The Most Marginalized of LGBT People

June 26, 2008

(UPDATE)

are, of course, trans people.

There are objective measures of this marginalization which make comparisons unavoidable.

Human Rights Protections

Trans people have no formal human rights anywhere in Canada except North West Territories. Practically speaking, human rights agencies do accept complaints on the basis of gender identity, but the statutory foundation for these complaints is not gender identity but sex or sex and disability.

But as the Canadian Human Rights Act Review Panel said in recommending the explicit addition of gender identity to the Canadian Human Rights Act

to leave the law as it stands would fail to acknowledge the situation of transgendered individuals and allow the issues to remain invisible.

http://www.justice.gc.ca/chra/eng/frp_c17.html#d

Transgendered is another of the many terms for trans people.

Hate Crime Protections

Trans people have no Hate Crime protection in Canada.

When sexual orientation was added to the Criminal Code sections on Hate, Genocide and Sentencing in 2002, gender identity and gender expression were expressly excluded.

The curious situation seems to be that if I were attacked in what was proven to be a hate crime the way Statistics Canada would include my crime would be under sex, disability or even sexual orientation, that is, a crime against a woman—of no particular orientation—a person with a disability, giving the impression of someone, say, in a chair or with a mental deficiency or even a gay or lesbian person.

Not one of these categories would address the very real situation of trans people in Canada. In Ottawa I was recently quoted the same statistic I heard a number of years ago—there was one crime against a trans person last year.

Why would a trans person report a crime when crimes against women, persons with disabilities or gay or lesbian persons are underreported as it is—and they have their own categories and much explicit public support?

And even if we did, crimes against us would still be invisible.

Medical Coverage

In Ontario, there is no medicare coverage for surgery, unlike other provinces.

The recently former Minister of Health of Ontario announced that surgery would be relisted, but did not give a date for it to begin. And we do not know what his successor will do.

There is no coverage in Ontario, and nowhere else as far as I can tell, for hormones, counseling, hair removal, breast removal or augmentation or voice surgery. Nor has the matter of those who have been approved for surgery in the ten years surgery has been delisted been addressed—including those who have funded their surgery themselves.

Although an initiative has been announced in Ontario for the investigation of “rainbow” health needs, it remains to be seen whether services for trans people, buried in the needs of gay and lesbian people, will have any priority.

At this time there seems to be so few trans providers, policymakers or consultants, or others acceptable to those who make the decisions, it is clear our concerns will remain invisible for some time to come.

Routine Exclusion from Media Coverage and Discussion

Even though we are enjoying a sort of renaissance of coverage due to the criticism of the Health Minister’s recent announcement of the relisting of surgery, a survey of more usual coverage reveals we are routinely buried in articles about gay and lesbian people—and we are often considered to be gay.

Even when mainstream media speaks of us, it is not directly. Recently, when The Ottawa Citizen made the statement

Transgendered people are even more marginalized than drug addicts

it was only as a swipe against the idiocy of a local MP, Pierre Poilievre, who had criticized the proposed relisting of surgery in Ontario. It goes on to say

they make an even safer target to beat up on This is on the same level of cheap politics as whipping up anger because an academic somewhere received a grant to write a thesis on, say, snail reproduction.

The editorial, “The courage of Poilievre [sic]” contained this case error in the title and made this error

This isn’t to say that people can’t ask whether same-sex operations [!] are medically necessary.

It culminates with the statement

Pardon us if we don’t admire his courage for taking on the all-powerful transgendered lobby.

http://www.canada.com/ottawacitizen/news/editorials/story.html?id=f68e086c-6a0e-48b2-b67b-d20d70ab04a7

And this, for those starved for any attention, passes for a positive statement. At least we are mentioned.

In a press release from Egale Canada on its marquee Safe Schools Survey, the caption is “Gay Teens Feel Unsafe in Schools.” Although there is mention of “homophobia and transphobia “ there is no specification of any population other than the “Gay Teens” in the caption. Helen Kennedy, Executive Director of Egale Canada declares

“We may have human rights for LGBTQ people in Canada, but you’d never know it based on these results,”

http://www.egale.ca/index.asp?lang=E&menu=1&item=1393

It seems to require repeating that, other than in North West Territories, the human rights of trans people are not formally recognized. The recognition in North West Territories is widely credited to Kennedy’s predecessor twice removed, John Fisher.

Gay media is different.

The prime example of gay media in Canada are the Xtra papers and the Xtra.ca website. In Ottawa, the paper is Capital Xtra.

Capital Xtra has certainly given coverage to particular trans events, including those I have organized, but in daily coverage that would clearly show trans people are part of the overall community Capital Xtra has been very exclusive.

Although Capital Xtra’s editor/publisher, Gareth Kirkby, will speak in public about the “Village” in Ottawa as allowing everyone a “time in the sun” for all LGBT people, as he did recently at a meeting of the Ottawa Police Service LGBT Liaison Committee, in his paper it is exclusively “The Gay Village.”

The most interesting example of this is a cover this past spring showing Glenn Crawford, of Jack of All Trades Design, with Ricky Adams, then an employee of Pink Triangle Services, described as the heroes of “The Gay Village.”

