Open Letter to Rainbow Health Ontario

September 21, 2008

I have received your email informing there is nothing at Rainbow Health Ontario (RHO) for me at this time. Of all the employers I have contacted in the past year, you are the only one who has responded.

Thank you for this.

I received it the same day Susan Gapka, of Trans Health Lobby Group/Trans Human Rights Campaign, posted her email–subject line: Canadian Human Rights Act Amendment to Include ‘Gender Identity’–to the Rainbow Health Network (RHN), which has described itself as a founding partner to RHO. This gives the perk of having membership in RHN required for the Community Outreach Team position for the Toronto Center Local Health Integration Network.

Gapka’s post reminded me of what unnerves about the backrounder you published about RHO and the Community Outreach Team and its purpose.

On page 3, under Information on Rainbow Health Ontario, subsection Why is this resource needed? you state:

Despite significant improvement in human rights of LGBT people in Canada there are deep gaps and inequities in services and in the health status of LGBT people. Many health care providers are uncomfortable when caring for LGBT people and uninformed about the specific health care issues of this community.

LGBT people are rarely included in health promotion campaigns other than those relating to HIV/AIDS. Neither they, nor their health care providers, have accurate knowledge about their health care risks.

I believe it is difficult to make the case that LGBT people are one community, or that there is one set of specific issues for this ‘community.’ Bitter experience has taught that issues of transgender and transsexual people are often only of interest when they are the issues of gay and lesbian people and that those issues specific to our lives–surgery being only one obvious one–will not be of ‘common concern.’

In Ottawa, the only health promotion campaigns seen–in fact an important movement in recent years–is in connection with gay men and HIV/AIDS. While the trans men’s book raised some controversy, the actual work on the ground in Ottawa has little inclusion of trans people; it is unclear what campaigns have ever included trans women–what there is has no comparison to long established traditions for gay and lesbian people.

That there has been significant human rights improvement for gay and lesbian people cannot be questioned. For transgender and transsexual people there remain deep gaps and inequities and it is my concern that unless this sharply divergent status is explicitly acknowledged nothing will change.

History is quite clear.

In 1998, the Canadian Human Rights Act was amended to include sexual orientation. The was about the same time, after a series of Supreme Court decisions on gay issues–including Vriend v. Alberta–contributed to the creation of the doctrine of analogous grounds; this allowed the Supreme Court to take judicial notice of sexual orientation as a ground analogous to those in Section 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

During this period, provincial and territorial human rights acts, either because of direct action by legislatures, or indirectly through the effect of the “analogous grounds” decisions, were amended to include sexual orientation.

In 2002, though not specifically human rights, the Criminal Code sections on Encitement to Hatred, Encitement to Genocide and the Sentencing Provisions were amended to include sexual orientation with the passage of Svend Robinson’s private member’s bill, C-250. This was accomplished with rare all party consent.

In 2005, the Civil Marriage Bill was passed, consolidating legal decisions affecting most of the territory of Canada, to formally recognize the relationships of gay and lesbian people–finishing the work of bringing gay and lesbian people from the margins to the mainstream of society, as we argued at Canadians for Equal Marriage (CEM).

On the evening of June 28, 2005–after the Third Reading vote in the House of Commons, Alex Munter, National Coordinator of CEM declared:

there are no second-class Canadians, lesbian, gay, bi and trans people are full members of the community, without caveat or exceptions. We will long remember this proud day.

In December, 2006, after Stephen Harper’s attempt to re-open the debate failed, Lorrie Arron, Munter’s successor as National Coordinator of CEM stated:

As we move beyond law reform, we face the challenge of changing hearts and minds. . .

During this period other, less publicized administrative, regulatory and collective bargaining changes were established for sexual orientation.

Although this period has not seen inaction on the gender identity/gender expression front, results have been disappointing. As a result we cannot say, along with Munter, that transgender and transsexual people “are full members of the community, without caveat or exceptions.”

In 1998, the British Columbia Legislature voted to amend the B.C. Human Rights Code to include gender identity; the government of the day, however, did not proclaim this law. Though Cheri di Novi’s bill has recently been introduced into the Ontario Legislature, no action has been taken.

