What is social exclusion?

March 28, 2009

On the Public Health Agency of Canada’s website, there is a section on social determinants of health. In particular, there is a sub-section on social exclusion.

All of the documents on this site are not necessarily the opinion of the Agency, though I suspect that placing these documents on the site, originally presented at a conference in 2002, implies some support.

2002 is an interesting year.

It was the the year Sven Robinson refused to include gender identity and gender expression in his private member’s bill which, with rare all-party agreement in the Parliament of Canada, amended the Criminal Code of Canada hate sections to include sexual orientation. After his bill passed, Robinson vowed to work for the inclusion of gender identity and gender expression.

Gender identity and gender expression remain outside both the Criminal Code and the Canadian Human Rights Act–and all provincial human rights laws–to this day.

This may explain the inclusion of sexual orientation in these documents on the Agency’s website but not gender identity and gender expression.

There are four aspects of social exclusion

  • Exclusion from social society
  • Exclusion from social goods
  • Exclusions from social production
  • Economic exclusion

Any one of which significantly degrades wellbeing–I argue, not controversially, I hope, that this not only describes the status of gay and lesbian people, but, because of the formal legal exclusion of transgender and transsexual people from human rights and hate crimes legislation, social exclusion presses with particular and unique emphasis on transsexual and transgender people.

In the struggle I was part of while working at Canadians for Equal Marriage, we spoke about bringing gay and lesbian people from the margins to the mainstream of society by legally recognizing their relationships–we even spoke about this being the natural extension of their human rights.

The healing of gay and lesbian people from the trauma of homophobia, and its consequent exclusion from society, began with the formal and explicit recognition of this exclusion–and this recognition was not limited to gay and lesbian people and their organizations, but was quite wide-spread throughout society, including health and social service organizations and professional organizations of service providers.

This explicit recognition, including express statements pointing at the void in human rights and hate crimes legislation, was part of the healing from this trauma. The explicit declaration that gay and lesbian people are part of society.

Nor is it, I hope, controversial to say this explicit recognition, including express statements, was the indispensable step, necessary even before legislation and certainly before moving “beyond law reform” as Laurie Arron declared after Prime Minister Harper gave up the campaign to repeal the same-sex marriage law

As we move beyond law reform, we face the challenge of changing hearts and minds, and of making everywhere across Canada safe and welcoming for LGBT youth, LGBT seniors, LGBT families and their children.

My critique of this position is quite simple–why now, after the legal achievements regarding sexual orientation have been made, but before those concerning gender identity and gender expression have hardly been begun, is it appropriate to abandon transgender and transsexual people in the legal and social void that gay and lesbian people have, since 2002, left for the mainstream?

Why is silence on the very same legal and social void appropriate when it concerns transgender and transsexual people?

Why are not all our allies–of equality and human rights–past, present and future, explicitly and expressly speaking out and pointing at this void?

Rainbow Health Ontario (RHO) is one of the sponsors of Egale Canada’s April 1 event on homophobic and transphobic violence in Canadian Schools. I have previously had the opportunity of commenting on Rainbow Health Ontario.

This was in connection with their declining my application for the position of Community Engagement Team member for the Champlain Local Health Integration Network–which includes Ottawa and Cornwall. They decided to go with a gay man who has a long and impressive history working with gay men and their health needs. Capital Xtra about a year ago lauded his successful political efforts to put gay men back into the campaign against HIV/AIDS.

I had the opportunity to meet him once during the years I have been active in the struggle for trans rights and services. And once he came into the book store where I work.

My concern with RHO was with its statement in its notice for the Community Engagement Team members, repeated on its website–created since then–under Why is this Resource Needed?

Despite significant improvements in human rights of LGBT people in Canada, there are still gaps and inequities in services and in the health status of LGBT people.

In my Open Letter to RHO, I laid out the history of gaps and inequities in human rights status. The legal and social void where gender identity and gender expression should be.