It is curious how Adams was co-opted in the service of a ‘gay-exclusive project’ in that his employer at the time, Pink Triangle Services (PTS), is not a gay-exclusive organization, on the contrary, as it describes itself on its website

proudly serving the gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, two-spirit and queer communities

http://www.pinktriangle.org/

It becomes more interesting still in a description of PTS in respect of its recent fundraising Gala

PTS is Ottawa’s gay and lesbian social service group.

http://www.xtra.ca/public/viewstory.aspx?AFF_TYPE=2&STORY_ID=4934&PUB_TEMPLATE_ID=2

There is no question Capital Xtra and its editor/publisher know the truth of this.

A number of years ago, when Kirkby was participating in what became the Gay Lesbian Bisexual Trans Two Spirit and Queer Community Centre of Ottawa, Inc, he declared his paper would never call it anything more than the ‘Gay and Lesbian Centre’ or the ‘Queer Centre,’–to mention the rest of us would be ‘absurd.’

Disclosure: Kirkby and his paper criticized me when I was briefly Chair of the Community Centre and stated it should focus on the most marginal of our communities—trans people and bisexual people.

HIV/AIDS Risk

It has long been recognized that HIV/AIDS follows marginalization like a guided missile and that, by definition, those who are most at risk for HIV/AIDS are the most marginalized in our society.

The AIDS Committee of Ottawa has declared that transsexual women are at the highest risk for HIV/AIDS.

Subjective Measures of Marginalization

The subjective measures of marginalization are difficult to point to because they are subjective, yet it is hard to ignore the simple fact that each objective measure either maintains and magnifies the stigma of being trans or tracks its terrible effect.

I can, however, think of three questions, at least, that crystallize this:

How can I point to the law—either human rights or hate—and say “I am included along with women, people of colour and gay and lesbian people” when I am not?

How can I point to the “Village” in Ottawa and say “I am included along with gay and lesbian people” when its main proponent excludes me?

If I knew nothing about PTS other than what I read in Capital Xtra—few other media carry any mention of PTS—would I go to it for help when it is described as “Ottawa’s gay and lesbian social service agency”?

Maybe none of this is important, clearly not to some—and maybe I should just accept I will never be part of the mainstream and always a sort of second class gay or lesbian person.

I, however, cannot.

And I look for help to all, including gay and lesbian people, in bringing about change in both the law and society as so many trans people helped in changing the law to recognize gay and lesbian people.

Disclosure: I worked for Canadians for Equal Marriage—and I didn’t once say “trans,” “transgendered” or “transsexual” when I was working.

Ultimately, we can learn to accept marginalization and delude ourselves the despair we feel and the feeling of not quite being part of things isn’t real—a delusion; I always feel like a ghost at ‘community’ events that purport to be inclusive but are declared “gay and lesbian” or sometimes “queer.”

We are told, and tell ourselves, this is our failure and our fault—and it has nothing to do with gay and lesbian people. And we so often berate and degrade each other for saying this and so much else—a hallmark of lateral violence.

And we are the lucky ones; the most marginal among us we will simply never hear from.

A note on this hierarchy of marginalization/oppression: First off, I understand how distasteful many find hierarchies of marginalization/oppression as used in this commentary to be, but in the current climate when trans people are routinely invisibilized in events and discourse it is necessary to do this.

Others simply object to saying this about trans people.

I have always thought of marginalization/oppression to be, not a stagnant body of water, but a series of cascades from the most mainstream to the most marginal. We are all holders of privilege and invisibilize those more marginal than ourselves, unless we are diligent and open.

Until we approach an equality of power in the way we live our lives and allocate the resources of life, this hierarchy is an unavoidable and necessary tool.

UPDATE (March 6, 2009): In reviewing this commentary, I realize that there has been some progress on the medical services front. In June, 2008, surgery was re-listed under medicare in Ontario, though just four monts too late to help me.

There is still a question as to whether the restrictive conditions the old “Clarke Institute of Psychiatry,” now merged with other agencies to create the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), will change. Its requirements, were always far more stringent than the intersational “Benjamin Standards of Care,” and more onerous than other provincial ‘gatekeepers.’

There are rumours regarding possible to changes to this–but remain rumours at this writing.

And there has been no provision at this time, nor even rumours, regarding other medical and social services mentioned in the body of this commentary: hormones, hair removal, breast augmentation, counselling.


Perspective of the Oppressor

June 8, 2008

The conference of the Canadian Professional Association for Transgender Health (CPATH) at the end of June, 2008, is an opportunity to raise the profile of transgender people—CPATH’s umbrella term includes transgender and transsexual people—the efforts of true allies and providers of essential services and to point to the many ways Canadian society has yet to measure up to what is needed.

Helen Kennedy, the current Executive Director of Egale Canada, has been invited to give a keystone speech on “Transgender Issues Across Canada.”

Although some—most notably Vivianne Namaste—have criticized the quite stellar career of a previous Executive Director, John Fisher (1994 until 2002), it certainly gives a glimpse of how “Canada’s gay and lesbian lobby”–as the Xtra media prefers to call it—could reach out to and work with those The Ottawa Citizen has recently described:

Transgendered people are even more marginalized than drug addicts.

http://www.canada.com/ottawacitizen/news/editorials/story.html?id=f68e086c-6a0e-48b2-b67b-d20d70ab04a7

The British Columbia legislature adopted human rights for transgender people in 1998, though it was never proclaimed by the then NDP government, and North West Territories, since 2002, actually recognizes, formally, our human rights. These achievements are widely credited to Mr. Fisher’s leadership and perseverance at Egale Canada.