In 2000, the Canadian Human Rights Act Review Panel, lead by Justice Gerard La Forest, recommended that the Canadian Human Rights Act be amended to include gender identity, adding:

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

Regrettably, none of the recommendations of the Panel have been adopted.

Robinson was adamant in his refusal to include gender identity and gender expression in C-250. After its passage, he was reported to have acknowledged his error and committed to work for the protection of transgender and transsexual people in the future. His successor as Member of Parliament for Burnaby-Douglas, and NDP LGBT critic, Bill Siksay, has made good on this commitment.

Neither of Siksay’s private member’s bills–to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and to amend the Criminal Code–had all party consent even to be debated, let alone voted and adopted. With the federal election even they, in their silence, have been erased.

On a more positive note, in 2002 the legislature of North West Territories amended its human rights law to include gender identity and proclaimed it. It was much easier because of the significant difference between Inuit culture and that in the south.

This became the example for a New Democratic Party election plank in the 2004 federal election–though there was little profile for it.

Since 2002, and particularly during the heady days of 2005, as the cites from Munter and Arron above demonstrate, a political orthodoxy has been established. This orthodoxy, as is clearly indicated in the cites, is that ALL LGBT people have human rights. And because ‘we’ all have human rights it is time to move “beyond legislative reform…face the challenge of changing hearts and minds.”

The best that can be said of this orthodoxy is that it is incorrect.

It is a very real barrier to advocacy based on the truth which we must fight simply to be heard. It is more than what the La Forest Report described: our issues have not simply been silenced, they, and we, have been erased.

All that remains is an imposed unity under the banner of sexual orientation–or nothing.

In 2005, Egale Canada formally adopted a trans advocacy policy that includes both gender identity and gender expression, declares support for Bill Siksay’s private member’s bill to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and “other legislation” and calls for engaging the supporters of equal marriage to support the human rights of trans people.

As drafter of this policy it was my intent also to support legislation such as Siksay’s bill to amend sections of the Criminal Code to include gender identity and gender expression as his predecessor’s C-250 had included sexual orientation.

You will not have heard of this policy because, though formally adopted, it was repudiated almost as soon as it was adopted through studious inaction. In 2007, when Egale Canada abandoned Ottawa, and lobbying Parliament, it confirmed its repudiation of transsexual and transgender people.

On February 1, 2007, the Supreme Court of Canada announced it would not hear the appeal of Kimberly Nixon regarding her case with Rape Relief Society of Vancouver. As is its habit, the Court did not give reasons.

This might have been an opportunity for the Supreme Court to take judicial notice of gender identity, at least, as an “analogous ground” to those in Section 15 of the Charter as it had done with respect to sexual orientation in the late 1990’s with Vriend v. Alberta et al.

An opportunity to dream.

As recently as May 12, this year, the Executive Director of Egale Canada, Helen Kennedy, declared:

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

The reference is to Egale’s Safe School Survey, but looking at the PDF backrounder, you’d never know transgender and transsexual youth exist. I simply point out that the lives of trans youth are not blighted by homophobia alone.

It has come to the point where the former editor/publisher of Capital Xtra, Ottawa’s gay and lesbian paper, part of the Xtra chain, owned by Pink Triangle Press–which excludes both trans and bi people from its Mandate–can declare:

The numbers of gays and lesbians for outweigh those of trans [sic].

as a premise for marginalizing the lives and issues of transsexual and transgender people as similar statements regarding gay and lesbian people in 2005, 2002 and the late 1990’s were intended to marginalize gay and lesbian people. In those days many considered such comments homophobic.

Why would we not now consider these comments transphobic?
Not to mention the revisionism with which this and following columns are rife.

In recent years, in community organizations in Ottawa, there has been much discussion regarding the effect of the alienation of gay men from society on their mental well-being leading to behaviour of significant risk.

I absolutely believe it because I know the same effect as a transsexual woman. All trans people do.

It is unclear, certainly in Ottawa, if there is any formal discussion of this issue. My own efforts to establish a Trans Services Initiative to address this and related concerns was unable to proceed.

