In March, Bill C-279 was proposed to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act to include ‘gender identity’ as a protected status alongside “race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, disability” (3.1). Bill C-279 would also amend the Canadian Criminal Code to add ‘gender identity’ to the list of identifiable groups protected from hate crime.
But apparently Canada can’t even be bothered to hold its government accountable to sit in session and discuss legislation like they’re supposed to, because yet again Canadian Prime Minister Stephan Harper is proroguing Parliament, meaning that bills currently under discussion like Bill C-279 will be terminated without resolution.
The bill has received loud criticism, including the ridiculous accusation that protecting people from discrimination based on gender somehow a) endangers women and children, and b) will increase pedophilia.
If everyone is protected under the law from discrimination and human rights violations regardless of gender identity, then everyone is protected. That’s the point of human rights: They apply to all human beings, without exception. So, technically, trans* persons are fully entitled to human rights and are equally protected under the law as cis-gendered persons. Further, alcohol, cars, and misogyny all endanger women and children, and yet none of those items have been made illegal. In fact, North American laws entitle citizens to consume alcohol, drive cars, and be misogynistic without any regard to the dangers those behaviours inflict.
“All of us have a gender identity. The concept of gender identity in the context of rights and the context of this bill addresses the lives of people who suffer often profound discrimination and sometimes violent abuse because of their gender identity. This would include, among others, people who are transgender, transsexual, girls who are tomboys, and women who dress or present themselves in a more masculine fashion and vice versa for men.
This bill will undoubtedly have the greatest impact in protecting transgender and transsexual people, who are the focus of some of the worst discrimination and abuse suffered by the people who fall into our category of gender identity.” – Senator Grant Mitchell (2013)
The odd thing about Bill C-279 is how necessary it is. The human rights of trans* persons should not be under dispute. Trans* persons are human persons, and human persons are all equally entitled to equal Human Rights. To point out the obvious, trans* persons are protected already under existing Human Rights laws. Now, I’m not saying we don’t need the amendment proposed by Bill C-279 – we need it, absolutely, because apparently some people can’t get their brains to accept the concept that all people are created equal and must be extended the same rights and protections under the law. That’s what Human Rights are all about: recognizing the inherent equality of persons.
Not recognizing the inherent Human Rights of trans* persons constitutes an abuse of power.
“A transgender person simply knows that they are of a gender different from the one assigned them at birth and as indicated by the physical and physiological features of their body. In fact, data from the Trans PULSE Project indicates that roughly 60 per cent of trans people are aware that their gender does not match their body before they reached the age of 10.” (Mitchell, 2013)
When a person’s psychological gender identity does not match the DNA configuration they were born into, and when a person’s physical gender expression or enactment does not mesh with how other people interpret that person’s DNA configuration, this is not a ‘mental illness’ but a disjuncture between identity performances and socially accepted modes of interpretation. There are more than two genders, yet popular culture tries to teach us that only the binary oppositions of ‘male’ and ‘female’ are acceptable. Popular culture is wrong. There are many genders, and DNA is not indicative of gender identity. And all genders are entitled to equal protection under the law, including equal recognition of their inherent Human Rights.