Open Letter on Election Eve

August 29, 2008

On the eve of what will almost certainly be a federal election in Canada, I spent this afternoon sending emails to the Members of Parliament (MPs) I know and to some I don’t.

This is an open letter to all the others, returning, and to all those candidates who are running to be part of the next Parliament of Canada. Among all the decisions, all the issues, all the important matters of state that will roil Canada during the next few weeks, I wish to make a small plea for some Canadians who are not usually considered worthy of attention.

Transsexual and transgender people, for the most part, do not seek the spotlight. We do not run national organizations or publications and are not able to get our message across in the way other marginal people do.

Even the organizations we would look to for leadership in the run up to this election, well, we are on our own, organizationally speaking.

We enter an election in which the serious human rights concerns seem all to be elsewhere. Even the Human Rights Committee of the House of Commons is a sub-committee of the Foreign Affairs Committee. I had asked one of the MPs I know about holding a hearing on the struggles of transsexual and transgender Canadians as a Congressional Hearing on the struggles of transgender and transsexual Americans in the workplace was held this summer in the United States.

Even if there were not to be an election, it is not quite a given–even from those of you who were so supportive of the human rights of gay and lesbian people during the campaign for equal marriage just three years ago and in the life of this Parliament.

As we move into the election campaign, I want to remind you of the void in both the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code. Transsexual and transgender people are the only marginal population in Canada not to have explicit protections as the people we are, in the legislation itself. We might well be recorded in hate crime statistics under sex, that is as women, or under disability, if our diagnoses for gender identity disorder are still current, if we ever had one, or even under sexual orientation–an interesting interpretation of our identity, which has not the same connection to relationships as orientation does.

And it would be more interesting still given the dismissal of our concerns–and utter silence on our human rights–by a senior official of Pink Triangle Press, the parent of the Xtra chain of gay and lesbian papers in Canada. His three columns on Xtra.ca, as well as in Capital Xtra, receive far more profile than anything a trans person could ever write–we are not even part of that discussion. (They are found here, here and here; how can we make our voices heard over this noise?)

Bill Siksay of the New Democratic Party in the soon to be dissolved Parliament introduced two private members’ bills to fill this void. Neither had enough priority even to be debated nor the all-party consent to be voted as a previous private member’s bill had in 2002.

The struggle for formal human rights in Canada has not ended.

This is not the end for once achieved it will permit transgender and transsexual Canadians to join, as equals, in the ongoing struggle for the substantiation of these very rights.

I am fortunate to be able to advocate for issues many cannot. I am able to present this case to you through this open letter, in person and through the media. It is for them I ask you to speak out and for the New Democratic Party, the Liberal Party, the Green Party, the Bloc Quebecois and yes, even the Conservative Party to speak out in this campaign–for human rights are never a partisan issue.

I ask you to speak out not only for those who are your constituents, but for all those across Canada who cannot make this request.

Please, in this campaign, break the silence for transsexual and transgender Canadians.

If there is anything I can do to help, do not hesitate to ask.

Sincerely,

Jessica Freedman

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The Only Highway

July 28, 2008

In Memoriam

Shelby “Tracy” Tom

Cassandra Do

Both Murdered in 2003

On July 16, 2008, Capital Xtra and the xtra.ca website, published an editorial by Gareth Kirkby, editor/publisher of Capital Xtra and producer of the xtra.ca website. It can be found here, one of its many titles is “Highway to Nowhere”:

It is something of a denunciation of this writer―not the first to appear in Capital Xtra or on the xtra.ca website.

As a discussion of transgender and transsexual people it is curious: there is no mention of the void in fundamental human rights recognition―as if it has passed out of the discussion.

This skillful omission allows Kirkby to declare “The numbers of gays and lesbians far outweigh those of trans [sic]” and to dismiss our lives and struggles as having no significant importance either for gay and lesbian people―at least those Kirkby speaks for―and for the general public because our numbers are, apparently, small.

As with bisexual people, this is a matter of some contention as there are so few estimates even approaching some sort of accuracy regarding the numbers of transsexual and transgender people in Canada―not to mention the challenge in categorizing us.

Kirkby’s argument is quite the same one used by those opposed to gay marriage in the early 00’s and also by those in the 90’s opposed to the formal recognition of the human rights of gay and lesbian people.

