In which I dismantle and mock an Albertan MP's ridiculous transphobic views.
November 5, 2012
My Concerns regarding Bill C-279 by cissexist poopy face Brent Rathgeber
A controversial Private Member’s Bill coming to the Justice Committee in November is Bill C-279, An Act to provide gender identity and gender expression protection in the “Canada Human Rights Act” and in the “Criminal Code”. The sponsor of the Bill is the NDP’s British Columbia MP, Randall Garrison.
For those that don’t know. This is like, the fifth or sixth time that this Bill has been attempted. It keeps failing ‘cause we had so many elections recently, but this time has a somewhat decent chance to pass ‘cause enough conservatives actually voted in favour that it managed to pass second reading.
I voted against the Bill at Second Reading and spoke against a similar Bill introduced in the last Parliament. These are complicated and sensitive matters and my opposition to this Bill is based entirely upon legal analysis, not on any particular bias.
Are these really that complicated and sensitive? Really? I’m pretty sure it isn’t actually all that complex. But you also don’t get to call you ‘legal’ analysis an un-bigoted opinion just because it is legal.
Your bias, MP Rathgeber, is that you are cissexist. And that your ‘legal’ analysis that follows is wrong and kinda pointless when provinces are already individually adopting these provisions (see Ontario and Manitoba).
The flaw in Bill C-279 is that the terms “gender identity” and “gender expression” are not defined. This flaw is fatal in my view and has led to the misimpression that the Bill is aimed to provide protection to cross dressers and transsexuals. Although there may be some overlap between some of these terms and some of these groups, they are in fact quite separate and distinct.
Knowing the way that legal stuff is written, I have a hard time believe that this bill will leave the justice committee without some definition of ‘gender identity’ and ‘gender expression.’
The lack of an overlap you are mentioning here between your outdated use of the terms ‘transsexuals’ and ‘cross dressers’ is actually exactly why there are *two* different terms being included, rather than just one. Because they apply to different communities with some overlap and commonality, but also with significant differences. However, both communities still deserve protection.
As I understand it, the term “gender identity” refers to an individual’s inherent feelings of gender, which may or may not correspond to the sex assigned to them at birth. Meanwhile “gender expression” refers to how a person’s gender identity is communicated to others through many factors, such as behaviour, dress, speech and mannerisms.
These are actually decent understandings… but I’m confused. You said you were going to base this on legal opinions and if this is your legal opinion, wouldn’t other people of the same profession have a similar understanding? And if they do, I’m not actually sure, at all, why you seem to think the terms ambiguous or legally vacuous.
Regarding transsexuals (people who have had or are in the process of changing their gender), it is my understanding that such individuals already enjoy Human Rights protection because “sex” has always been a prohibited ground of discrimination. Certainly, at all times, regardless of the stage of completion of gender reassignment, a person has an identifiable gender. Moreover, although a person interested in changing genders presumably is struggling with gender identity, not all people with gender identity issues have any interest in changing gender. The terms are separate and distinct.
While it is true that some transgender people have been protected or covered under ‘sex’ in the Human Rights code, you are entirely missing the point as to why ‘gender identity’ needs to be included.
You may not be aware, but Ontario recently revised its guidelines for changing your sex on your birth certificate, finally removing the provisions that required SRS.
Including ‘gender identity’ gives greater freedom to transgender Canadians to determine for themselves what their gender is, without the need of costly medical intervention. It also about allowing Canadians the freedom and ability to change legal documents, as well as having protections for public accommodations, employments, housing, etc.
Now, cross-dressing may be an expression of gender identity or gender expression or may be unrelated to either. Nothing precludes a non-transgender person from occasionally dressing up in drag to attend a theme party or event. The terms are simply not interchangeable.
I don’t see your point here. At all. Because cross dressing is certainly a part of ‘gender expression’ (which I take to be your topic in this paragraph), but so do many other things. I’m also unclear as to the relevance of ‘drag’ in a discussion about gender expression.
Above you seemed to have a decent grasp as to what gender expression means: the total combination of behaviour (clothing, mannerisms, etc) that express a person’s gender to other people.
People don’t always feel safe expressing their gender, particularly if they have a marginalized one. The goal of including ‘gender expression’ in the Canadian Human Rights code is to, at the very least, give legal space for Canadians to feel safe and protected whenever the choose to express whatever their gender is.
Accordingly, the lack of definitions with respect to the terms creates a huge ambiguity as to who or what activities are to be protected and arguably is a fatal flaw.
You have made a very poor case of ambiguity, since even your ‘fringe’ cases are things that should still be protected. Moreover, you have a good grasp of the terms but a poor grasp of the communities.
But a more philosophical objection to the Bill is the attempt to expand “Human Rights Code” Protection beyond the traditional ascriptive criteria. Generally, the Code’s aim is to protect characteristics that are ascriptive rather than chosen. These are matters defined by birth and/or over which one has no control: race, national or ethnic origin, colour, age, sex, sexual orientation and disability all fall neatly into the category of ascriptive criteria. Admittedly, “religion, marital status, family status and pardoned conviction” are tricky because one does have considerable control over all of these matters.
I’m not even sure how you manage to attempt to make a point that you refute yourself.
One can debate whether gender identity and expression are chosen or ascribed. Regardless, another interesting term which currently and appropriately attracts Human Rights Code protection is “sexual orientation”. Although strictly speaking this term refers to which sex one is attracted to, it is arguable that an orientation is broad enough to include a variety of lifestyle choices and expressions.
Based on your previous point, while it is true that it is an open debate about whether or not gender is chosen or ascribed, you yourself have pointed out that either can select a quality for inclusion into the Human Rights code.
Again, you contradict yourself, as you earlier mentioned that transgender people have most often been protected under ‘sex,’ and not ‘sexual orientation.’ So, I’m unclear as to why you are bringing it up.
Moreover, based on your previous observation of where trans people have been legally protected in the past, ‘sex,’ it seems fairly clear that, all debates aside, the courts have determined gender to be an ascribed quality, not a chosen one.
All of which brings me back to my original proposition that I remain uncertain as to what any of these undefined terms really mean, and who and what activities are to be afforded protection. The lack of specific definitions to what are clearly not well understood terms, in my view, constitute a fatal flaw with respect to Bill C-279.
Again, you seem to have a fairly good grasp on what the terms mean (more than your average Canadian, at least). You also seem to miss a key fact of how the Human Rights code works and how the Canadian legal system works:
There are no stable definitions for pretty much any term. Any and all terms accrue their definitions in the court cases and court decisions made in the various courts. This also means that the definitions *change* over time, based on current needs and whenever our knowledge on these issues expand.
Indeed, as you point out: if ‘sex’ has become inclusive of transgender people, this is already a redrawing of how ‘sex’ is understood in Canadian law. This redrawing, one could argue, was only allowed *because* of the ambiguities surrounding the word ‘sex.’ These same ambiguities actually create space for legal terms to become more or less inclusive, based on what is needed to protect marginalized groups.
And protect marginalized groups, of which the trans community is certainly one, is exactly the point of the Human Rights code. Thus, opposition to its expansion, particularly without any effort to resolves the difficulties you have with Bill C-279, indicates a callous disregard for protecting the trans community.
No one is fooled by your ‘legal’ handwaving: justifying oppression for fictitious reasons and being entirely unwilling to contribute to resolving your ‘difficulties’ doesn’t impress anyone.
In case anyone is interested in contacting this MP (particularly if you live in his riding)…maybe let him know why his views are bigoted 😀
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