Under his leadership a significant body of policy regarding the plight of transgender people was created. When I discovered it, Fisher’s successor, a previous board member, confessed he did not know it existed. It may still be available online to show what Egale Canada has committed itself to.

The most recent elaboration of advocacy policy, added to Egale’s ‘policy book’ by the board of directors in 2005, I have never found online.

I have a personal connection to this recent policy—I am a woman of transsexual experience and was a facilitator of its adoption; its lack of availability is my first disappointment. For any organization of Egale’s longevity, more than 20 years and counting, the challenge remains how to keep faith with those whom established policy is meant to better; one recent director told me its not something she supports, so its unimportant.

In 2002, when John Fisher stepped down and Gilles Marchildon took over, the decision was made to put virtually all the resources of Egale Canada into “equal marriage for same-sex couples.” This lead to the creation of Canadians for Equal Marriage and a complicated series of interlocking relationships of personnel, finances, banking, marketing/PR and fundraising between the two organizations.

A substantial and anonymous financial donation from the United States—to be dedicated to same-sex marriage—facilitated this arrangement. Another substantial donation was received in 2006 from Toronto for the same express purpose when the Harper government reconsidered same-sex marriage.

If the situation in the United States, both now and prior to the 2004 presidential election, is any indication—and there is much that is interlocking between the situation south of the border and ours—there may well have been significantly more support for anti-discrimination measures explicitly inclusive of transgender people than for same-sex marriage in Canada, too.

But this option was no longer on the agenda of Egale Canada after the decision taken by a small group of gay and lesbian people in 2002. What the public would support was never explored.

I have detailed elsewhere how, from 2004 to 2007, it was simply “inconvenient, divisive and ultimately unnecessary” for Egale Canada to honestly work with transgender and transsexual people to craft either a single message and advocacy agenda for sexual orientation and gender identity/expression or two co-equal messages and agendas.

Here:

https://jessicalive.wordpress.com/2008/05/19/inconvenient-divisive-and-ultimately-unnecessary/

Here:

https://jessicalive.wordpress.com/2008/05/13/marginal-among-the-marginal/

And here:

https://jessicalive.wordpress.com/2008/06/05/the-backlash-has-begun-ariel/

Under the leadership of its current Executive Director, Helen Kennedy, Egale Canada has continued its now overt policy of marginalizing transgender people; the perennial rumours of a major “trans” campaign remain just that, rumours.

A quick review of its website shows, first, silence on the idiocy of Pierre Poilievre and his public musings on the federal government not funding Ontario in its commitment to relist transsex surgery. I have written about this here:

https://jessicalive.wordpress.com/2008/05/20/who-is-pierre-poilievre/

And here:

https://jessicalive.wordpress.com/2008/05/26/more-on-pierre-poilievre/

Immediately clear is Egale’s current obsession with Jamaican “murder music” contradicting its Mandate to advance

equality and justice for lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans-identified people, and their families, across Canada.

http://www.egale.ca/

Not only for gay and lesbian people in Canada, but also trans-identified people “across Canada.”

From its actions, and a statement by Kennedy, one might believe that we

have human rights for LGBTQ people in Canada

http://www.egale.ca/index.asp?lang=E&menu=1&item=1393

This statement is a prime example of how ‘inconvenient’ it is to craft a message that includes not only gay and lesbian people but also transgender and transsexual people.

Two trends follow directly from these positions of Egale Canada.

The first is worse than silence because, echoed by other LGB(T) organizations, it gives the impression transgender people do have formal human rights across Canada—not just North West Territories—steals hope from those who need it most and dissuades those who might otherwise be allies.

The second trend of LGB(T) organizations, following directly from the previous one and also lead by Egale Canada, is to abandon explicit commitments to transgender people and direct attention to gay and lesbian people in other countries. Ottawa Pride, in 2007, focused its publications and all but one “themed” event offshore. . . .

This is not to say the lives of gay and lesbian people in other countries are easy, they aren’t. Neither are the lives of transgender and transsexual people—whose struggles are arguably more difficult since they are not mentioned.

When Egale Canada abandoned Ottawa in 2007 it abandoned its national advocacy for the human rights of transgender and transsexual people—a commitment that was reconfirmed in the 2005 policy; another disappointment.

This is presented as a necessary cost-saving measure, yet, myself and others begged the Executive Director in 2004 and 2005 to make preparations for the inevitable drop in fundraising after the passage and proclamation of the Civil Marriage Act—widely described as the ‘gay marriage’ bill. These preparations could have been as simple as including trans people—the umbrella term at Egale at the time—in public messaging around ‘equal marriage’ to raise the profile of what is still the silent future, at Egale Canada, at least: the struggles of transgender people.

When the Civil Marriage Act was proclaimed in July, 2005, a precipitous slide in fundraising began that may not have ended. Donor fatigue is evident among those who might have contributed to a major “trans” campaign for those who remain the most marginal of LGBT people–if a foundation had been prepared when their attention was focussed.