During the campaign for same-sex marriage I attended all the demonstrations held in Ottawa, from the smallest to the largest.

The euphoria of the gay and lesbian people present was obvious.

Their exaltation is evident in the triumphalism of the Munter and Arron cites above. Yet, while working at CEM, we were admonished not to mention trans or bi people–Munter’s comment to the contrary notwithstanding–even though there were/are positive effects for trans and bi people even in the silence.

But there is more than silence.

I argued at the time that the Civil Marriage Bill, speaking in terms not of ‘a man and a woman; a man and a man; a woman and a woman’ but simply “two persons,” is really far more radical that CEM/Egale Canada, and others, wish to admit.

The law makes no reference to gender, sex, sexuality, gender identity or gender expression.

Why must it be particularized to sexuality?

For myself, I was never able to share in the euphoria of these demonstrations. Unnerving me were always questions:

Why cannot this issue be generalized to include us as we are?

Why will they not acknowledge our contribution–even our existence?

Are they ashamed of us?

Are they embarrassed by us?

And this is why your backrounder for RHO so unnerves me.

I understand making explicit the way the lives and needs of transsexual and transgender people diverge from gay and lesbian people is widely considered inconvenient and unnecessary–because most of us will probably/eventually come out as gay or lesbian. I understand that many also find this project divisive and believe the lives and needs of all LGBT people must explicitly converge.

This is not constructive in any way for transgender and transsexual people.

If “there are still gaps and inequities in services and in the health status” of gay and lesbian people despite a good decade of significant progress–and I do not challenge this–how much worse must it be for transsexual and transgender people who not only have not made progress, but continually have our status materially misrepresented and/or erased?

When will we be formally welcomed from the margins to the mainstream?

To achieve significant progress our current status must, as the La Forest Report declares, be acknowledged.

I had hoped, as an insider, to challenge what is not simply silence, but a routine erasure of transgender and transsexual people, our lives, our struggles, our needs. But as an outsider, a routine experience for transsexual people, I do not see this as a practical possibility.

And it is in this context that I really do not understand your invitation to sign up for the RHO newsletter or as a possible volunteer in projects organized in the same manner as your backrounder.

It is difficult enough anywhere north of Steeles Av to participate meaningfully in Toronto based, nominally provincial organizations trying to contribute–as I have with Ontario Public Interest Research Groups, Ontario New Democratic Party, Trans PULSE Project, Trans Human Rights Campaign, Rainbow Health Network and now Rainbow Health Ontario.

I accept that Rainbow Health Ontario is the only game in the province but I implore you to reconsider the way you have conceptualized your mandate, the way you have conflated very different people to make the challenges to the health and well being of all LGBT people seem simpler than they really are to make them politically palatable.

There is no doubt political considerations exist, but the health and well being of all LGBT people cannot be held hostage to them, certainly not given what we have accomplished and all we must yet accomplish.

Jessica Freedman

stenographers for power

September 17, 2008

don’t challenge the subjects of their stories, they just tell
you what the government is saying. In other words, they’ve become
stenographers for power and not journalists.

I have just come across the Capital Xtra post-Pride edition–with a picture of a Pride reveler on the cover. I didn’t pick it up when it came out because I find Capital Xtra not to be particularly credible–I do read columns online on occasion, particularly when I am denounced. As has happened over one, two and possibly three recent columns by the former editor/publisher, Gareth Kirkby. As he and another columnist denounced me some 18 months ago.

There might be some question about the actual number of pieces in the current series of denunciations. One, if you accept only the column where I am denounced by name; two, if you accept “not one lone Ottawa individual” as being me; three if you accept this as sequlae.


I found this edition in the staff room of the Chapters big box bookstore where I work in Ottawa. Flipping through it, the fourth page actually, I found Letters to the Editor.

In a section captioned The Trans Movement I found a letter from me and one from Shannon Blatt. It was Blatt’s notice of return of her Capital Xtra Community Hero Award for 2007.

I don’t believe I have ever written a letter to the editor–certainly not this one. It was a comment posted to the second of Kirkby’s series of three–“not one lone Ottawa individual.” It was lifted and published without my permission and without my knowledge.

Can they do this?