There is nothing transsexual and transgender people can point to regarding our inclusion in society in what many consider the foundation of that inclusion.

This is quite similar to the statement Ottawa Pride made in 2005–in the euphoria just two months after the passage of the Civil Marriage Law, i.e. the same-sex marriage law:

All LGBT people in Canada have human rights and its time to celebrate.

I discuss my concerns with this repudiation here.

This becomes all the more concerning when placed beside RHO’s commitments, its beliefs and principles, which include social determinants of health

We believe that the social, cultural, political and economic context of peoples’ lives has a big impact on their health.

In many of the discussions I have been privy to, both online and in various agencies’ meetings, the question of the mental wellbeing of gay men has come up, particularly in the context of the homophobia experienced, the alienation from the mainstream and the impact this has on the physical and mental health and risk taking that often follows–and consequences with respect to HIV/AIDS.

This was certainly the reason Capital Xtra celebrated the achievement of the man who was accepted by RHO for its Community Engagement Team for the Champlain LHIN–the explicit recognition of gay men as being disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS.

There can be no doubting this.

(We simply have no quantitative information regarding the effect of HIV/AIDS on transgender and transsexual people.)

The Supreme Court of Canada supported this also, when it recognized sexual orientation as an analogous right to those enumerated in Chapter 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms:

Deliberate exclusion of sexual orientation resulting in serioux discriminatory effects, including denial of access to remedial procedures and psychological harm from implicit message that homosexuals are not worthy of protection. (p. 25)

The Court has not yet been asked this question with respect to transgender and transsexual people–but can anyone doubt their answer?

Can anyone doubt the “psychological harm resulting from [the] implicit message” that transgender and transsexual people “are not worthy of protection” also?

Also in the repudiation by Ottawa Pride and RHO?

The Canadian Human Rights Act Review Panel was asked; this is their answer:

Although the Panel recognized that the Act currently protects these individuals from discrimination on the ground of sex or the combined grounds of sex and disability, it felt that the law fails to acknowledge the particular situation of transgendered persons and thereby render them invisible. In view of the substantial harm that can be suffered by these persons, the Panel recommended that the Act expressly provide them with legal protection.

Why do I even have to raise this concern, not only once, but for the second time?

Yes, RHO is collaborating with the Trans PULSE Project, but I wonder why it is silent on the human rights status of transsexual and transgender people and the impact this has on our health.

Is this not considered a significant contributing factor to wellbeing with disproportionate effect on transsexual and transgender people?

Is an imposted unity perspective, like that I identified in Egale Canada and its supporters, the ideology that only LGBT issues can be addressed and declared–not those of a subset of LGBT–at work in RHO?

Does this ideology mean that even a commitment to social determinants of health, particularly the apparent recognition that social exclusion “has a big impact on [our] health,” will be compromised to maintain unity?

Why does RHO refuse to acknowledge probably the most significant social determinant of health for transgender and transsexual people–our formal exclusion from human rights and hate crimes legislation?

This repudiation and erasure throws us into the social and legal void.

What is social exclusion?

This refusal of Rainbow Health Ontario to explicitly recognize that transsexual and transgender people are excluded from human rights and hate crimes legislation is social exclusion.

Perspective of the Oppressor, Revisited

March 26, 2009


My purpose in writing commentaries for this blog is to explore and discover why certain things happened and, more importantly, why certain other things did not happen in the course of my work in organizations with self-declared and democratically arrived at commitments to all sexual and gender minorities.

This grew out of posting, first, to Egale Canada’s national trans list and to the national, now main, list. After a system-wide crash at Egale Canada some years ago, the trans list was never relaunched, unlike the more general list which, previously, had been primarily for issues of sexual orientation.

Since I have been writing for this blog my purpose for posting to the main Egale list has changed–particularly as my comments have become less welcome over the years. It has become an opportunity of some research interest–not that it is any kind of accurate quantitative sampling of the opinion of gay and lesbian people (and some who might self-describe as transgender) but a way to do qualitative soundings regarding the attitudes of those who claim to be knowledgeable about trans issues and who care.

