Ten Signs of Transphobia in Our Culture by Christopher Shelley

December 22, 2008

This list comes from a review/interview of Christopher Shelley and his book, Transpeople; Repudiation, Trauma, Healing. Shelley is a Vancouver, British Columbia Adlerian psychologist. His interviews include a friend of mine. I think this is one of the most important books on transpeople.

1. Denial that the problem exists in the first place.

2. Inability to distinguish between categories such as queer, lesbian, and trans.

3. Lack of meaningful discussion in educational and workplace settings.

4. Anxiety over not being able to tell if a person is male or female.

5. Crude jokes directed at trans people or with trans-related content.

6. Refusal to accept trans people as one’s own teacher, doctor, politician, dentist, etc.

7. Thinking that being trans is OK but also dismissing the idea of ever dating a transperson.

8. Reducing trans to being merely and solely a psychiatric category.

9. Trivialization and media spectacles centred on trans-ness as an object of ‘fascination.’

10. Refusing the fundamental claims of transpeople as being genuinely mis-sexed.



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.


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.





And here:


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:


And here:


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.


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


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…?


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:



Maybe Cyndi Lauper Doesn’t Know

May 25, 2008

Though I’m not sure how she couldn’t know about the Human Rights Campaign in the United States, but it is very likely she doesn’t know about Egale Canada in Canada.

Let me back up a moment.

Cyndi Lauper is headlining the True Colors Tour of an astounding number of bands in Canada and the United States, including The B-52’s, Indigo Girls, Rosie O’Donnell and The Cliks, among many others. I believe The Cliks front man is a transsexual man–though you wouldn’t know it from an article on the Xtra.ca website.

In this article by

I don’t know, hon. 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…? I really don’t know http://www.xtra.ca/public/viewstory.aspx?AFF_TYPE=3&STORY_ID=4792&PUB_TEMPLATE_ID=5

Her True Colors tour, says the article,

raises awareness and funds for the gay rights struggle in both the United States and Canada through its partnerships with the US-based Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and, new this year, Canada’s gay and lesbian lobby group Egale.

This observation about Egale Canada not only reflects the Xtra chain’s bias, but also is correctly describing the organization that still includes “trans-identified” and bisexual people in its mandate–lip-service at best. See: http://www.egale.ca/

I believe she is lacking information about HRC and Egale Canada.

Now, the history of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) in the United States and its refusal to support a trans inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) is rather well know. HRC was the only LGB, LGBT and T organization in the United States that supported Representative Barney Frank’s deceptively promoted non-inclusive ENDA. The history of HRC’s difficult–my American friends would use a far harsher term–relationship with transgender and transsexual people is somewhat less known.

See: http://www.unitedenda.org/

As is HRC’s president, Joe Solmonese, mispeaking himself at Southern Comfort 2007–the largest annual gathering of transgender and transsexual people in America–when he said the HRC would only support a trans-inclusive ENDA.

I am among those who believe he was being too easy on himself; he was lying.

When HRC and Joe Solmonese did this, they were showing their true colors.

As for Canada, I believe Shane Percy is quite accurate when he describe Egale as “Canada’s gay and lesbian lobby group Egale–he should have used the old acronym EGALE, Equality for Gays and Lesbians Everywhere, used before ‘trans-identified’ people were added to its mandate.

When Egale abandoned Ottawa, it abandoned the advocacy for transgender and transsexual people’s human rights–long a policy goal, going back to the time when John Fisher was its Executive Director. When it purged what could be called a generation of transactivists from from their committees and membership. When it abandoned its policy commitment to bring over the supporters of what it called “equal marriage” to the struggle for transgender and transsexual people–what was really “gay marriage.”

When its current Executive Director, Helen Kennedy spreads the common misinformation that transgender and transsexual people have formal human rights, because it is inconvenient not to say

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

And in the St. John’s Telegram

When Egale Canada and Helen Kennedy do this they show their true colors.

I have argued before that Egale Canada from its previous Executive Director to Kennedy has had a deceptive relationship with transgender and transsexual people, best summed up by the phrase used by the previous Executive Director when he said “It is inconvenient, divisive and ultimately unnecessary” to speak of transgender and transsexual people because they will eventually come out as gay or lesbian and then they will be covered by gay rights–or they won’t and they won’t be our concern.

I admit the last is a bit of a gloss, but this is the cynicism inherent in “inconvenient, divisive and ultimately unnecessary.”

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

So, maybe Cyndi Lauper doesn’t know that neither HRC nor Egale Canada really do not support “transgendered” people (there’s that word, again) nor, as far as Egale Canada is concerned, bisexual people–I have no idea whether bisexual people are part of the advocacy of HRC.

This saddens me because it forever colours what I hear when she sings True Colors.