Those who begged have now left; some simply discouraged and disappointed; some purged from committee memberships; some expelled from organization membership.

Egale Canada remains in the past.

Now even MP’s are ahead of Egale: Bill Siksay, NDP MP, has in the past year introduced legislation to amend the Criminal Code sections on Incitement to Hatred and Incitement to Genocide and Sentencing to include transgender and transsexual people. The NDP at its national policy convention in 2007 adopted significant policy on transgender and transsexual people that remains absent from Egale Canada’s ‘policy book.’

These sections of the Criminal Code were amended to include gay and lesbian people in 2003.

Incrementalist promises declare gay and lesbian people will come back to help us get where they are now after we helped them—but if they’ve gone offshore. . . . .

Where is the moral authority to pontificate on the struggles of anyone elsewhere when long-standing and re-affirmed commitments to the struggles of those more marginal here at home have been lies?

Helen Kennedy has been invited to speak at the CPATH conference on “Transgender Issues Across Canada” as a keynote speaker. It is unlikely she will comment on the aggressive way her organization has worked against the interests of transgender people since 2002 while, at the same time, pretending otherwise, or her own ongoing active support of the marginalization of transgender people.

Those who took Egale Canada at its “word” and worked to find common cause with the gay and lesbian people who continue to run it in their own exclusive interests will not be silenced. Kennedy’s invitation to this conference is profoundly inappropriate to the goals of CPATH and grossly offensive to all transgender people.

On behalf of those who have been relegated to the margins, I ask CPATH to revoke Kennedy’s invitation, leave Egale Canada where it is and program someone more appropriate—is there not a transgender person with adequate credentials?–who can speak to “Transgender Issues Across Canada” from a perspective other than that of oppressor.


The backlash has begun, Ariel

June 5, 2008

and the struggle, too. Where have you been?

Ariel Troster, the Personal Political columnist of Xtra.ca, and Capital Xtra, has written a column on our local MP, and bully, Pierre Poilievre.

Her column can be found at “Taking Conservative Comments Personally; Waiting for Poilievre’s Trans Baiting to Backfire”:

    http://www.xtra.ca/public/viewstory.aspx?AFF_TYPE=1&STORY_ID=4869&PUB_TEMPLATE_ID=7

I have already written on this matter, which can be found at “Who is Pierre Poilievre and why is he saying these things about transsexual people? And does it really matter?”:

https://jessicalive.wordpress.com/2008/05/20/who-is-pierre-poilievre/

I posted it more than three weeks ago and it has become, and continues to be, the most viewed of my blogs.

The editorial in The Ottawa Citizen she refers to, though not to a far more interesting sentence—more on this in a moment—is important.

The editorial can be found here, published May 21, 2008:

http://www.canada.com/ottawacitizen/news/editorials/story.html?id=f68e086c-6a0e-48b2-b67b-d20d70ab04a7

I posted it to my blog with an interesting email from our own MP, Paul Dewar, both of which can be found here:

https://jessicalive.wordpress.com/2008/05/26/more-on-pierre-poilievre/

There has already been a ‘backlash’ which has rebounded to the benefit of transgender and transsexual people, not only in Capital Xtra and on Xtra.ca, but also in media most read, some of which I cite in my blogs.

But like the Citizen editorial, Troster fusses more on the ignorant ravings of a conservative MP rather than the plight of transgender and transsexual people—referred to in the editorial as transgendered people.

As a swipe, not undeserved, at Poilievre, The Citizen declares:

Transgendered people are even more marginalized than drug addicts.

It is sadly not surprising Capital Xtra, Xtra.ca and its columnists ‘overlook’ the fact that transgender and transsexual people are more marginal than gay and lesbian people, that is, further from the mainstream, more desperate in our lives and struggles and in far greater need of the attention and overt support of those who declare ally status than the gay and lesbian media has historically given.

The secondary status of transgendered people in both the Citizen editorial and this column, which swipes in great glee at Poilievre rather than advancing our cause, is explicit evidence of our greater marginalization.

A number of years ago the editor and publisher of Capital Xtra, and producer of the Xtra.ca website, Gareth Kirkby, declared, in a very emotional and very open meeting what became the Gay Lesbian Bisexual Trans Two Spirit and Queer Community Centre of Ottawa, Inc., that he would NEVER print anything other than ‘Gay and Lesbian’, or ‘Queer’, when referring to the Community Centre.

In connection with the Gay Lesbian Bisexual Trans Two Spirit and Queer Community Centre of Ottawa, Inc. I pointed out the greater marginalization of transgendered people than gay and lesbian people–and for this statement I endured several months of denunciation in Kirkby’s paper, Capital Xtra. I believe it was something along the lines of ‘I was dividing the community.’ The fact is, the community is already divided–and refusing to acknowledge it, further marginalizing those already more marginalized, does nothing, certainly nothing to unify it. Quite frankly, I do not believe there can be the sort of “unity” that is envisioned in such statements.

In recent coverage of the Around the Rainbow Project here in Ottawa–the Project is well aware of the necessity to address the marginalization of those not gay and lesbian by actually saying the words–Capital Xtra edited out the Project Coordinator’s stating these words that he clearly considers redundant—anything beyond gay and lesbian. This piece does not appear to be on Xtra.ca.

