Hamil­ton needs trans­gen­der pro­to­cols, not dis­crim­i­na­tion

Trans­gen­der women are not preda­tors or a threat to Hamil­ton chil­dren

The Hamilton Spectator - - COMMENT - COLLEEN MCTIGUE Colleen McTigue is a trans­gen­der woman liv­ing in the GTA, who wishes that so­ci­ety would sim­ply ac­cept her and oth­ers like her, in­stead of seek­ing to dis­crim­i­nate.

Jim Enos and the Chris­tian Her­itage Party are cry­ing “foul.” Last sum­mer, a cam­paign was mounted by them to at­tempt to stir up pub­lic alarm and anger over the fact that Hamil­ton is in the process of adopt­ing a set of pro­to­cols for re­lat­ing to the trans­gen­der com­mu­nity in a fair and in­formed man­ner.

This ef­fort by Hamil­ton arose as a re­sult of a Hu­man Rights Tri­bunal case in­volv­ing a trans­gen­der woman who was un­fairly dealt with when at­tempt­ing to use pub­lic fa­cil­i­ties at the McNab bus ter­mi­nal. The new pro­to­cols are part of a set­tle­ment Hamil­ton agreed to in or­der to re­solve the case.

The cam­paign by Enos and the CHP, through the dis­tri­bu­tion of 3,500 fly­ers on Hamil­ton Moun­tain and the pur­chase of three dis­play ads at Hamil­ton bus shel­ters, used in­nu­endo in a thinly-veiled mes­sage claim­ing that the new pro­to­cols would lead to women and chil­dren be­ing at risk of be­ing at­tacked by men in wash­rooms and change rooms. The ads fea­tured a pic­ture of a man walk­ing to­ward a door marked “Ladies Show­ers” and the cap­tion “Com­pet­ing hu­man rights ... Where is the jus­tice?”

Act­ing on a com­plaint by the par­ent of a trans­gen­der child, the City of Hamil­ton re­moved the posters. Enos and the CHP are com­plain­ing that by re­mov­ing the posters, Hamil­ton vi­o­lated their “free­dom of ex­pres­sion.”

The Chris­tian Her­itage Party is an ex­treme right-wing po­lit­i­cal party of which Enos is a can­di­date, which ad­vo­cates for Canada to be gov­erned ac­cord­ing to (Chris­tian) Bi­b­li­cal law. Per­haps this is what in­forms Enos’ opin­ions re­gard­ing trans­gen­der peo­ple. I’ve ob­served that “re­li­gious­right” or­ga­ni­za­tions and in­di­vid­u­als tend to be re­ac­tionary about things they don’t un­der­stand.

I can’t be sure, but I sus­pect Enos has never met or spent any amount of time with any trans­gen­der peo­ple. I don’t know if he’s ever read any of the nu­mer­ous op-ed col­umns I’ve writ­ten for the Spec­ta­tor, but if he has, it’s ap­par­ent my ar­gu­ments have not been suf­fi­cient to cause him to re­con­sider his per­se­cu­tion of our com­mu­nity.

Yes, you read that right — per­se­cu­tion. Enos has been harp­ing on this since at least 2012, when he sought to get Hamil­ton city coun­cil to con­sider pass­ing “proac­tive” leg­is­la­tion for­bid­ding trans­gen­der peo­ple to use the pub­lic fa­cil­i­ties cor­re­spond­ing with their true gen­der in re­sponse to a Toronto pol­icy of trans­gen­der in­clu­sion. He didn’t like it then, and he doesn’t like it now. But let’s get back to the “free ex­pres­sion” ar­gu­ment.

Enos and the CHP ar­gue that Hamil­ton has vi­o­lated their free­dom of ex­pres­sion. How­ever, there are lim­its to free­dom of ex­pres­sion, es­pe­cially where such ex­pres­sion seeks to ma­lign a per­son or an iden­ti­fi­able group of peo­ple. In this case, the posters that were re­moved pack a lot of im­plied con­tent which is meant to con­vey the mes­sage that al­low­ing trans­gen­der women to use the ladies room presents a danger to women and chil­dren in those en­vi­ron­ments. This fur­ther pre­sumes that trans­gen­der women are by def­i­ni­tion preda­tors. This is the mes­sage con­veyed by a pic­ture and a few words. In ad­di­tion, the phrase “Com­pet­ing hu­man rights” and the ques­tion “Where’s the jus­tice” sig­ni­fies that Enos be­lieves that his hu­man rights are more valid or more im­por­tant than the hu­man rights of trans­gen­der peo­ple.

I would like to throw that ques­tion back at him: Where is the jus­tice for trans­gen­der peo­ple, Mr. Enos? Where is the jus­tice when we are hounded by peo­ple like you, and forced to de­fend our very hu­man­ity, but you get to hide be­hind your right­eous in­dig­na­tion and face no con­se­quences?

Where is the jus­tice when you stir up fears that cause peo­ple to dis­crim­i­nate against us, to at­tack us and do vi­o­lence against us, yet you pre­tend no re­spon­si­bil­ity? Where is OUR jus­tice, Mr. Enos? You would deny us ba­sic hu­man de­cency.

The pro­to­cols that Hamil­ton is con­sid­er­ing are the part of a law­ful set­tle­ment of a case be­fore the Hu­man Rights Tri­bunal. Trans­gen­der peo­ple must cur­rently fight each and ev­ery case of dis­crim­i­na­tion this in front of the Tri­bunal, be­cause it’s the only tool we have, and very few of us have the means and stamina to use it. Bill C-16, cur­rently be­ing con­sid­ered by the Se­nate, would pro­vide fed­eral pro­tec­tion for our hu­man rights by adding Gen­der Iden­tity and Ex­pres­sion to the Cana­dian Hu­man Rights code and the Crim­i­nal Code of Canada. This would sim­ply give us the same pro­tec­tion as is cur­rently af­forded on the ba­sis of race, colour, creed, and sim­i­lar cat­e­gories. I ask again: where is OUR jus­tice?

Where is OUR jus­tice … you would deny us ba­sic hu­man de­cency.

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