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?

Ottawa Trans Services Initiative

May 24, 2008

The next two posts, Ottawa Trans Community Consultation Document and Services for Trans People in Ottawa were part of a several year initiative I began in late 2006 to at least explore the kinds of services needed and desired by the Trans Community in Ottawa.

Trans people, variously called transgender, transgendered, trans-identified and transsexual, have recently been described by the Ottawa Citizen in an editorial as “more marginalized than drug addicts.” The editorial is called “The Courage of Poilievre” and can be read here:


There is no question that services for drug addicts are completely inadequate. But there are services and there are ongoing discussions among service providers, agencies, government and various formal and funded public education initiatives to address this lack.

Today, the President and CEO of the Centre For Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), Dr. Paul Garfinkel, came out in support of the relisting of surgery in Ontario:

On behalf of CAMH, I wish to commend the province on its decision to relist sexual reassignment surgery as an OHIP-covered service. This puts Ontario back in line with other provinces.

As a hospital that sees people who require sexual reassignment surgery, we can verify the critical nature of it being accessible – it is no exaggeration to call it “life-saving surgery” to those who need it.


When I began this initiative it was unclear what services, in the sense of those being provided in the public sector, or even discussion of such services, such as those at the Gay Men’s Wellness Initiative, were ongoing to address the void where trans people live, work and sometimes die–usually enduring great despair which, we know with absolute certainty from much work with gay men, leads to self-destructive behaviours such as addictions, self-mutilation and suicide.

There is also no question that trans people are the object of violence and discrimination.

This is compounded by the void where human rights legislation should be.

When we look at federal, provincial and territorial human rights legislation (except North West Territories) gender identity or gender identity and gender expression do not stand beside sexual orientation. There is much confusion and routine misinformation on this point, which is, on the one hand, evidence of the greater marginalization of trans people and, on the other, worse than the silence from so many quarters that claim to support–but do so only in private.

Though there are changes, see my blog TRANS RIGHTS ARE HUMAN RIGHTS


and the world does change every time someone actually says the words in public, there is yet not enough momentum to begin to address this need.

Speaking truth to power, however, remains as dangerous as it ever was.

The controversy over the Ontario Minister of Health’s recent announcement about relisting transsexual surgery under Ontario Medicare, a limited action at best, is more evidence of the greater marginalization of trans people.

The Ottawa Trans Community Consultation Document was the result of a community consultation in association with a number of community organizations, in particular Pink Triangle Services, to create a document to be later used to secure funding to at least begin the exploration of what is and what isn’t available in Ottawa and to move forward to address what is not.

In May and November, 2007, the Board of Pink Triangle Services (PTS) , as the premier GLBTTQ organization in Ottawa, was approached to sponsor such a project. At the May meeting the president suggested working with the Executive Director to investigate the possibility of funding such an initiative.

I co-drafted an application to the Trillium Foundation with the Executive Director of PTS which was submitted for the June 1, 2007 deadline. Unfortunately, difficulties with the agency’s relationship with the funder lead to the application being returned.

Regardless of this setback, community support and the support of service providers was identified and remains a basis for future action.

In the course of working with the AIDS Committee of Ottawa’s (ACO) Gender Identity/Expression Inclusion Policy Working Group I drafted the document Services for Trans People in Ottawa as a foundation for organizations to work together and as a basis for a “table”–that is, a body such as the Gay Men’s Wellness Initiative or the Around the Rainbow/Social Inclusion Project, where the needs of trans people can be discussed among community organizations, service providers and strategies for approaching government and funders can be devised.

Services for Trans People in Ottawa was adopted by the board of ACO at the end of 2007.

Further action at the end of 2007 was shoved off-track by infighting typical of marginal communities and often referred to as lateral violence.

I post these documents in the hope that in the not too distant future this agenda can be moved forward. I can only hope that in the interim trans people in Ottawa will not have to endure too much more suffering.

I am eager for input from trans people, service providers, community agencies and allies to further this agenda.


Pink Triangle Services


AIDS Committee of Ottawa


Around the Rainbow Project


Gay Men’s Wellness Initiatives


Ottawa Trans Community Consultation Document


Services for Trans People in Ottawa; A Public Commitment


Ottawa Trans Community Consultation Document

May 24, 2008

April 5, 2007


In Ottawa, there is no document describing the needs of trans people other than a Trans Legislative Needs Assessment document prepared by Chris Boodram and Corie Langdon in 2004. This document does not articulate the wellness needs of trans people.

In 2000 a Community Wellness Survey was co-sponsored by Pink Triangle Services and the City of Ottawa to inquire into the state of LGBT people in Ottawa. The results were over-represented of gay men and under-represented of all other members of the community–especially trans people.