I know of no law or rule to prevent it. And there is a notice in the Guidelines to Readers that it may be published in an Xtra paper. So I suppose that makes it alright.

However, I certainly wonder about the intellectual honesty of doing this without notice.

This is not the first time Capital Xtra has lifted a comment.

The quote which so incensed Kirkby, published in the first of this series of three columns–on “hierarchies of oppression,” linked above–was lifted from my blog, The most marginalized of LGBT people, and reads

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.

About a year ago a ‘reporter,’ no doubt meeting a deadline, lifted a quote from an email I had posted to Egale Canada’s main email list. I hadn’t gotten back to her because of a reluctance to participate in Capital Xtra due to the earlier denunciation–more on that later.

Again, I don’t think there is any legal prohibition against doing this–there is, of course, no fine print on Egale Canada’s terms of use saying posts will appear in an Xtra newspaper.

Shannon Blatt in her posts to Kirkby’s columns on challenged his intellectual honesty and it was because these columns were published, as she noted in her letter to the editor, that she returned her award.

There is also history between the new Managing Editor, Marcus McCann, and me.

About 2 years ago, in what was probably one of his very first news pieces for Capital Xtra, McCann was present when the Ottawa Police Service (OPS) LGBT Liaison Committee held a Trans Services educational for senior officers, and others, at Centerpointe Theatre.

Along with Jade Pichet (Capital Xtra Youth Community Hero Award Winner for 2007) I was invited to speak.

We did. At length.

Senior Officer Kai Liuk gave a presentation on the Forester Human Rights Tribunal decision on searches of trans people. A training video on traffic stops of trans women–produced by the Ottawa Police Service–was shown.

Joanne Law, long time transgender activist–and long active on the Committee–recounted pounding on the table to get ‘transgender’ added to the Committee’s Mandate. David Culpepper, civilian employee of the OPS attached to the Committee, presented a cake celebrating 25 years of the Committee’s work and bantered with Law on their experiences together on the Committee.

None of this appeared in McCann’s piece, except banging on the table. It became a tangent point to an opinion piece on community policing and, if memory serves, gay people.

Somewhat later, speaking to then editor/publisher Kirkby about this work of imagination, I was told his reporters are not stenographers. Although somewhat cryptic, I now believe he was referring to the notion of reporters becoming “stenographers for power” as we have clearly seen in the United States and first pointed out by Norman Soloman in his 1990 book, Unreliable Sources. This notion was discussed around the cite I have placed at the top of this comment.

What power do trans people have? Why didn’t McCann challenge us instead of erasing us?

Trans people are so marginalized a ‘reporter’–and Managing Editor to be–feels free to erase a whole event and imagine something else–as if the event had never happened.

Further history: About 18 months ago, McCann did a profile of me when I was, for a short time, acting chair of the GLBTTQ Community Centre. In it I spoke of the need to focus on the marginal among LGBT people–bisexual and trans people. This became the basis for two denunciations in the same issue of Capital Xtra, one, an editorial from then editor/publisher Gareth Kirkby and another from another gay man who was writing columns at the time.

I must say how upset I was by this; I resigned as chair at the next meeting.

I must also say I no longer feel this way about Capital Xtra denunciations!

This was part of a successful campaign by Kirkby, started previously, to undermine the Community Centre.

It began during a screaming match over the name of the Centre–Kirkby’s preference was either Gay and Lesbian Community Centre or Queer Community Centre. His concern was that the Centre maintain a queer identity which he defined as growing out of the bars, gyms, spas, clubs, etc, of the gay community. It remains unclear how those of us who didn’t come up through the bars, gyms, spas, clubs, etc, of the gay community can share in this ‘queer identity.’ I think this covers many GLBTTQ people.

I have commented elsewhere on Capital Xtra’s erasing of trans people.

I believe these several cites without notice–even though one is noticed by the Guidelines to Readers–along with Shannon Blatt’s concerns call into continuing question the intellectual honesty of Capital Xtra, even as Kirkby has stepped down/possibly up into the higher reaches of Pink Triangle Press–the owner of the Xtra papers–in June and installing Marcus McCann as Managing Editor.

