Being a person whose gender does not match their physical sex is never easy.
Not only do trans* people often face crippling anxiety and dysphoria about their bodies, but they also often have to struggle to ‘present’ to the world in a body in which they do not belong. Dressing as, acting as, and calling themselves the wrong gender to better suit the public’s comfort. Often, they do not even tell their own families for fear of hearing tired, worn-out, often horridly discomforting jokes and slurs.
But what about their comfort? What about their sense of belonging and safety? Many trans* individuals are called selfish, unnatural and even gross when they simply try to feel more comfortable with themselves by using the proper pronouns and dressing the way that expresses their gender identity.
Newfoundland is regarded as one of the nicest places in Canada, if not the world. The people are kind, considerate, and friendly, and proud of their heritage. It also has a very small but no less important trans* community that fights constantly for their rights as people.
And it’s worked; as of 2010, thanks to members of the provincial government and several prominent members of the LGBTQ* community the Newfoundland Human Rights Act had gender identity and expression added to its legislation. As well, acts of hate against trans* people are prohibited by law. This includes discrimination in the workplace as well as hate crimes and acts of violence.
So how come it took so long for Newfoundland to add these to the Act when Ottawa had added these many years past? And how come the protection is so basic? Reading the comments on articles in the Telegraph and other prominent newspapers about trans* individuals will tell any reader all they need to know about the opinion of Newfoundland people against the trans* community. The government does not yet recognise trans* people, nor is there any education in place for young Newfoundland children about the differences between sex and gender – which are indeed two very different things.
There is a light on the horizon for trans* Newfoundlanders, however. Bill C-279, the bill that will prohibit acts of hate on a deeper level and assure equal rights to trans* people, as of June 2014 has been past its second reading and referred to the committee. It’s only a matter of time, writes the Ottawa Citizen.
In a country where 74 percent of trans* people face violence and discrimination, and where 43 percent of trans* Ontarians have considered or tried to commit suicide, it’s a breath of fresh air and a massive relief.
Still, there is too much discrimination against trans* people for many to consider it safe to out themselves. Bill C-279 is still widely regarded as the ‘bathroom bill’ by critics, stating that ‘perverts’ would use the excuse of gender identity to access the opposite sex’s washrooms.
The question remains; who would put themselves through the strain and fear of dressing and appearing as the opposite sex simply to enjoy a peep show, when many truly trans* people are terrified to do the same for the simple act of living comfortably with themselves? Not many.
The world is hard enough for the trans* community. What’s needed is proper education on sex and gender, equal rights for the trans* community, and access to proper medical care and therapy. Without those, the terrifying rates of hate and suicide among trans* individuals will only rise.