It has been alleged there I criticize Egale Canada–and the list–in terms of, on the one hand, they don’t care and on the other, I have accused ‘them’ of being transphobic.

To take the second allegation first, I challenge anyone to do a word search on either my posts, or this blog, for the frequency of the appearance of the words “transphobic, transphobia.” Other than this comment, I quite doubt they appear.

On the contrary, I agree with Christopher Shelley’s contention that transphobia is more appropriately applied to the kind of violence that Allen Andrade committed on Angie Zapata this past summer in Colorado when he hit her on the head with a fire extinguisher twice, and when she got up, hit her a third time and killed her. When caught in her car a week later, he declared that he killed “it.”

That is transphobia.

As Susan Stryker, in Transgender History (recently short-listed for this year’s Lambda Award), states:

Because people have great difficulty recognizing the humanity of another person if they cannot recognize that person’s gender, the gender-changing person can evoke in others a primordial fear of monstrosity, or loss of humanness. That gut level fear can manifest itself as hatred, outrage, panic, or disgust, which may translate into physical or emotional violence directed against the person who is perceived as not-quite-human. (Transgender History, p. 6)

While useful, I believe Stryker enters on the same kind of “homogenizing” project, from the opposite direction,  that the gay rights movement embarked upon from shortly after Stonewall–and that Egale Canada embarked upon most clearly since John Fisher stepped down as Executive Director in 2002. Simply put, in the politically necessary strategy for large political entities, the only strategy known in any practical sense is that of the policed single-identity movement, often inaccurately called “coalition.”

One of the most useful comments on the Egale list was that “LGBT organizations cannot serve the interests of any ‘subset’ of LGBT.” In other words, regardless of express and explicit commitments made, in the form of mandates, constitutions and policies–all established through organization wide discussion and decision making–only LGBT unity interests can be served.

In practice, this has lead Egale Canada, since the departure of John Fisher, only to support issues of sexual orientation.

The tactical support for this ideological imperative is now well-established, though it continues to be invisible to those who believe in this ideology of “unity.”

These are now the most common tactics to exclude and erase transsexual people and often transgender people:

1) Create subsidiary entities to escape the constraints of express and explicit commitments while using all the organizational resources for this subsidiary, to the detriment of issues other than sexual orientation. The creation of Canadians for Equal Marriage by Egale Canada is the prime example. This is a conflict of interest, never declared or resolved–and obscured.

2) When inconvenient to go through the effort of creating a subsidiary to escape express and explicit commitments, simply establish a project outside of the organization as Gens Hellqvist, executive director of the Canadian Rainbow Health Coalition, and, as Xtra.ca has called them, five other “Canadian queers” did when they launched a personal human rights complaint against Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada on behalf of gay, lesbian and bisexual people, defined to include two spirit people (“Aboriginal GLB people”) and “gender non-conforming” people, defined to be part of “all things homosexual.” Thus, transgender people are defined as GLB–leaving only transsexual people on our own. All the while using their organization’s resources. This is another conflict of interest, never declared or resolved–also obscured.

3) The easiest tactic is the current one of Egale Canada. Ignoring the clearly separate needs of trangender and especially transsexual youth from gay youth Egale simply enforces a gay identity on trans youth, thereby marginalizing them further. This is the tactic used in its recently announced panel discussion in response to its National Climate Survey on Homophobia in Canadian Schools, which can be found here. And in long time publicity for this survey. This is the most blatant, because most casual, conflict of interest, undeclared and unresolved.

First National Climate Survey on Homophobia in Canadian Schools

This is the formal title of Egale Canada’s school climate survey, which can be found here; I encourage readers to take a look and see how often transphobia and trans youth are actually referred to in the survey itself.

After reviewing the survey, the next document to review is the PDF backrounder on the survey which can be found here; it is called Egale Canada First National Survey on Homophobia in Canadian Schools; Phase One Results. Again, I encourage readers to investigate for themselves how often transphobia and trans youth are referred to–it is consistent with the survey itself.