I have previously commented upon Pink Triangle Press’s exclusion not only of trans people but also bisexual people from its rather lyric Mandate, Daring Together–the title of Kirkby’s column. In this way, I suppose, there is a certain intellectual consistency to Capital Xtra and the way it works.

But, given this consistency, why would its editors and reporters not notify me when they lift my internet posts and publish them; there is no legal recourse I am aware of–and if their notice was the evening before that issue appeared, what could I do?

To my mind a question of power arises from this now apparently facile habit–which is probably not even noticed by Capital Xtra’s staff.

This invisibility also makes it a matter of privilege.

Some hold out hope for McCann to be something other than a Kirkby clone, yet I am uncertain how far he has diverged/will diverge from his mentor when omission of notice continues.

A small thing, perhaps; tip of the iceberg, perhaps.

All I can do is write this commentary–speak truth to these stenographers for power.

The Most Marginalized of LGBT People

June 26, 2008


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.

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.

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,”

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 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

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.

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.


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.

The backlash has begun, Ariel

June 5, 2008

and the struggle, too. Where have you been?

Ariel Troster, the Personal Political columnist of, 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”:

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?”:

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:

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

There has already been a ‘backlash’ which has rebounded to the benefit of transgender and transsexual people, not only in Capital Xtra and on, 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, 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 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

Around the Rainbow Project can be found here:

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:

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:

and here:

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. is a gay blog

May 31, 2008

I have just read this in a piece on The Washington Blade’s website, ” Gay political blog left out of DNC National Convention:”

It begins:, a rising gay blog headed by Bil Browning and host to nearly 100 contributors, was not granted blogger credentials to the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver.

Later in the piece, ” Browning figured Bilerico would be a shoo-in, with its wide variety of writers and the diversity among them.”

I have also just some time posting comments to the Bilerico Project, which bills itself as “daily experiments in LGBTQ:”

I read many posts from trans people and others who are certainly not “gay” but do truly range in diversity and, I would add, measure up to its billing as “daily experiments in LGBTQ:.”

I read so often, on Bilerico, about the need to work together, in a way, though no one there actually says in so many words, that leads me to understand they understand the notion of coalition, not identity, which is the only way those of us who are not male, middle-class or white can ever join and benefit.

Particularly for those who, usually only nominally, espouse either intersectionality or anti-oppression.

Coalition is a notion completely alien to the mainstream in LG(B)(T) activism in Canada, often on display in the Xtra publications in Canada:

It is curious, but I’ve just read at least one long comment, on bilerico, bemoaning all the labels and hoping for a time when they won’t be needed. I don’t know why there is any moaning at all because the time is here.

The Washington Blade, and Capital Xtra, have declared the all-inclusive term is “gay.”

Now, all of us who don’t identify, or identify primarily as “gay,” should not cavil at this, because, I suppose, this term represents all the diversity, all the inclusiveness that is necessary–all else would be “inconvenient, divisive and ultimately unnecessary.”

I realize this is nothing for bilerico or many others even to take notice of, yet, I believe that until there is fully recognized diversity and declared/established inclusiveness, the casual erasure of so many, because it is “inconvenient, divisive and ultimately unnecessary” to do otherwise, will lead to more than casual consequences for those of us who have been erased.


On a much more positive note, I am happy to note that Autumn Sandeen, of the blog Pam’s House Blend, will be the only transgender blogger at the Democratic National Convention.

Way to go, Autumn!

Pam’s House Blend:

Why is the Term Transgendered?

May 25, 2008

Ever since Kinsey created the spectrum/continuum between Heterosexual and Homosexual we’ve been cursed with lines. The only thing that commends itself about lines is that they are easy to read–for most us, at least, most of the time.

And we have, over the years, created/discovered a number of other lines that have become the way we in the GLBTT2IQQA (I think that is all of us) and straight allies, and others, have used to explain that we do not live in either/or but in gradations, spectrums and continuums.

I think I’ve captured most of them below:






Look closely, the usage of four of them is the same–the fifth, however, is quite exceptional–and I say marginalizing.

Forgetting the use of the past participle (that is, adding “ed” to transgender) it is the only spectrum/continuum in which the term on the left is used as the category and umbrella term for the whole line.