Around the Rainbow Project can be found here:

http://www.around-therainbow.com/

The last time Troster herself commented on transgendered people—for me the preferred term is trans people—as far as I can find, was March 15, 2007, in a piece called “You’ll Find Me at Camp Trans in Michigan; I’m Pitching My Tent on Inclusive Ground,” which can be found at:

http://www.xtra.ca/public/viewstory.aspx?AFF_TYPE=2&STORY_ID=2742&PUB_TEMPLATE_ID=7

I expressed my concern at the time that the struggle, as pleasant as it seems at Camp Trans outside the Michigan Women’s Music Festival—long a symbol, and practitioner, of overt transphobia—the real struggle, as with all struggles, is at home.

It is more difficult for some to heed the inner voice urging one to speak truth to power.

In her current piece Troster declares:

This is not a fight that I have been at the forefront of, given that I am an ally and not a member of the trans community. But the recent backlash has hit me hard, as I’ve seen the issue of whether or not my girlfriend deserves equal access to medical treatment used as a pawn in a Conservative MP’s attempt to rattle up reactionary votes.

To maintain one’s credentials as an ally one must use the position and profile one has been given to help those who are more marginalized than oneself. I have not reviewed her entire oeuvre, but I suspect there are a few more pieces on drug addicts than trans people.

A moment of full disclosure:

Troster was the member of the board of Egale Canada for the National Capital Region, appointed to fill the vacancy created when the previous member resigned. I also applied for that vacancy. At the time, the Executive Director gave me the ‘dessert metaphor’ for why I was not chosen. “When people have a choice between cake and ice cream, sometimes people choose cake instead of ice cream, not because they don’t like ice cream, but because they feel like cake.”

Troster went on to be Treasurer of Egale Canada and a member of the executive during the last manifestation of Canadians for Equal Marriage, a creature of Egale Canada, and certainly had the position to influence the trans-excluding policies of those organizations at a time when there was an internal struggle to include trans people–and bisexual people–on the steering committee of Canadians for Equal Marriage.

If my memory serves, she did not resign until after the struggle was decided the only way it could be decided in Egale Canada.

I have written about the failures of Egale Canada here:

https://jessicalive.wordpress.com/2008/05/13/marginal-among-the-marginal/

and here:

https://jessicalive.wordpress.com/2008/05/19/inconvenient-divisive-and-ultimately-unnecessary/

I cannot remember, nor can those with longer associations with Egale Canada remember, any trans person being that joyful cake instead of ordinary ice cream.


Open Letter to Cyndi Lauper

May 26, 2008

(Please Distribute Widely)

Cyndi Lauper

True Colors Tour

North America

I am taking this public way of contacting you because I deeply believe your good will and generosity have been diverted to ends you would neither approve of nor permit if you knew.

You have on many occasions declared your concern for LGBT people, such as recently to the Xtra.ca website in Canada

You could still be fired from your job in 31 states if you’re suspected of being gay, bisexual or transgendered. So I mean, things are hard right now. I don’t know what our story is [in America], but I think… lack of information…?

http://www.xtra.ca/public/viewstory.aspx?AFF_TYPE=3&STORY_ID=4792&PUB_TEMPLATE_ID=5

Your song, True Colors, has become an anthem for those among the most marginal who live in Canada and the United States.

Yet your support for the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) in the United States and Egale Canada in Canada will not reach the most marginal of LGBT people. Neither the HRC nor Egale Canada will provide either you or the public certain information regarding their history and current focus. The public, despite this silence, is beginning to understand the dire situation of transgendered people.

“Transgendered people,” The Ottawa Citizen declared last week, “are even more marginalized than drug addicts” http://www.canada.com/ottawacitizen/news/editorials/story.html?id=f68e086c-6a0e-48b2-b67b-d20d70ab04a7

There is no focus on this most marginal part of the LGBT population by either of these two organizations, even as the article in Xtra.ca suggests when it refers to “Canada’s gay and lesbian lobby group Egale.” Egale Canada, and other LGB(T) organizations in Canada, are beginning to focus on gay and lesbian people in other countries rather than transgendered people in Canada. It is difficult to understand these two organizations are anything other than part of the problem for transgendered people across North America.

HRC through its president, Joe Solmonese, declared its support only for a trans-inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) in the Congress at Southern Comfort 2007 and then proceeded to abandon transgendered Americans when they supported Rep. Barney Frank’s non-inclusive ENDA. This after many years of a troubled relationship with transgendered Americans.

HRC was the only LGB, LGBT or T organization in the United States not to stand by transgendered Americans.

These are Joe Solmonese and HRC’s true colors.

In Canada, other than North West Territories, there are no formal human rights protections for transgendered people, unlike the universal formal protection for gay and lesbian people.

This despite the recent all too common misinformation sent out by the Executive Director of Egale Canada, Helen Kennedy:

“We may have human rights for LGBTQ people in Canada, but you’d never know it based on these results,” said Helen Kennedy, executive director of Egale.

Two-Thirds Of Canadian LGBT Students Feel Unsafe At School http://www.365gay.com/Newscon08/05/051208bul.htm

This routine misinformation, spread by Canada’s LGB(T) organizations following Egale Canada’s lead, is an ongoing serious barrier to the hopes of transgendered Canadians for formal human rights protections taken for granted by gay and lesbian Canadians for a decade.