The final document to review is the press release Egale Canada posted to its website which can be found here; it is entitled Gay Teens Surveyed Feel Unsafe in Schools. So far, the documents are consistent. However, in the first sentence things begin to go awry.

St. Johns: Results just released from the first phase of Egale Canada’s National Survey on Homophobia and Transphobia in Canadian Schools reveal that over two-thirds of those students who identify as lesbian, gay, bi, trans and Two-Spirit, queer and questioning (LGBTQ) feel unsafe at school.

Now, it is possible I have missed the other survey on Egale Canada’s website where transphobia and trans youth are specifically included, not simply added at the publicity stage to buff this product and to, ostensibly, conform to Egale’s express and explicit commitments to trans-identified people as indicated in its Mandate. (As I try to access Egale’s front page, with its Mandate including gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans-identified people on March 26, I find it to be inaccessible. Even checking Google’s cached version, dated March 22, it is also not available. Maybe a change is coming?)

In this press release, Helen Kennedy, Executive Director, declares

We may have human rights for LGBTQ people in Canada, but you wouldn’t know it from these results.

I simply cannot accept that the Executive Director of Egale Canada is unaware of the explicit absence of formal humans rights recognition in Canada for transgender and transsexual people–unless she wishes to herself recognize a second class of unexplicit human rights, which the Canadian Human Rights Act Review Panel, as cited below, rejects.

It is here in the publicity for the survey that the pretzel-twisting begins: the survey has nothing to do with trans youth as trans youth–though there are probably some who will argue that trans youth are really gay youth and/or are victimized by homophobia, also. But this doesn’t recognize trans youth as the people they are. The survey publicity creates a false unity of trans and gay youth in its erasure of trans youth.

It is hard to escape the conclusion this survey, certainly the use to which it is put, is intellectually dishonest and deceptive.

I want to point out a contrast to the work Egale Canada is so proud of, the recent study by the Gay Lesbian Straight Educators Network (GLSEN) in the United States, Harsh Realities. This is the summary

Transgender youth face extremely high levels of victimization in school, even more than their non-transgender lesbian, gay and bisexual peers. But they are more likely to speak out about LGBT issues in the classroom.

If there were the sort of identity between trans and gay youth it seems necessary to Egale Canada to maintain, it is unlikely GLSEN would have come to the conclusions it has given the similarities between our countries. Given these broad similarities it is hard to escape the strong indication of significant differences between the everyday lives of gay and trans youth in Canada, too. At the very least, GLSEN’s study points to the urgent need for this sort of work to be done in Canada–and to move away from the inherent ideological bias and policed single identity in Egale Canada’s work.

It would really have been interesting, and certainly helpful, to see what a similar approach in Canada would have uncovered–if anyone had actually been interested in the lives of trans youth in Canada.

Pretzel-twisting, as is becoming common in Canadian gay and lesbian circles, is merely an attempt to make polically correct what is incorrect and simply wrong.

Why is it wrong?

Recognition is an important element in moving from the margins to the mainstream–as we argued at Canadians for Equal Marriage–and an important step in healing the trauma of both homophobia and transphobia.

This is what the Supreme Court of Canada said in its ruling in Vriend v. Alberta, in 1998, which recognized sexual orientation as an analogous right to those enumerated in Chapter 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Deliberate exclusion of sexual orientation resulting in serious discriminatory effects, including denial of access to remedial procedures and psychological harm from implicit message that homosexuals are not worthy of protection. (p. 25)

Maybe some will argue recognition is only appropriate for gay and lesbian people, not for transgender and certainly not for transsexual people?

A similar point was made by the Canadian Human Rights Act Review Panel in 2000 (as a direct result of the lobbying of John Fisher, then Executive Director of EGALE, as it was then known).

