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.


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.