In recent months there has been a convergence of thinking and action in the Ottawa Trans Community.

It is in the light of this development that on November 21, 2006–as part of Trans Day of Remembrance events–a meeting of trans people was held to generate a needs document for trans people in Ottawa.

It was held on the premises of Pink Triangle Services, which supported this initiative, as did Gender Mosaic, Trans Youth Ottawa, the Gay Lesbian Bisexual Trans Two Spirit and Queer Community Centre of Ottawa and the Ottawa Police Service LGBT Liaison Committee.

Participants responded to invitations on email lists and word of mouth.

At the meeting it was decided that participants would be offered the opportunity to contribute to the drafting of the final document. It was circulated by email to participants on February 19, 2007

Trans People

“Trans” is an umbrella term for transgender and transsexual people.

These, and all other terms describing those who in their lives challenge the gender stereotypes of society–as all trans people do–are fluid; not all people who use these terms–or even all those who might be identified/described by these terms–accept them.

They are evolving.

Only a minimum of terminology has been used in this document.

Self-identification is considered paramount; people are accepted as they describe/present themselves. This also conforms to the Safe Space Policy of Pink Triangle Services where the consultation took place.

Transgender generally includes those who dress in the clothes and present in the gender they were not assigned at birth for lesser or greater periods of time but who retain their birth-assigned gender.

Transsexual people are those who who, out of great dysphoria with their birth-assigned

gender, seek through hormone replacement therapy, gender transition and surgery to the fill the gender role in society they were not assigned at birth.

There are also those whose gender presentation is neither masculine nor feminine according to society’s expectation and those who present as both masculine and feminine in alternation.

Those who participated in the Consultation were primarily transsexual people–both Male to Female and Female to Male.

Because of the challenge to society’s expectations of gender and gender presentation trans people of all descriptions are marginal in society and all the communities in which we seek to be members. Trans people face challenges in accommodation, services and employment.

Arguably trans people are the last in society whose human rights have yet to be formally recognized; this contributes to our universal marginalization and its many consequences in wellbeing—physical and mental—that naturally and inevitably arise from marginalization..

Rarely are trans people ourselves asked what our needs are–others routinely usurp this role.

The Ottawa Trans Community Consultation was undertaken in order to break the silence regarding our needs.

This document is the result.


In the area of Recreation one of the greatest single barriers to participation of trans people is

the availability of changing facilities. In some situations Male to Female trans people are required to use Men’s Changing Facilities and Female to Male people are required to use Women’s Changing Facilities.

At the very least this can be embarrassing.

It can also be very dangerous and/or lead to legal complications.

The use of Family Changing Facilities–with the privacy provided–can help, but places like the YMCA may not be willing for trans people to use them because they are not ‘families.’.

In Ontario, the Ontario Human Rights Commission mandates that those trans people who are full time use the gender segregated facilities that conform to their full time presentation. However, the exercise of this right, as the exercise of the rights of all marginal people, can sometimes be so complicated that it discourages all but the most determined.

This is further complicated by the lack of statutory and well-known rights–such as those for gay and lesbian people.

The determination necessary to claim rights may not always be available to those who are marginalized.

Public Rest Rooms

Possibly the single most inflammatory situation for all trans people is the use of public rest rooms. Especially for early transitioners–and for those who do not easily pass–this can, as the use of Change Rooms, be at least embarrassing and often dangerous. And unlike the use of Changing Rooms the use of rest rooms is not optional–without great discomfort and medical consequences.

To be challenged on the use of a public rest room–and the use of one is always when in need–is an affront to the fundamental dignity we hold to be due all Canadians.

It has often been suggested that certain institutions–such as universities/colleges, shopping malls–provide more single stall washrooms. Also, that these institutions be made aware, and make their clientele aware, that in Ontario full time trans people have the right to use the gender segregated facility that conforms to their gender presentation.

Public Education Campaigns also with respect to the actual danger trans people present to cisgendered (non-trans people) in public facilities–none at all–should also be considered.

Trans people, marginal in all these situations, are the ones at risk.

Women’s Shelters

Although many women’s shelters have adopted policies permitting trans women to use their facilities, the recent refusal of the Supreme Court of Canada to hear the appeal of Kimberly Nixon regarding her exclusion from the Vancouver Rape Relief Society’s shelter training program continues to place in jeopardy the acceptance of trans women from the facilities dedicated to sheltering women from assault.

This would have been the first case concerning the rights of trans people heard by the Supreme Court of Canada. This refusal is a blow felt by all trans people.


The role of athletes as role models, particularly for trans youth, was identified, as was the need for networking with those trans athletes who are out.


Trans people are marginal and trans youth even more marginal within society.