The argument used by supporters of gay marriage, in the Commons and out, and of the recognition of the fundamental human rights of gay and lesbian people, to counter is that where fundamental human rights are concerned numbers are not important.

Why would it be any different for transsexual and transgender people?

Leaders of a once more marginalized minority using arguments used to marginalize them to marginalize others was something that quite surprised me when I first heard it from a vice president of Egale Canada on its main email list in 2005. But no longer.

I believe the use of such arguments is an objective measure of our ongoing marginalization. Especially if used as unselfconsciously as Kirkby does―and apparently accepted just as unselfconsciously by some.

In his editorial, Kirkby declares that

the trans struggle is one of gender expression.

This is often the way many authorities, following in the footsteps of Judith Butler, diminish the struggle for the recognition of our identities, especially of transsexual people, asserting that all gender, identity as well as expression, is simply a performance and of no deep substance.

For those who have never questioned their sex this doesn’t mean much―and is not easily understood―and cannot be used to marginalize them.

We do not expect all heterosexual people to understand the lives and struggles of gay and lesbian people and we describe this as heterosexual privilege―the conviction their lives are normative. When they assume their approach to sexuality is the only appropriate one and act on it, we call these actions heterosexism.

In much the same way, we do not expect all cissexual people―those who are not transsexual―to understand the lives and struggles of those who question their sex and we describe this as cissexual privilege―the conviction their lives are normative.

When they assume their approach to sexual identity is the only appropriate one and act on it, we call these actions cissexism.

There is a parallel argument regarding transgender people. We do not expect all cisgender people―those who are not transgender―to understand the lives of those who question their gender and we describe this as cisgender privilege―the conviction their lives are normative.

When they assume their approach to gender identity is the only appropriate one and act on it, we call these actions cisgenderism.

To be sure, there are many overlaps between transsexual and transgender people―but to pose the terms in this manner achieves a clarity often missing.

Kirkby also declares

The progress to date for gay rights has been accomplished largely through the involvement of middle-class (and now largely middle-aged) gay men and women who have organized the groups, led the occasional demonstrations and funded the legal challenges

This statement does a disservice to all the transsexual and transgender people and cissexual/cisgender people―who are neither gay nor lesbian―who have contributed money or expertise or volunteered to help gay and lesbian people move from the margins to the mainstream―in the present as well as in the Compton Cafeteria and Stonewall Riots.

I myself worked for Canadians for Equal Marriage (CEM).

The MP’s who voted for the Civil Marriage Bill, and all the allies of same-sex marriage, once on a database in the possession of CEM, were not all gay and lesbian but were those who believe in dignity and equality not to mention justice for all―and who believed the way to this overarching goal at that historical moment was the recognition of the fundamental rights of gay and lesbian people.

This is even as the leaders of CEM and Egale Canada stated the matter at the time.

The demonstrations in support of equal marriage in Ottawa were very diverse events. Not only were gay and lesbian people there, there were many transsexual and transgender people (not reported in Capital Xtra) as well the overwhelming majority were non-trans and non-gay people.

It is commonplace almost everywhere that the struggle for equality cannot be accomplished by those whose rights are in question alone.

In the same issue of Capital Xtra, and also on the xtra.ca website, there is a column by Marcus McCann, recently appointed Managing Editor, captioned “Maintaining our freedoms is about more than hanging on with our fingernails.” In it, McCann declares:

The gay days have come crashing down around us. . . . Of course, gay rights in Canada are here to stay.

After a review of the rise and fall of gay culture throughout history, which is basically what the column is, he states

But not Canada, surely. Not in the age of the Charter.

In the two columns, this is the closest either writer comes to mentioning human rights or equality. Then McCann goes on to call for allying with other groups, but not a single one is concerned, in his recitation, with either the formal or substantive role or recognition of human rights.Presumably this is why his struggle cannot ally with trans people.

That gay and lesbian leaders and organizations, not only Capital Xtra, have left the struggle for human rights is worth a commentary of its own―which I will be posting soon. In the short term I can offer a comment from a well-placed leader of the campaign for equal marriage, Laurie Arron.