Although the Panel recognized that the Act currently protects these individuals from discrimination on the ground of sex or the combined grounds of sex and disability, it felt that the law fails to acknowledge the particular situation of transgendered persons and thereby renders them invisible. In view of the substantial harm that can be suffered by these persons, the Panel recommended that the Act expressly provide them with legal protection.

Can Egale Canada do any less?

This was the express policy of EGALE, even before it had adopted the Mandate now inaccessible, and before the trans advocacy policy it formally adopted in April, 2005. What has changed?

This has been the crux of the work of this blog.

Now to address the first allegation concerning my ongoing critique of Egale Canada.

It is always nice when people care about those more marginalized than themselves, but unless it actually results in commitment to action it is of little value–especially when it is used as an excuse for doing nothing, certainly nothing equal to what their own issues receive in a, supposedly, equally serving organization.

Frankly, I don’t care whether the gay and lesbian people who run Egale Canada or who support its ideology care about trans issues or not. I call on them, as on any who have made binding organizational commitments, to honour them.

The question always raised by this ideological repeal of express and explicit commitments without public discussion or decision making–unlike their establishment–and of the demand for endless discussion and decision making to actually fulfil long established mandates, constitutions and policies–as Capital Xtra’s former editor/publisher Gareth Kirkby has demanded–is one of fundamental democracy and commitment to human rights.

More satisfying reasons for this ideological repeal are erasure and repudiation.

is a term I first heard when I became involved with Egale Canada in 2004, originated by Vivian Namaste, who writes:

the theories concerned with the production of transsexuality have got it wrong: transsexuals are not, in point of fact, produced by the medical and psychiatric institution. Rather, they are continually erased from the institutional world–shut out from its programs, excluded from its terms of reference. . . .I enquire about the relevance of writing theory that cannot make sense of the everyday world, and that actually contributes to the very invisibility of transsexuality that a critical theory needs to expose. (Sex Change, Social Change, p. 3)

This has become generalized to describe the very phenomena I chronicle in this blog.

For myself, however, the simple act of erasure has never constituted adequate reason for this happening. Nor does the frequent lament, there are not the resources to focus on the issues of gender identity and gender expression. There always seem to be resources for issues of sexual orientation–including the attempt to make trans people gay people–even if mobilizing these resources requires the pretzel-twisting I describe above.

It has been pointed out that ideology is a good explanation for these direct actions, though most of those who do these things are reasonably well-intentioned people; but they seem never to be able to see anything beyond issues of sexual orientation. The current example is the ‘homogenizing’ project–just policed single-identity–Egale Canada is adding a new chapter to, which I detail below.

The only explanation that works for me–and gives me some peace, actually–is Christopher Shelley’s notion of repudiation:

Subscription and faithfulness to a conscious or default political ideology does not necessarily point to the primacy of fear as the affective motivation for rejection and hostility. Hence, repudiation, a process of disavowal and negation that often includes fear yet also contains other schematic dynamics. . . . .repudiation connotes a multifaceted dynamic, often unconscious, a reactive process of ambivalence to an object that can evoke simple defensive negation through to extreme responses. (Transpeople: Repudiation, Trauma, Healing, p. 33)

underlies a continuum from the erasure of transgender and transsexual people as practiced by Egale Canada and the “six Canadian queers” associated with the Canadian Rainbow Health Coalition–to the murderous transphobia of Allen Andrade.

In recent days, on the Egale Canada email list, Egale Canada has announced a panel discussion on:

High levels of Homophobic and Transphobic Bullying in Canadian Schools. The Reality of Homophobic and Transphobic Violence in Canadian Schools; A panel of educators, policymakers, researchers and students responding to Egale Canada’s First National Climate Survey on Homophobia and Transphobia in Canadian Schools. To be held April 1, 2009, at the OISE Library in Toronto.

The list of sponsors is

The Mark S. Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies of the University of Toronto in conjunction with Egale Canada, the Elementary Teachers Federation of Canada, The Centre for Leadership and Diversity, OISE, The Centre for Urban Schooling, OISE, Central Toronto Youth Services, Griffin Centre, Rainbow Health Ontario, and The Triangle Program.