It is worse than silence.

The prospects for passage of such rights became dim when Egale Canada abandoned the national capital in 2007, thereby abandoning its long declared commitment to advocate for our human rights in the national Parliament and across the country.

I chaired Egale’s Trans Issues Committee in 2005, drafted and facilitated the passage of a detailed policy on advocacy for transgendered Canadians at the national level. I have watched in utter dismay as even lukewarm support for this formal policy was systematically removed—culminating in the 2007 purge of almost a generation of transactivists.

These are Egale Canada’s and Helen Kennedy’s true colors.

Transgendered people have never been hired as staff, nor been given ongoing significant roles on the boards of directors of either organization. The board of Egale Canada has always worked in complete secrecy and repeated rumours of a major “Trans Campaign” have never been fulfilled. There is simply no foundation of good faith to believe it ever will.

I ask you to reconsider your support for these organizations.

The situation of transgendered people in the United States and Canada is more dire than either of these organizations, their boards, executives and staff have ever acknowledged or ever accepted. Their deliberate actions have further marginalized transgendered people across North America.

In the United States there are many T and truly LGBT national organizations that deserve your support, that truly work NOW for the rights and lives of transgendered people—the most marginal of all LGBT people–not in some undefined time in the future.

In Canada, there is yet no national T organization, due in large part to Egale Canada’s siphoning off the energy and imagination of transgendered Canadians. There are, however, many organizations at the provincial and municipal level that deserve your support to carry forward the struggles Egale Canada has never committed to and has now made itself a barrier to.

Your support could very well lead to the formation of a national organization truly dedicated to the struggles of transgendered Canadians.

There are many across North America, transgendered people and true allies alike, who would be happy to provide you with any details you require.

Thank you for your consideration.

Jessica Freedman

Ottawa, Canada

(Please Distribute Widely)

———————————————————————————-

Related commentary on Egale Canada:

https://jessicalive.wordpress.com/2008/05/13/marginal-among-the-marginal/

https://jessicalive.wordpress.com/2008/05/19/inconvenient-divisive-and-ultimately-unnecessary/


Post to Rainbow Health Network Email List

May 23, 2008

This is something I posted to the Rainbow Health Network this morning.

I would like to take up Linda’s couple of questions” though first a few disclaimers.

Please bear with me because I’ve learned through bitter experience, even on this list, that formal credentials and qualifications, of which I have none—other than my entire life’s experience and struggle as a transsexual woman, through transition, human rights complaint, surgery and on into the rest/beginning of my life—have in my own community made me something of a pariah.

Not universally, but enough to render despair, even in the face of success, a lifelong companion who is reluctant to leave.

I do not pretend to understand all the lengthy tracts posted in response to current events or even the strength to read all of them, though I did read Drescher’s response and was, at first, mystified as Linda.

But then I realized, in many quarters of the various “communities”–in quotes because I’m unconvinced there are such things between and among GLBTTQ peoples—what happens to transgender and transsexual people really is an adjunct to the “larger” question. And with respect to surgery, we are, by definition, speaking of transsexual people.

I have written about some of these issues—and the way they impact organizations that purport to be allied with us here:

https://jessicalive.wordpress.com/2008/05/19/inconvenient-divisive-and-ultimately-unnecessary/

and here:

https://jessicalive.wordpress.com/2008/05/13/marginal-among-the-marginal/

It is really quite simple, Drescher is not speaking to trans “communities” at all; he is speaking to the “community” he believes matters—the gay and lesbian community.

It certainly does. But in all of our “communities” gay and lesbian people make up the overwhelming majority and in the majority/minority dynamic—which is inescapable—take on, and their organizations take on, even when they purport to be LGB(T), the very thing gay and lesbian people have struggled with—privilege.

When I discovered this at Egale Canada some years ago—when it was of some relevance to all of our “communities”–I was quite shocked. No longer.

The ‘complicated’ theory, journal reports and statistical support Zucker has amassed regarding the future development of gender-variant male-bodied children, leading to his assertion that most of us end up as gay, certainly leads me to believe his apparent fear—certainly the goal of his “therapy”–has little to do with us—i.e. transsexual people. Rather in his homophobia he has, as it seems Blanchard also has, completely erased our existence.

As I have pointed out elsewhere (link above) our lives, issues and struggles are just “inconvenient, divisive and ultimately unnecessary.”

All struggles for human rights and medical access are inconvenient, divisive and ultimately absolutely necessary—as long as one’s commitment to equality and dignity for all is profound and steadfast.

I exist.

We exist.

Deal.

And if these two “respected” clinicians, their supporters on the Clarke-Western axis–“axis of evil”(?)–cannot see us, well, this remains the problem it always has.

But, of course, they do not deal as so many others do not deal.

Totally excluded from the organizing taking place in Toronto on behalf of trans communities—as with ALL Toronto based “province-wide organizations”—I only know by report, rumour and word of mouth of the work the THLG/THRC, Susan Gapka et al, and the Trans PULSE Project have done. I’m grateful for their work but continue to wonder at how inconvenient the participation of someone who lives north of Steeles Avenue remains.

