressives, moderates and liberals to keep dismissing the fringe right as harmless.  What they lack in numbers, they will make up for in volume — and unless progressives are willing to be heard, will be taken seriously.  Which is a frightening prospect for Canada.

Unless, of course, you tend to believe that crusades against things like Opposite Gender Day help avert civilization-destroying phenomena that would otherwise be on par with the confusion wrought when Marlene Dietrich started wearing pants.

Added:  How the conversation lurched right in the US, and what that means:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/32545640

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

(Crossposted to The Bilerico Project)

UK: You’re Lesbian? Prove It Or Die

In 36 hours, Brenda Namigadde is scheduled to be deported from the UK.  This is some cause for concern, given that she is an out lesbian, and the nation she would be forced to return to — Uganda — is not exactly a safe place to be queer.

Gay sex is a criminal offence in Uganda punishable by a prison sentence of up to 14 years.

[Legislator David] Bahati told the Guardian: “Brenda is welcome in Uganda if she will abandon or repent her behaviour. Here in Uganda, homosexuality is not a human right. It is behaviour that is learned and it can be unlearned. We wouldn’t want Brenda to be painting a wrong picture of Uganda, that we are harassing homosexuals.”

Asked what would happen if she did not “repent” he said: “If she is caught in illegal practices she will be punished. If she comes to promote homosexuality, if she is caught in the act, if she is caught in illegal acts, she will be punished. I would be surprised, if she was promoting homosexuality, if she were not arrested.”

His bill, currently in committee stage, would impose life imprisonment for consenting adults who have gay sex, and the death penalty for people with HIV, “serial” homosexuals and those who have sex with under-18s, if it became law.

Bahati’s promise that the death penalty is being reconsidered and that she would be safe provided she stays in the closet is not particularly reassuring, given the societal climate in Uganda, these days, where mobs are employing vigilante justice against anyone who is suspected to be gay or lesbian, regardless of whether or not they’re actually caught in the act:

The details surrounding [LGBT advocate David Kato Kisulle's] murder are unknown at this time. He was reportedly beaten in the skull with a hammer at his home. We do not yet know whether it was a single assailant or a group of people, nor do we know any other circumstances surrounding his death.

David Kato was one of the people identified in the outing campaign conducted by the newspaper Rolling Stone (no relation to the US magazine of the same name), which encouraged readers to “Hang Them!”  Many of those fingered were not identified as gay because of committing an act of gay sex, but from their Facebook photos.  Considering the international publicity surrounding her case, Namigadde has plenty to worry about.

And yet, according to The Guardian:

Her initial asylum claim was rejected in part on the basis that there was not sufficient evidence that she is a lesbian.

Seriously?  How exactly does a person need to do this?  And is that enough to quibble over and send someone to their likely death?

All Out has set up a letter campaign to petition Home Secretary Theresa May to reconsider.  Go there.  Now.  It takes a minute.

Calgary Media Still Skittish About Alleged Aversion Project Doc Aubrey Levin

Dr. Aubrey Levin, a Calgary professor and psychiatrist who is accused of sexually assaulting at least 21 male patients, is scheduled to come up for trial in June 2011. This is internationally notable, since he was alleged to have led a program while in South Africa to “cure” people of being gay.  The local media has been particularly quiet about this, even though the CBC notes that authorities have put out a call looking for more possible victims.  In fact, aside from a brief mention on Christmas Eve, coverage has been largely found in unusual places like SBWire, and German-based openPR:

CCHR has asked the Alberta College of Physicians and Surgeons to explain how Dr. Aubrey Levin, who emigrated to Canada in the mid 90s, was allowed to become a Clinical Professor in the Department of Psychiatry (Forensic Division) at the University of Calgary’s Medical School, in light of the fact that in 1997 South Africa’s “Truth and Reconciliation Commission” named him for possible “gross human rights abuses” during Apartheid rule. The college has refused to respond to this vital question.

Levin has been accused in South African media (though never convicted: he fled to Canada and therefore never faced the Truth and Reconciliation Commission) of attaching electrodes to the bodies of soldiers and recruits to test their responses to centerfolds and porn, and treating any who were deemed gay or lesbian with aversion therapy using shock treatments.

I wrote about Aubrey Levin before:

Levin, a former University of Calgary professor and consultant with Corrections Canada, was the former chief psychiatrist at the Voortrekkerhoogte military hospital and was once identified by The Daily Mail and Guardian (July 28, 2000, original article no longer online) as the director of “The Aversion Project,” in which the South African military used aversion treatments to “cure” gay and lesbian military personnel.  In the most extreme allegations, it had been said that The Aversion Project treated those who could not be cured with chemical castration or forced Genital Reassignment Surgery, although these allegations have never been proven.   The latter allegations appear to come from Jean Erasmus… and Daily Mail writer Paul Kirk, and are otherwise difficult to corroborate (at least from Canada)…

Levin denies taking part in surgical reassignments, but the Citizens Commission on Human Rights (an organization founded by the Church of Scientology) clarifies in their press release:

But he had never been accused of this. He was not a surgeon. The only allegation had been that he had referred military conscripts whom he could not ‘cure’ of homosexuality to the surgeons and their knives. That several of these difficult and dangerous operations were botched and others were left uncompleted was not a responsibility laid directly at the door of Levin. Possible knowledge of these ghastly practices most certainly is.

