Yesterday evening, I received a letter directing my attention to a women’s organization in Canada (called REAL Women of Canada, formally established in 1983), that presently seeks to undermine a private member’s bill. The bill proposes changing the Canadian Human Rights Act, such that discrimination against trans* people will be considered a human rights violation; and changing the Criminal Code of Canada, such that aggravated assault, battery, or murder perpetrated against a trans* person will be considered a hate crime. Once again, for clarity, RWoC finds this proposal troubling and vehemently oppose it. You can even read RWoC’s brief in PDF format (if your stomach can handle it by the end of this writing). But first! Why do they call themselves REAL?!
Our name defines our aim. The word REAL is an acronym which means Realistic, Equal, Active, for Life.
(from their website)
I advise strongly against giving that website too much traffic (or any at all, really). That’s how they make money, and then they use it to promote a barely repackaged vision of the ideal family that harkens back to 1950. It’s also pretty clear that for females who aren’t busy popping out babies, you’re not a real woman whose needs should be heard by the government (think that “for Life” part is just a coincidence? Think again.) It might be advisable to have a barf bag handy for the rest of this post, which deals with the brief they published on why they think Bill C-279 shouldn’t be allowed to pass.
Evidently, the primary trouble RWoC identifies is the definition of terms like “gender identity”, “gender expression”, and “transgender”. In their infinite wisdom, RWoC declares that these terms are neither defined explicitly in the language of the bill nor used in common language (i.e., defined intuitively), and thus threaten to radically destabilize the entire structure of society if they are given protected status. RWoC claims that the stuff that binds society together is the hyper-heteronormative nuclear family, and they advance no argument to support this claim at all. Anywhere. But RWoC also claims (without any supporting evidence) that pedophiles and their interests in sexually exploiting and abusing children are part of the ever-expanding fight for LGBTQ equality:
Beyond special rights, many demand “recognition and acceptance.” These and further categories would fall under the umbrella of “gender identity” and “gender expression” and this includes paedophilia as paedophilia activists are already agitating for recognition, demanding that their sexual orientation be legally and socially accepted.
First, about that “special rights”… Thing. Last time I checked, the phrase “special rights” meant that you already have the same rights as everyone else, but still seek unique status that affords you exemptions of some sort and relative freedom from restrictions. For instance, when a pro-life extremist enters an abortion clinic with an unwanted pregnancy and demands her own waiting room, a different standard for confidentiality (such as the use of a pseudonym or no chart notes at all), or to be allowed to enter and exit the building through a private entrance so that she won’t risk being exposed to the ridicule and shaming her peers subject all other clients of the same clinic to. That’s “special rights”, and they are generally denied. When they are denied, the abortion clinic staff (and everyone else in the waiting room) are often faced with an extremely hostile person reacting towards this standardized care with an abusive disposition, and this sometimes (but not always) results in denial of services. This person has no standing for demanding their “special rights”, and that is why they are called “special”.
Being recognized and accepted as the person I am, however, is not a “special right”. You either recognize and accept me — that I am a person and I have the right to freely determine who I am — or you are treating me as though I am not equally entitled to self-determination and personhood as you are, and are thus perpetrating an abuse against me. But unlike someone demanding “special rights”, I will simply walk away, as I have already had to walk away from all my blood relations (in part because of a lack of acceptance and recognition, and in part because of horrendous sexual, physical, emotional, and spiritual abuse, which is also denied). The right to self-determination and personhood are not “special”. They are basic human rights. The reason why these rights don’t protect pedophiles’ proclivities towards children is because their victims have those inalienable rights too. My right to self-determination does not impede upon anyone else’s rights.
But apparently all that wasn’t enough, though, because RWoC finds it necessary to define gender as something that is determined entirely by one’s chromosomal sex (again, without any evidence in support of this claim at all — perhaps because there isn’t any), and to define intersex conditions as narrowly as possible; in that, though there are intersex conditions that only manifest at gonadarche, according to RWoC, these aren’t real intersex conditions because they weren’t evident from birth. RWoC then defines transsexuality as “rare” without any further qualifiers (see: minority), and claims that despite a number of problems in researching transsexuality in longitudinal studies, it’s totally explicitly clear that sex reassignment does nothing to improve the quality of life of the person who requests it. This couldn’t possibly be due to, say, the fact that it’s totally legit to treat a trans* person as disposable, because due to their gender status, that’s not considered a hate crime and they aren’t even legally considered a person. Or that trans* people are routinely discriminated against everywhere, and it’s not considered a human rights violation, to say, compare them to pedophiles instead of accepting their identities as valid, or leave them in the streets to die from hypothermia in the middle of winter instead of letting them into a homeless shelter.
Further along in the brief, after RWoC claims that protecting trans* people from discrimination and hate crimes would somehow disadvantage them even further, they added this little gem:
Since the term “gender identity” and “gender expression” are undefined, they apply to anyone who “thinks” he or she is another sex, whether or not he/she has had hormonal treatments or surgery. This allows such individuals to use the washrooms of the opposite sex with impunity. This places females and children at a strong disadvantage and possible risk. Since child predators will be able to use cross-dressing as a pretense to gain access to children in public washrooms.