My point remains that despite good work being done by such organizations and individuals in Toronto and elsewhere, these things happen, when you get down to it, without our input–and not for trying.

In Ottawa, I’ve watched in some amazement as the Ottawa Citizen has called “transgendered people”–I truly HATE that umbrella term–“more marginal than drug addicts” as a passing swipe at Poilievre:

The Courage of Poilievre
http://www.canada.com/ottawacitizen/news/editorials/story.html?id=f68e086c-6a0e-48b2-b67b-d20d70ab04a7

My own comments on Poilievre:
https://jessicalive.wordpress.com/2008/05/20/who-is-pierre-poilievre/

And despite my own efforts over recent years, it is simply inconvenient to establish even a “table”–which I believe is the term now current in social service circles for bodies to discuss matters of concern to various marginal populations. In Ottawa we have, for example, the Gay Men’s Wellness Initiative. A ‘trans services initiative’ is simply not yet in the cards.

On Tuesday, I emailed the office of my MP, Paul Dewar, Ottawa Centre NDP, to ask that he speak out against the absurd idiocy of Poilievre, not only as one of his many trans constituents but because the NDP, as a party, remains one I have worked with—I have worked with Bill Siksay for a number of years, whose response Gapka recently posted to this list—and, like many, assume it is the one most resonant with our issues, needs and struggles.

It is Friday morning and it is still silent.

As of this morning, the Egale Canada website remains silent, nor have we heard a word out of Helen Kennedy, Executive Director, who recently, gratuitously and in error indicated transgender and transsexual people in Canada have formal human rights. Only in North West Territories is this the case..

We may have human rights for LGBTQ people in Canada, but you’d never know it based on these results,” said Helen Kennedy, executive director of Egale.

Two-Thirds Of Canadian LGBT Students Feel Unsafe At Schoolhttp://www.365gay.com/Newscon08/05/051208bul.htm

(Previously in the St. John’s Telegram)

Helen, you know better. Shame on you.

The Mikki Gilbert op-ed in yesterday’s Ottawa Citizen, at:

http://www.canada.com/ottawacitizen/news/opinion/story.html?id=e7e297f9-9f2b-40fd-ad9d-4c64277f984c

is quite curious.

The picture at the center of the piece in the printed edition is the mirror reflection of a Thai katooey putting on her lipstick. Those of you who have read Namaste certainly know the classic error/diversion of such a display. And while I’m more than happy to accept the positive support of anyone, I can only wonder at the choice of someone whose situation in the transgender-transsexual spectrum is as a self-declared crossdresser, and as such a transgender not transsexual person, to speak for us.

Or above us. Or without us.

His life and struggle, certainly a part of any transgender/transsexual coalition—trans coalition—are not mine and I can no more understand his than he can mine. Make no mistake, I have always worked towards the human rights of all transgender and transsexual people though when it comes to questions of surgery—the goal of those whose lives from birth are dissonant in the extreme—the question raised by Smitherman’s recent announcement, where is the commentary from a transsexual person in anything other than a subsidiary manner? Letters to the editor, interviews, etc.

Too many do not see our lives and struggles when they consider the question of surgery, rather they see impacts on what gay and lesbian people have achieved—which certainly show us what can be achieved—but in their cissexual privilege do not see us.

This also raises issues of professionalization—discussed on this list—privilege, oppression, exclusion and alienation. All the daily fare of transgender and transsexual people.

I write today in great anger at my exclusion from these debates that have governed my life from the moment I was born—if not long before. I also write in great relief that now, post-op, there is little that bigotry, privilege, ignorance, prejudice, hate and even inconvenience can do to me with regard to the question of surgery, at least.

I am not certain about the future and wait for the time our voices are heard on matters that concern us, not others–except in their commitment to equality and dignity for all–and are positively responded to.


Inconvenient, Divisive and Ultimately Unnecessary

May 19, 2008

In this blog, I am what Autumn Sandeen has recently described as being a bad tranny.

I will criticize the way some lesbian and gay people, particularly those in positions of power in Egale Canada (and Canadians for Equal Marriage), have responded to the demands of transgender and transsexual people for equal voice and equal resources to fight for those goals long accepted by this very organization.

Egale Canada advances equality and justice for lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans-identified people, and their families, across Canada. (http://www.egale.ca/)

This is the mandate of Egale Canada as taken from its website.

If Egale Canada, its staff and board had ever been truly committed to its avowed goal, as declared in their mandate, this blog might well have been an act self-destructive to the goals I espoused while a volunteer there–and probably would have never been written.

They never were.

And because of this Egale Canada is now irrelevant not only to transgender and transsexual people but also to gay, lesbian and bisexual people because it never heeded the future.

Sadly, it never had to be this way.

The title of this blog was the phrase the former Executive Director of Egale Canada gave when asked why Egale Canada and Canadians For Equal Marriage would not refer to transgender and transsexual people (trans people for short) with equal profile nor afforded comparable resources as gay and lesbian people.

Later he denied using this phrase–though I suspect his earlier candor gave way to something else. But even if this was a case of cryptonesia on my part (remembering something that never happened), it is still the most apt description of the attitude of Egale Canada–and many gay and lesbian people to this day–even when it has proven self-destructive to Egale Canada.

I was not the only one who predicted this. None of us were heard.