Maybe they are privy to another survey I cannot find on the Egale Canada website that respects trans youth as the GLSEN survey does?

Maybe this bait and switch is not noticed or is of no concern?

Maybe the issue of erasure and repudiation is of less importance to all those involved in this project than it is to the Supreme Court of Canada and the Canadian Human Rights Act Review Panel?

Maybe they simply cannot see trans people–repudiation–and that we are treated differently by the law and by the public, as well as by them?

Maybe they simply cannot see this is an act of marginalization and subjugation so shamelessly to submerge the identities of trans youth in the identities of gay youth?

Shouldn’t these organizations be in the business of protecting trans youth, seeking evidence as those in other countries do that is not twisted out of all resemblence to the truth by ideological concerns to maintain the dominance of their identity?

The only way I can understand any of this is as the perspective of the oppressor.

UPDATE: A comment on the Egale list agrees with my request actually to look at the survey, but not to look at the Backrounder, and to see how trans youth are included.

This is precisely my point. Trans youth are so included, there is no way to distinguish them. Hence the contrast I posit with the GLSEN study Harsh Realities.

This blindness to the very real and very separate identities of trans youth–and trans adults–seems to be something quite invisible to this supporter of Egale’s ideology, which requires the erasure and repudiation of all those who are captured by the category of gender identity; gender expression now seems to contested territory, as indicated by the NOT Canadian Rainbow Health Coalition human rights complaint.

It is the unity perspective which is so damaging.

What’s in a Name?

March 2, 2009


“Six Canadian queers,” as Xtra.ca describes them, including the executive director of the Canadian Rainbow Health Coalition, Gens Hellquist, have filed a Federal Human Rights Complaint against Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada on behalf of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and, somewhat secondarily, two spirit people and people who are “gender non-conforming.”

Two spirit people are mentioned in the body of the Complaint, not at the beginning and only as “Aboriginal GLB people.” (p. 6)

The first, explicit claimants of this Complaint of the Canadian Rainbow Health Coalition–whose mandate nominally includes trans people, but not here–who are gay, lesbian and bisexual are claimants this country has grown accustomed to from the long standing non-inclusive advocacy of Egale Canada. But it is the inclusion of “gender non-conformity” as part of “all things associated” with gays and lesbians and “homosexuality in general” (p. 1) tucked away in the definition of homophobia that is truly significant and possibly novel.

It has allowed the logjam in my own thinking regarding what transgenderism is to break.

Thank you!

This was not my first reaction, however.

I thought this was just the usual imperialism of sexual orientation colonizing trans territory–i.e. transgender identities–while leaving the remaining minority, transsexual people, alone to fend for ourselves. The whole thrust of my advocacy has been to include both transgender and transsexual people, to advocate for both gender expression and gender identity, more or less respectively. Those who have read, listened and truly heard me over the years know this.

My first reaction was anger.

It has always been clear what advocating for transsexual people means; similar clarity with respect to transgender people has previously escaped me. It was an article of faith–as well as practical politics–if not something I could rationally articulate.

A little history.

Discussion at the Trans Issues Committee of Egale Canada in 2004-2005 was marked by a strident refusal by one member to countenance use of the term “gender variant” because, in this member’s belief, “variant” equalled “deviance.” Any space for discussion of gender expression was closed down as a consequence of this stridency. Now, with an undeniably positive turn, and expected wide currency, “gender non-conformity” opens up the discussion again.

Moreover, by their claim to “gender non-conformity” the Canadian Rainbow Health Coalition has explicitly, though somewhat secondarily–trans people are always secondary to gay and lesbian people–tied it to sexual orientation: tied sexuality and transgenderism together.

In some ways, this reverses the entire history of the ‘gay rights movement’ which has been one of excluding those perceived to detract from the ability of middle-class, middle-age, white gay and lesbian people from assimilating into society–a policed single-identity movement.