This conclusion is based on two cases in British Columbia, as outlined in Appendix B.
Follow this with a complaint about how taxpayers have to pay for transition (but I thought this was “rare”, so wouldn’t the expense be virtually unnoticeable?), and some more nonsense that is primarily focused on how dangerous it is to be transgendered in a prison — O RLY? You think maybe it’s dangerous outside the prison too? And how is claiming that transgendered individuals are sometimes just pedophiles pretending to be transgendered helping those who would be at risk of harassment and beating? How is interfering with a proposed change to the Canadian Human Rights Code and the Criminal Code of Canada, that would criminalize discrimination against these individuals and subject violent perpetrators to harsher sentences for violating these individuals’ rights, going to help reduce their risks?
But back to the scare quotes around the word thinks. Speaking only for myself here, I find this not only completely redundant, but profoundly ignorant as well. I don’t just think I was born in the wrong body. It’s not just some idea I’m toying with, like whether or not to shave my head completely clean bald for the second time even though it’s the middle of winter and I’ve already been growing my hair for nearly a full year. I inject a sufficient dose of testosterone every week in alternating locations, that I’ve been experiencing a very gradual but permanent change in my physiology. I’ve changed my name and permanently terminated contact with people who insist on calling me by the name I was assigned at birth. I have felt compelled to pursue surgical removal of my reproductive organs once I was finally forced to resign to the fact that they are there, they work, and they are going to stay unless I can access medical treatment for my dysphoria. But even before all this, I tried numerous times and in numerous ways to end my life, because I couldn’t go on living the life I was assigned when I was born female. Transsexuality isn’t something one just toys around with.
And about that “wrong bathroom” use without impunity thing. Before I started testosterone, I watched one of my chosen family act in a play at his school. During intermission, I went to the bathroom. While drying my hands, a woman came out of a stall and did a full-blown double-take at me, because she couldn’t determine my gender from a quick glance. I took a trip to Portland later that year, and after pounding back multiple rounds of Jägermeister in a tiny and dimly lit hipster bar with just a couple dozen people present, I went to use the “correct” washroom, but it was already in use. So I went into the “wrong” one. My ass hadn’t even touched the seat, and someone was already hammering on the door and announcing to the entire bar that “There’s a girl in the guy’s washroom!” This was neither a large washroom, nor was it really even a men’s washroom. It was a standard toilet and single sink in an 8-square-foot room covered from floor to ceiling in graffiti. I can’t even form an adequate gesture of how invasive this behaviour was, let alone how alarmed I felt as I silently panicked about someone bursting into that tiny room to drag me back out, beat me, or worse. When it didn’t happen, I panicked about what would happen when I open the door to emerge. And a few months ago, I used the “wrong” bathroom (the meaning of which has changed since testosterone — now all bathrooms are the wrong one), and started to panic when an out. binary-identifying trans* person said “Jamie, you’re using the “wrong” bathroom.” I couldn’t tell if she was serious or joking. Then there’s the time anti-abortion extremists stalked me for a block and followed me into the washroom in a restaurant (I thank my lucky stars they went into the “wrong” one looking for me). The point here is that no one has impunity for using the “wrong” bathroom. Rigid social norms and extremely unsettling people with unchecked control issues make damn sure of that.
And one more thing: child predators in the bathroom? Well, if RWoC is so concerned for the safety of children and so clearly alarmed about pedophiles walking about freely in public, as we all should be (within reason), have they not realized that most pedophiles prey upon their own family members? And if they don’t have access to their young relatives, they make a point of getting jobs that gives them access to and authority over children. Such as baseball coaching, or priesthood. The two cases they cite concerning pedophiles preying upon children in public washrooms don’t even concern either children or pedophiles. One of the incidents they cited happened in a nightclub, and the other involved a woman who had been assigned a male sex at birth and successfully completed transition to the opposite sex years prior to the event cited — which concerned a rape counselling service. RWoC concludes their entire brief by calling transsexuality a state of “mental confusion” and demanding that access to all forms of gender transition and sex reassignment be strictly prohibited.
I might be laughing at this if it wasn’t so egregiously offensive. I might not even take it seriously if they weren’t explicitly “pro-life”, and therefore representatives of yet another well-funded arm of a Catholic campaign to undermine women’s rights in Canada (and apparently the rights of gays, lesbians, bisexuals, queers, and trans* people as well, who according to RWoC, are all complicit with pedophilia and not worthy of human dignity). As far as I’m concerned, any group that seeks to take away women’s rights, or define the parameters of who qualifies as a “real” woman as narrowly as possible, is a hate group targeting women and anyone not considered “woman enough”. These hate groups represent the biggest threat when they aren’t taken seriously enough. Just ask Savita Halappanavar’s husband, family, and their international community of supporters.
Even better yet, ask CeCe McDonald: currently serving a prison sentence for successfully defending her life when an attempt was made on it because she’s trans*.
Stand up. Speak out. Fight back. It’s time.