For the first two, the umbrella term is “gender.”

For the third, the umbrella term is “sex.”

For the fourth, the umbrella term is “sexual orientation”–or “orientation” for short.

Why is the umbrella term for the fifth “transgendered?” Why the special treatment?

Women have never accepted the idea they should be called “men” for, say, convenience sake. They would never accept the argument that the term “man” or “men” is used to include them has derived from history and is why they should accept their erasure from discussions that would otherwise include them.

In fact, feminists have long argued for the power of language and the necessity for specific inclusion for the term “woman” or “women” in discussions that include them or are about them.

Logically, in the second and the third line, it would be absurd to call feminine and female masculine and male, respectively; and it would be just as absurd to do the reverse.

Why, it would be like calling apples oranges.

Now, what would be the point in erasing the existence of one or the other?

In the fourth line, it would more than absurd to call homosexual people heterosexual–we would see that for what it is, heterosexist or heteronormative privilege, erasing the minority with the majority term. Gay and lesbian people do not have to endure that indignity.

But in the fifth line it is considered convenient to call transsexual people–a minority among a minority–by the term denoting the majority of the continuum.

This in violation of the rules of absurdity, logic and what we can now say cissexism and cisnormative privilege that can be gleaned from our scrutiny of the first four lines.

A personal experience.

In organizing for the last Transgender Day of Remembrance–called in many parts of Canada Trans Day of Remembrance–there were some early concerns regarding the way it would be called. Most of the people I was working with represented an organization that describes itself as a transgender support organization. At least half of those present were transgender, that is, were not concerned with surgery.

Numerically, the number of transsexual people in its membership has increased more than a little in the four and half years I’ve been aware of its existence–and since I was, for a short time, a member. Today, I believe all of its executive are transsexual people.

That is, those who have had and those who are intending to have surgery.

In our first discussions, the majority of those present desired to revert to “Transgender Day of Remembrance” from the three previous years’ usage. I argued for the use of the term “trans” as inclusive of all transgender and transsexual people. It was, at one point, suggested that since I had used this term, why not call the event “The Trans-Transgender Day of Remembrance?”

For some reason, possibly because I had used a term I believed inclusive, the use of the term transsexual in, say, “The Transgender-Transsexual Day of Remembrance” or maybe “The Transsexual-Transgender Day of Remembrance” was not on. Both of these usages were dismissed out of hand with clearly no understanding of what I was pointing at.

For quite a while now, I say “transgender and transsexual people” or “transsexual and transgender people” because I realize what we have, and must have if our campaigns are to work, is a coalition.

This logic has been a difficult one to sell–and especially at meetings of this group–because it is seen as inconvenient and probably divisive. The line often used is that there are too many divisions among GLBT people, with the implicit consideration that gay and lesbian people have used a forced singular identity, or oneness, based upon sexual orientation, to great success.

Among the most prominent casualties of this forced adherence to a singular identity have been Sylvia Rivera, Marsha P. Johnson, Beth Elliot, Sandy Stone, Reed Erickson. The many transsexual women who were the Compton Cafeteria Riot. All transsexual people and most, if not all, quite unknown to those I was working with and the current generation as a whole.

Exclusion, and of course marginalization, an inherent result if not goal of the strategy of forced singular identity.

I have argued against this in previous blogs.

This terminology becomes all the more absurd in the current discussion in Ontario when one hears the things like ‘sex-change surgery for transgenders.’ Now, I don’t know any transgender person who wants surgery, because the definition of the term ‘transgender’ does NOT include a permanent movement from male to female or female to male. Permanent movement is the definition of the term ‘transsexual.’

Yeah, I know this is inconvenient, especially for those who reside in the territory of the majority.

I am reminded of gay men of a certain age who speak nostalgically of the time when everyone who wasn’t straight was gay–lesbians, bisexual people, transgender people, transsexual people. Sure it was convenient and not divisive for them but it obscured increasingly marginal populations while retaining their hold on power. And it is the most marginal people who most need to be recognized.

Silence for marginal people means our death.

So why the special treatment for transsexual people?

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. (

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 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.