As with any marginal youth the need for employment services was voiced, including employment data banks of trans-friendly and trans-unfriendly employers, information for employers on trans people in general and trans youth in particular.

Scholarships in the community for trans youth were proposed, possibly sponsored by Pink Triangle Services and/or other organizations in the community.

Above all, the concern of reaching out and contacting trans youth, much along the lines Trans Youth Ottawa has pioneered was expressed.


While there is some information on the health concerns of trans people out there it is not readily available–and in some cases it is not available at all; there is some information about transsexual people but little about transgender people.

This is a list of specific health information participants provided:

2) STD’s
3) Reproductive Options
4) Post Transition health concerns
5) Breast/prostate health
6) Health Risks of Transition
7) Long Term Effects of cross-hormone replacement

Female to Male Concerns:

Stress Responses
Muscle growth without tendons growing
Anger management

There was the unanimous expression of the need to sensitize medical professionals and other providers of services to the specific need of trans people and of what constitutes treatment with compassion and dignity.

The Ottawa trans community is deeply concerned by the lack of doctors knowledgeable in trans health issues and willing to prescribe hormones in the Ottawa area and by the fact that the Ontario Government currently does not list surgery or any other transition service as a necessary medical service under medicare.

The frequent dismissal of the necessity of these services as cosmetic and trivial is one indication of the marginalization of transsexual people—and materially contributes to depression, alienation, other mental concerns and physical sonsequences of dysphoria.

The community expressed its desire to give the medical community feedback on its concerns.

Only those transsexual people with either their own independent resources or those whose employers have generous insurance can now access surgery.

Surgery for transsexual people is no different than surgery for others to treat physical disorders. Necessary medical treatment should not be be matter of money.

Mental Health

Excluded from the mainstream of society by our nature, trans people face serious depression and other problems of mental health. The alienation that is commonplace leads to the highest suicide rates–though not documented because of our marginalization; it is this very marginalization and exclusion that is the breeding ground for suicide.

It is noted that while the suicide rates of gay and lesbian youth is far higher than for straight youth it is nevertheless clear there are supports in place for them: adult gay role models, explicit human rights and the profile that goes with it, gay-straight alliances in high schools, PFLAG chapters.

It is true gay-straight alliances and PFLAG–Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays–chapters welcome trans youth, the fact that they do not includes trans people in their names is part of the absence of recognition of trans youth

Although every trans person knows the effects of not treating gender dysphoria it is not clear how much if any of this information is available to those organizations and individuals who have the authority to address it.

Employer Health Insurance

Given that medicare, at least in Ontario, has long given up any semblance of serving the needs of trans people concern was expressed about the possibility of employer’s health insurance covering the needed services.

The only catch is that one must must be employed in more than a part time or casual position in a company that does have health insurance.


In addition to the needs detailed above, the community makes a number of specific recommendations it believes can be accomplished in Ottawa to begin to address its needs:

1) Workshops to help those beginning their transition to develop the confidence and self-esteem necessary to live in the world. They would include the following topics:

Washroom issues as discussed above, including the right of those full time presenting to use the gender segregated facilities that conform to their presentation.

Women’s shelters, also as discussed above.

Transitioning rights, including those discussed above and the obligations of employers, in particular, as mandated by the Ontario Human Rights Commission.

A bathroom map, as has been created in other jurisdictions, showing where single stall washrooms are available and/or institutions where the issues of trans people using public washrooms have been settled.

2) A Community Health Centre to, in one location, bring together the necessary health care providers to address all the medical, psychological and social needs of trans people in Ottawa.

3) A Legal Clinic where specifically legal concerns, including, but not limited to marriage, divorce, adoption and legal name changes, including changing names on diplomas and degrees, can be addressed and supported by qualified legal counsel.

4) A Community Support/Advocacy Worker, to be housed in a community organization such as Pink Triangle Services, to support trans people in their struggles with accommodation, services (including health services), employment, advocating for them in these situations and working to bring about the goals/addressing the needs articulated in this document.


The support of Pink Triangle Services and its Interim Executive Director, Wayne Adams, and its Office Administrator, Claudia Van den Heuvel, is acknowledged.

The Ottawa Trans Community Consultation was organized and facilitated by Jessica Freedman. This document was prepared by Jessica Freedman.


The Ottawa-Carleton GLBT Wellness Project


Trans Legislative Needs Assessment


Further information about trans issues can be found here:


Some information on trans, queer and two spirit youth can be found here:

Bent and Unbroken, Egale Canada, 2005. A report of a Symposium held in Toronto in October, 2004.

Ontario Human Rights Commission:

Policy on Discrimination and Harassment because of Gender Identity (approved by the Commission March 30, 2000)


Toward a Commission Policy on Gender Identity: Discussion Paper (dated October 1999)