The liberationist wing, somewhat represented by Pink Triangle Press, the Xtra papers and website, has not recently been in ascendance, particularly in the wake of the successes of the assimilationist wing.

This claim has the rather routine effect of leaving transsexual people out in the cold.

There is absolutely no mention of transsexual people in the Complaint as published–and, of course, no mention of transsexual people in Xtra.ca’s rather short piece.

Much routine creativity and energy is being expended on the Egale Canada email list to justify this routine silence. In fact, the spin there is is that this exclusion–not decided by any transsexual people–is really good for trans people–there is yet no comprehension of the inclusion of transgender people.

This is a routine observation on that list.

The Complaint also, interestingly enough, claims two spirit people, declaring quite definitively: “Two-Spirit refers to Aboriginal GLB people.” (p. 6) This counters what I have learned from two spirit teachers who declare their teachings do not concern themselves either with what is between the legs or what is done with it or with whom.

This claim reduces spiritual teachings I have great respect for to mere physicality.

It is true Virginia Prince coined the term “transgender” in the mid-sixties explicitly to counter Harry Benjamin’s articulation, though not invention, of “transsexual.” I would argue–and I believe I’m not alone in doing so–that it wasn’t until the first publication of Butler’s Gender Trouble in 1990 that “transgender theory” really took off. For those who understand her, and those who claim they do, Butler provides a strong foundation for both “transgender theory” and “queer theory.”

The notion of performative gender is very useful in arguing there is no necessary or biological basis for gender or sexuality–if not also sex–and provides freedom for those who need it–or need to argue it.

But not all of us seek to leave biology behind.

I believe there was, at that time, a short flirtation with the notion that homosexuals, particularly lesbians, were some sort of third sex. I don’t believe it continues today. On the contrary, in vigorous debate on the Egale Canada email list over the years at least one gay man declared that in sex with men he was never less a man, but hypermasculine. No lesbian was ever so emphatic but it always seemed clear a woman having sex with a woman is no less a woman, either. Neither are some sort of third sex.

Third sex is now a not uncommon repudiation of transsexual men and women.

In my travels across the ‘net I have encountered transsexual women 20 to 30 years post transition/post operation who bring a perspective to current debates often dismissed.

I exchanged comments with one woman who was part of the National Transsexual Counselling Unit out of San Francisco in the late 60’s, early 70’s which was funded in part by Reed Erickson–a transsexual man who was part of early initiatives not only for gay activism, but also for transsexual activism and what is now called New Age.

There is an important essay by Aaron Devor and Nicholas Matte, ONE Inc. and Reed Erickson: The Uneasy Collaboration of Gay and Trans Activism, 1964 – 2003 in Stryker and Whittle’s The Transgender Studies Reader.

Transsexual women such as my correspondent–as well as those who have posted to comments–add further depth, if such is needed, to Namaste’s arguments, particularly in Against Transgender Rights in Sex Change, Social Change. Certainly a polemic title, but a necessary read for those who wish to rationally argue these issues.

The Canadian Rainbow Health Coalition’s human rights Complaint declares the identities–as it claims them–and health needs of sexual orientation and gender non-conformity have been ill-served by Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada.

I would simply make the parallel argument that the identities and health needs of gender identity have not only been ill-served by Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada, which would, I believe, include transsexual people in the same mandates referred to in the Complaint, but our needs and identities have been ill-served by another organization that has explicitly included us in its mandate but not its advocacy or decision-making.

However, I accept the notion gender non-conformity is an emination, if you will, of sexual orientation, layered on, I would argue, to the sex foundation of identity–layered on to either the cissex or transsex base.

It has always been a commonplace that transsexual people are homosexual (gay, lesbian), bisexual, heterosexual, even asexual in about the same proportions as cissexual people.

Is it any kind of stretch and surely it would be a rational claim that transsexual people are transgender in roughly the same proportions as cissexual people?

This would seem to reverse current arguments of many transgender-identified people that being transsexual is layered on top of being transgender.