Author Hamish Pillay wrote about the Aversion Project in his novel, “The Rainbow Has No Pink.”  He blogs that:

When I started writing “The rainbow has no pink” I struggled to find any source information of gross human rights abuse that took place in the SANDF during the 70’s and 80’s highlighted at the TRC hearings… None of these horrific stories made the [Truth and Reconciliation Commission] other than a mere mention…

There is, of course, the possibility that forced surgical reassignments never happened.  But something certainly seems to have.  And until it’s thoroughly investigated, we’ll never know and the legend will only grow. Canadian media noted the connection to “The Aversion Project” when Dr. Levin moved to Calgary in 2000, but then apologized after lawsuits were threatened, only adding to the mystique.  Since then there has been little will to investigate the allegations.

As a trans advocate in Alberta, I’ve written how for those who require gender reassignment surgery (not all trans people do), it becomes an absolute necessity, impairs their ability to function and it is even fiscally sensible to do so.  However, it has never been (or should never be, that is) a “cure” for being gay, which is a different issue altogether (one is about who we are, the other about who we’re attracted to).  If these surgeries actually occurred, then what the “Aversion Project” would have done was to induce gender dysphoria in people who hadn’t experienced it before (and possible medical complications, depending on the quality of the surgery performed).

(Crossposted to The Bilerico Project)

“What’s the Big Deal” Is Now Answered: Tobi Hill-Meyer on “Tranny”

Tobi Hill-Meyer has an excellent series up about the controversy over “tranny” and its use as a slur, going far deeper than the word itself.  Part one delves into meanings:

… the message that a tranny is someone who is incapable of doing femininity correctly, whether you’re talking about the shoes that make you look like a tranny, insulting a cis woman’s “tranny makeup,” or the outfit that turns a cis woman into “a hot tranny mess.”

… “Tranny” is reserved for those whose femininity is deemed fake, incorrect, or forced, those whose sexuality is either too brazen or too frigid, those who dare to take power and space and need to be knocked down a peg.

That’s why it’s frustrating to see cis women who can understand the utter horror and indignation of being called a tranny themselves but are completely willing to dismiss the negative implications when the term is used against trans women – because supposedly it’s just a factual statement that she is trans….

Part two looks at how the media commonly uses the word, getting at the intent:

… In both cases, defenders of the film and TV show quickly moved to argue the right to use the term “tranny,” held discussions on whether or not cis people should be allowed to use the term and whether or not the intention was to offend. Doing so, however, completely ignores the pattern of trans-negative representations that are the real offense…

So if you really want to focus on community boycott, media criticism, and protest as a form of censorship, by all means we can have that conversation – so long as you understand it’s about boycotting, criticizing, and protesting transphobia and not just the utterance of a single word.

Part three gets into context on the individual level:

Ultimately, the important question is not just if, but how does the term get used against a person? It’s pretty common for straight men to be called faggot, but that doesn’t mean it’s an anti-straight slur. Trans men occasionally are called tranny, but that doesn’t erase the fact that the slur specifically attacks one’s femininity as fake or a failure, as if they are a man in a dress who’s trying too hard – as explained in part one. I know a few sissy, femme, and/or crossdressing trans men, and I can understand how they feel they have some ownership over the term, but it’s because they are sissy/femme/crossdressing, not because they are trans men.

For example, consider the various “women and trans” events and spaces that are conspicuously lacking representation of trans women. It’s almost always due to trans misogyny, historically and/or currently. Trans women are more likely than trans men to have traumatic experiences with the term and be triggered by it. When trans men use the term in such spaces – as commonly is the case – it contributes to the dynamic keeping trans women out, regardless of whether or not it is their intention.

I highly recommend this series.  Like Tobi, I’m not interested in being language police and am more focused on the intent… and in these segments (which aren’t terribly long, by the way, so don’t let the “it’s in three parts” thought dissuade you from reading), she nails that perfectly.

For further reading, I also recommend another piece she did on trans language, including this observation on “gender identity:”

I know, I know, it’s the whole basis of our legal claim to trans people’s rights, but its very linguistic construction is based in an assumption of cis-supremacy… By discussing the gender a trans person identifies as rather than the gender a trans person is, we’re right back to defining trans girls as boys who identify as girls rather than as individuals who are girls who were assigned male at birth.

When we base our legal claims to non-discrimination protections within “gender identity” it reinforces a legal framework that sees trans people as “really being” the gender they were assigned at birth. When I see the case of a trans man who was fired because he is trans, it’s hard to apply “gender identity” here. The reality is that he isn’t being discriminated against for identifying as a man – there are probably several other co-workers who also identify as men – he was fired for being trans. The current way that the courts process this distinction is to evaluate the trans man in terms of being a woman who was fired because “she” identifies as a man.

This clarifies why the legal system has such a problem getting trans people’s pronouns right. When the subject of the sentence is “a woman,” it naturally follows that you should use female pronouns. Insisting upon male pronouns in this example without also insisting on male terms being used as the subject drastically decreases the chances of people being able to follow the request.

Personally, I’m not certain that we will find a perfect term, that “gender identity” has been workable in its usage over the past couple decades, and that generally when it’s used, it doesn’t have the same kind of intent to undermine, but it’s interesting.

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