Arron was the last National Coordinator of Canadians for Equal Marriage (CEM) and Director of Advocacy for Egale Canada. Arron’s association with CEM, a creation of Egale Canada, had gone back to the public announcement of its creation on September 12, 2003.

When I began working with Egale Canada in early 2004, Arron was already well-established as Director of Advocacy―his major role was, however, not with Egale Canada but with CEM.

After Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s motion to re-open the debate was defeated on December 7, 2006, a press statement was released by CEM over the name of Laurie Arron reading, in part

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

From my own conversations with Arron throughout my time with Egale Canada and CEM, I know he was very well aware of the extensive “law reform” required to bring transsexual and transgender people from the margins to the mainstream―as indeed gay and lesbian people have moved, culminating with the recognition of their relationships in the Civil Marriage Law and Parliament’s rejection of re-opening the debate, celebrated by his statement.

I am unable to fathom why such prominent leaders of the gay and lesbian community―as measured by their roles, positions and influence―would abandon the struggle for human rights.

At one time the argument, as we used at CEM, was that the recognition of the human rights of gay and lesbian people―equal marriage was part of this human rights struggle―was part of the struggle for equality and dignity for all.

Abandoning the struggle for human rights in Canada might well be a significant reason the gay political movement has fallen on hard times since the passage of the Civil Marriage Law. The imagination of Canadians is inspired by the struggle for human rights. All Canadians, not just LGBT Canadians.

There remains one place where this inspiration might come from in the future.

For the one marginal and identifiable minority which is arguably, if not actually, the only one whose human rights have not been recognized not to have its struggle even mentioned in passing, in Capital Xtra, and seemingly declared already achieved by Arron, is curious.

Why would the leaders of the struggle that placed them in the forefront of change that expanded the realm of freedom for all abandon this struggle?

These gay men, and those they speak for, have excluded themselves from the struggle for fundamental human rights.

It is sad.


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.


Who is Pierre Poilievre. . .

May 20, 2008

and why is he saying these things about transsexual people?

And does it really matter?

In reaction to last week’s announcement of George Smitherman, the Ontario Minister of Health, that Ontario would again fund transsexual surgery, Pierre Poilievre, the Conservative Member of Parliament for Nepean-Carleton, declared:

“People are waiting too long for basic cancer treatment and MRIs and the Liberal government found money for the (Dalton) McGuinty sex-change program instead.” http://www.ottawasun.com/News/National/2008/05/20/5613551-sun.html

He has also said:

“I think if people want this medically unnecessary treatment, they have that right. But taxpayers should not have to pick up the tab for it,” http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20080520.wsexchange20/BNStory/National/home __._

It is always nice to be caught in a political crossfire, especially by one of the Conservatives’ pit bulls. There is an interesting entry in Wikepedia at:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pierre_Poilievre

He never misses an opportunity to take partisan or personal advantage, especially when he thinks no one will notice or that those he attacks are so marginal that no one will care–or notice.

He was one of those MP’s who opposed equal marriage, though in his speech to the House of Commons he espoused “the Canadian way: respect and tolerance” calling for all the trappings of marriage for gay and lesbian people but not the name. The rest of his speech can be viewed on the Canadians for Equal Marriage website at:

http://www.equal-marriage.ca/resource.php?id=322

Though I wonder where his ‘respect and tolerance’ is for those of us who are even more marginal than gay and lesbian people that even today there is nothing on the Egale Canada website on any aspect of this. But then, the Executive Director of Egale Canada has recently declared that transgender and transsexual Canadians have formal human rights–when she knows this is simply not true, except in the North West Territories.

It is clearly in this void that statements of such ignorant hate and prejudice can be spoken.

It is darkly amusing that Poilievre calls it the ” McGuinty sex-change program” considering McGuinty really wants nothing to do with transsexuals either. In 2003, Dalton McGuinty announced that SRS was “not a priority,” said Susan Gapka, the head of the Trans Human Rights Campaign and the Trans Health Lobby Group on the Xtra.ca website, and would not be re-listed. See:

http://www.xtra.ca/public/viewstory.aspx?AFF_TYPE=1&STORY_ID=4786&PUB_TEMPLATE_ID=2

It is even more interesting that in 2004 Smitherman was on the verge of announcing the relisting of transsexual surgery when Dalton McGuinty, the Premier got wind of it through a story on the Osprey News Service Wire and issued a press release only hours before his Health Minister was to make his announcement.