His rationale, and I remain grateful for it, is quite simple.

For an organization based upon the struggles of gay and lesbian people and sexual orientation, which is the defining characteristic of gay and lesbian people, the development of another message based not on orientation would clearly be inconvenient–even if it is the right thing to do.

How can they change direction after all this time? How can we ask them to give up a winning formula–even/especially when it has won what it set out to win?

There is also an assumption that media will never be able to understand those other than gay and lesbian people who are marginal and are struggling for the same recognition. That this assumption has never been tested seems not to have impinged upon this attitude.

Such a different message would clearly be divisive because the unity of the/their movement is based upon their self-defined oneness as those who love people of the same sex–the definition of themselves through whom they are attracted to.

Certainly, there is an internal/spiritual component to this, but the decision was made long ago that the most convenient way to achieve oneness was to concentrate on the notion of relationships and upon those who are the least offensive to straight people–regardless of need.

So, this became a movement that has historically thrown overboard all those who do not conform with this notion of oneness–and inoffensiveness–that has expelled not only transgender and transsexual people in its quest for acceptance as just another, slight, variant of straight.

Such a different message is clearly divisive.

Why has it proven impossible even to conceive of a movement inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity and gender expression? Why has the power of imagination of these long time warriors now failed? What is the possible future for an organization whose leaders no longer have the ability to see the future?

There were many internal criticisms of the images long associated with equal marriage–which in its origins, as once posted to the equal marriage website, was clearly limited to gay and lesbian people–which never included people of colour nor those not of middle-class or middle age.

All of us excluded from the equal marriage campaign are clearly far more marginal than white, middle-class, middle age gay and lesbian people.

This is an attitude only possible for those who have achieved more than a little comfort and more than a little affluence.

Ultimately, it is quite unnecessary to include transgender and transsexual people because, ultimately we will come out as gay or lesbian and once we so identify all these gay and lesbian only policies will apply to us and we will naturally accept their professional leadership.

Over the years gay and lesbian people have developed professional skills and personalities that once upon a time they did not have and might have been criticized by straight people for not having them yet wanting to do what ‘only professionals can do’–and gay and lesbian people responded that they were homophobic.

This is precisely where transgender and transsexual people now are–though we dare not respond that they are transphobic.

There is a certain arrogance to this position because it conveniently erases the concerns transgender and transsexual people have before they ever get to the point of being able to come out as gay or lesbian. How the hell can we have a sexual orientation when we don’t have a sex/gender from which to have orientation?

(I remain unconvinced that, even post-op, my understanding of sex/gender and orientation will ever be the same as any cissexual person.)

And where do our health needs come in that are not those of gay and lesbian people?

And where do our human rights come in? Despite routine misinformation transgender and transsexual people do not have formal, explicit human rights anywhere in Canada–except North West Territories.

And what about those transgender and transsexual people who are not gay or lesbian? Where do they fit in? Do they fit in with sexual orientation?

And for that matter where do gender-variant gay and lesbian people fit in? Is their gender expression covered by sexual orientation?

All of this places transgender and transsexual people much further to the margins than gay and lesbian people.

At the moment the Civil Marriage Act–the law that recognizes the marriage of any two people, regardless of sex/gender, though this was never used as a basis for public messaging–was passed into law in mid-2005, Egale Canada noticed a precipitous drop in fundraising–because, obviously, many people had achieved their goal and were no longer interested in what some felt was exorbitant demands for money from both Canadians for Equal Marriage and Egale Canada. They tag teamed the same fundraising lists every month.

And they were simply not interested in the needs of those more marginal than themselves.

I, among others, pointed this out to the then ED but he was, at the time, unconcerned.

Egale Canada entered a funding crisis it has never escaped. This was the beginning of the downsizing of staff and office space, of its profile and of its relevance to anyone.

During my involvement, I was not the only person who advocated for Egale Canada to take up the cause of transgender and transsexual people. This would have been a good thing not only because it is right and that Egale Canada had long committed itself to this–though the then ED admitted he had been unaware of this long policy history until I pointed it out–but because it is the future.

It would have positioned Egale Canada to benefit from the inevitable rise in the profile of transgender and transsexual people as the awareness that it is our human rights that are the last frontier among marginal people–and it is/was the best way for Egale Canada to continue its institutional existence.

Sadly, this never happened.

I have read on the xtra.ca website that Egale Canada is gearing up for a big campaign on trans issues this fall. However, true to its politburo style, no one seems to have heard anything about this–or been invited to help.

Yet there is at this moment not even a press release on the recent declaration of the Ontario Minister of Health that transsexual surgery will be relisted under Ontario medicare. True to long standing form, not even this is possible. Anyway, such a release would itself be inconvenient, divisive and ultimately, of course, unnecessary.

What can be said of the commitment of an organization which would rather remain true to its past glories than advocate for the ‘equality and justice’ of those most marginal in society–and in its mandate–or even take the necessary steps to maintain its institutional existence?

The best that can be said of those gay and lesbian people facing the past is that they were long-time warriors for their cause with a warrior’s focus on their own struggles.

I would have been proud to continue my work with Egale Canada–my application for the board of directors was sat on for 3 years–to continue its best traditions.

I no longer regret I won’t have that opportunity.