I have argued this in Appearances can be deceiving.

I accepted Butler’s argument in her essay on David Reimer that sexual orientation and transgenderism are socially constructed but argued, against Butler, that Reimer’s tragic life demonstrates the persistence of gender identity, including gender identities counter to what is assigned at birth and that, unlike orientation and transgenderism, is not the result of, and is unchanged by, whatever behaviour modification nature or science forces upon us.

I am grateful to the authors of this Complaint for opening another path to this clarity.

A true coalition cannot be formed without a number of conditions being satisfied, among them the laying out with clarity the needs, struggles and embodied lives of the constituents of such a coalition–the precise opposite of policed single-identity movements such as those lead by, historically, Egale Canada and now the Canadian Rainbow Health Coalition.

Yet my gratitude knows no bounds for this “coalition” for it has laid out the grounds for their part of the coalition–not in quotes–which includes not only gay, lesbian and bisexual people but also two spirit and transgender people.

The challenge now comes to those whose primary identification is transgender–those whom I would have thought transsexual–who do not also primarily identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual in the terms of this Complaint to clarify their position, to name themselves as transsexual people have long done, as gay and lesbian people have long done, as two spirit people are doing.

Also as these “six Canadian queers” have now done not only for themselves but also for bisexual people, for transgender people and for two spirit people–whether they will or no.

The choice for those whose primary identification is transgender who do not also primarily identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual in the terms of this Complaint is either to allow themselves to be claimed by this Complaint and sexual orientation or to name themselves with clarity in preparation to join the coalition.

I encourage them to approach this challenge with the same joy I have.


Butler, J. (2006). Gender trouble. New York: Routledge.

Namaste, V. (2005). Sex change, social change:Reflections on identity, institutions, and imperialism. Toronto: Women’s Press.

Stryker, S. and Whittle, S. (eds.) (2006). The transgender studies reader. New York: Routledge.

UPDATE: Yes, in reply to comments, Prince coined the term “transgenderist.” I have been reading a number of Journal articles and other publications from as recently as the mid/late 90’s and this is the term. In Access Denied, Namaste’s contribution to CLGRO’s System Failure, this is the usage.

I think by the time the Ontario Human Rights Commission Discussion Paper Toward a Commission Policy on Gender Identity, 1999, this had begun/had already disappeared.

It has such a weird sound.

UPDATE II: (March 8, 2009) In the first paragraph of this commentary, I refer to Gens Hellquist, Executive Director of the Canadian Human Rights Coalition who is one of the “six Canadian queers” who have filed this Human Rights Complaint.

In the third paragraph, I refer to the Complaint as the Canadian Rainbow Health Coalition’s Human Rights Complaint.

I was wrong.

This is just a Complaint by “six Canadian queers”, one of whom just happens to be the Executive Director of the Coalition. I am curious to know what the relationship of the other five is to the Coalition–or what resources, what knowledge or experience gained through the use of Coalition resources was used in researching, preparing and filing this Complaint.

I am thinking that this was the way for these “six Canadian queers” to get around the mandate of the Coalition which includes “a gender identity that doesn’t conform to the identity assigned at birth.”

This is what some say is the reason Egale Canada created Canadians for Equal Marriage, to avoid its constitutional commitment to intersectionality (see section 2.1; which also requires Egale Canada to be located in Ottawa, not Toronto) and its mandate to include “trans-identified people.”

This now seems to be a venerable tactic of gay, lesbian and bisexual people to get around any notion of or commitment to a GLBT community.

Once, Capital Xtra called for discussions whenever gay and lesbian people and their organizations take part in any part of trans issues. The addition of “trans-identified people”, in the case of Egale Canada, and “gender identity,” in the case of the Canadian Rainbow Health Coalition, to their respective mandates, would have constituted such a discussion.

How many times must we have these discussions?

What is the point even to attempting to have these discussions if they can be side-stepped with such nonchalence–and no one but me to call them on it?