See: http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/print/CTVNews/20040527/ont_sexchange_040527/20040527/?hub=Health&subhub=PrintStory

Rumour certainly had it that, unlike the bare bones program expected from the current initiative–simply a return to the way it was in 1998 when Mike Harris’ reactionary Conservatives first delisted electrolysis and then surgery completely–the 2004 initiative, developed in part in discussions with Gapka and the Trans Health Lobby Group (THLG), was much more.

Long standing demands of the THLG state the program must be community based and include coverage for hormones, hair removal and counseling.

See: http://www.rainbowhealthnetwork.ca/transhealth

Also see the website of the Trans Human Rights Campaign at: http://www.transhumanrightscampaign.org/

The former program seemed to make the same assumptions Poilievre makes, that transsexual people are well enough off to afford much of their treatment for their own disability–unlike most other marginal people.

Some transsexual people are indeed well off and can afford, on their own, significantly more than the basic surgery. Many transsexual people live in abject poverty. Transsexual women, according to the AIDS Committee of Ottawa are at the highest risk for HIV/AIDS, surpassing even gay men. It is evidence of this greatest marginalization that this fact is quite ignored and raises gales of indignant rebuttal from those who certainly ought to know better.

Some of us are in the middle and in some ways are even more invisible.

In my own case, I spent over $5000 on beard removal and hormones in one year–it was a great financial burden, though I was able to claim a tax credit for all of it which helped some.

I was only able to afford surgery because of the settlement of a human rights complaint.

But to return to Pierre Poilievre and his typically ignorant bravado declaring he will write to Jim Flaherty, the Federal Finance Minister–and a member of Poilievre’s Conservative Party–asking for assurances the federal government won’t fund this ‘medically unnecessary’ procedure.

There is even the possibility Flaherty might also indulge in his own bravado–as part of an ongoing criticism of the Liberal party that makes up the Ontario government. But bravado and bluster is all that it will be.

The Canada Health Act which is the federal legislation governing the way federal money moves to the provinces simply does not define what “medically necessary services” are and despite this great achievement of former federal Liberal Health Minister Monique Begin it is unlikely this government, any more than any previous one, would actually infringe upon a province’s discretion.

In my conversations with Bill Siksay, the NDP MP who is the author of a private member’s bill to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act to include gender identity and gender expression (GI/E) and another private member’s bill to amend the Criminal Code provisions on hate crimes and sentencing directives also to include GI/E, he has made it clear it is not within longstanding tradition to dictate to provinces either to include something as “medically necessary” or to exclude it. And is not something he will attempt.

Sadly.

Smitherman’s press secretary, Laurel Ostfield, is quoted in a Canadian Press story in the Toronto Globe and Mail today:

“This sexual reassignment surgery is regarded amongst the mental health community as a necessary treatment for a very small number of individuals,” she said.

“It is listed in other provinces, such as Alberta. So, if Mr. Poilievre wants to play politics with people’s health, it’s really rather unfortunate.” http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20080520.wsexchange20/BNStory/National/home __._,_._

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For those even slightly in the loop–such as myself–there is little question the current initiative will be nothing more than what was and that hopes for the positioning of the Sherbourne Clinic–which specializes in trans health, is trans-positive and employs many trans people–as the gatekeeper instead of the old Clarke, now the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) and the home of both Kenneth Zucker and Ray Blanchard, are unlikely to be answered.

There are more than a few ripples going through our communities today and there will be some response in the media in coming days.

However, as with so much concerning us, this seems not really to affect the inevitability of things–even, in this case, the inevitability of something positive.

But then that is the definition of marginalization in society. Whether the stupid statements of someone like Pierre Poilievere or the Executive Director of Egale Canada.ttle

Quite frankly, I’m so glad I’m now beyond what a Ken Zucker, Ray Blanchard, Pierre Poilievre, or the Executive Director of Egale Canada can do–or not do.

Even though it still mightily offends my sense of what is right and what is wrong–and if anyone actually asked for my help, I would be glad to give it. Though in these communities, that is a long shot at best.

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More on Pierre Poilievre

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


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.