Time4Rights Campaign seeks gender equality
Miki Mappin remembers the day she went to work wearing women’s clothing for the first time. Miki was born a man, but over time, felt more like a woman inside. She’d had a positive conversation with her employer, sent an email to her coworkers, and made the leap. “I felt so much happier,” she says. She felt connected with the staff in a different way. “A lot of us find when we come out that we can be much more authentic people.”
But some of her coworkers began being abusive. It was mild at first and then the bullying got worse. She suffered sleepless nights, saw a doctor and took time off work. Eventually she lost her job as a designer for a “really great cultural organization," because the law did not protect her.
Now Mappin is advocating for changes to human rights that would afford sexually diverse citizens of Saskatchewan the same rights already in place in several other provinces, and help ensure that others do not suffer the same fate.
Time4Rights is a social media campaign launched by the Gender Equality Society of Saskatchewan (GESS) where Mappin is co-director. They’re asking the government to make changes to the human rights code to include “gender expression” and “gender identity.” This would protect the rights of transgender, transsexual, two-spirit and genderqueer people in the province.
It’s part of move to recognize and legitimize how people self-identify. Recently in Saskatchewan, a human rights complaint was filed to challenge current law which requires identifying a child by their sex on their birth certificate. “Sex is chromosomes, gender is identity,” says Mappin. In what she calls the “alphabet soup of LGBTTQ, the “LGB” (lesbians, gays, and bisexuals) has more to do with who you go to bed or who you want to fall in love with. The “T’s” (transgendered transsexual) however, have more to do with gender orientation or gender identity. “We’re not talking about sexuality here we’re talking about personal identity.”
This difference is at
the core of the initiative to include “gender expression” and “gender identity” in the Saskatchewan human rights code as areas protected from discrimination. Protection in the legal code translates to protections in society.
“Most of the discrimination is against people who are in the process of transitioning,” says Mappin. This is when people are most vulnerable, most at risk, and lives can get derailed. “Employment is such a big issue, housing is another. For young people it’s a big issue because when they come out, many get kicked out of their families.”
Mappin says if you study human history and anthropology, it seems that in every human society there has been both gender and sexual diversity. In more repressed societies, such as those of European descent, homosexuality and sexual diversity have at times been criminalized and pathologized.
“First Nations peoples of our continent had a very different idea of it. Two-spirit people --some of them were what we would call gay, some of them are what we would call transgender or transsexual, and some of them were both -- had an important part in most of the First Nation societies on this continent,” says Mappin, adding that they were respected as elders, they had important roles to play in ceremonies, and they were appreciated for their twospiritedness, their insight into both genders.
“The biggest problem we have in society is lack of acceptance and a lot of that has to do with misunderstanding. People don’t understand what it’s all about.” says Mappin. “If we can make movement toward acceptance by society, that’s huge. There’s so much potential; society will gain. Trans people are musicians and artists and accountants and they really want to participate.”
Mappin is on the board of TransSask Support Services Inc. which provides support to the Trans community. She says people transitioning have no government and little Saskatchewan health support and need guidance on how to navigate the health care system and address medical needs.
The Time4Rights campaign is hoping to improve the life situations of transsexual and transgender people by addressing problems like housing, employment and health care, as well as violence, education and suicide rates. “Many of us are unhappy for many reasons,” says Mappin. Addressing changes to the human rights code is considered the best place to start, with the assumption that other changes would begin to fall into place.
Mappin was encouraged by discussions during Trans Awareness Week March 29 - April 5, involving key players in the province. Time4Rights hopes to see movement on this soon, certainly before the next provincial election.
Join the campaign by sending a letter to your MLA, and copy premier Brad Wall as well as the Minister of Justice, Gordon Wyant. “The MLAs of all parties need to know that their constituents think this is a good idea,” says Mappin. “Human rights for any benefits human rights for all. We become a more tolerant society,” says Mappin. See www.time4rights.ca for more information.