Cybelle Rieber, a pride health co-ordinator, stands next to a
washroom sign at the Capital Health office at the Mumford Professional
Centre in Halifax last year. The signs are meant to show acceptance of
all people, including those who are transgender. (RYAN TAPLIN / Staff)
In light of the Senate’s discussion of Bill C-279, Calgary MP Rob
Anders had some choice words on the issue of transgender rights this
On his website, Anders chooses to paint his opposition to the
recognition of transgender rights as being an issue of women’s safety,
saying that his feelings are rooted in the need to protect women and
children from men lurking in their public washrooms.
As a woman, I am perfectly aware that I am less safe in my daily life
than the average man. However, if Anders is really as concerned about
my safety and well-being as he claims to be, then I would suggest that
there are any number of alternative topics (domestic violence
initiatives, education about consent or the fight against street
harassment, to name a few) upon which he could focus his attention.
Stigmatizing and painting transgender people as implicitly dangerous
sexual deviants does absolutely nothing to make women safer, and I
would appreciate it if he did not use my gender as an excuse behind
which to hide his ignorance and bigotry.
Unfortunately, this is a recurrent theme when it comes to this debate.
Ontario MP Dean Allison has said the bill means that, “The door would
be open to sexual predators having a legal defence to charges of being
caught in a women’s washroom or locker room.”
Statements like these, where transgender people are explicitly linked
to sexual predators are incredibly irresponsible and harmful,
particularly when made by a public figure. Society still has a long
way to go where the understanding of transgender people is concerned,
and comments like these do absolutely nothing to help encourage
greater education and awareness. To claim linear association between
transgender people and rapists and pedophiles is fear-mongering, plain
This sort of rhetoric is particularly disheartening coming from
elected officials, who have a voice in policy-making and and therefore
help to shape the public perception of this issue. Statements to this
effect will influence how the greater public sees — and, in turn,
treats — transgender people in their own lives.
Reckless, violent rhetoric does not protect or look out for the best
interests of these people and we should be demanding better of our
politicians. While it is a common human reaction to respond to that
which we do not understand with fear, we should not let fear born of
ignorance dictate public policy.
From the American Psychological Association: “Transgender is an
umbrella term for persons whose gender identity, gender expression, or
behavior does not conform to that typically associated with the sex to
which they were assigned at birth. Gender identity refers to a
person’s internal sense of being male, female, or something else;
gender expression refers to the way a person communicates gender
identity to others through behavior, clothing, hairstyles, voice, or
Nothing in there bears even the slightest resemblance to what the
previously quoted MPs seem to think it means to be transgender. This
dissonance explicitly demonstrates the need for both greater education
(of political figures and the general public) and protection where the
issue of transgender rights is concerned.
Ironically, in the way they chose to express their opposition, MPs
Anders and Allison served only to drive home why it is that
transgender people need their rights codified and protected by Bill
C-279 in the first place.
Transgender people live every moment of their lives fully aware of how
society views them as other. People who cannot feel comfortable even
in their own bodies already face an uphill battle when it comes to
finding a sense of belonging, and the lack of cultural understanding
of their situation only makes this more difficult.
A key facet of politicians’ jobs is to protect and look out for the
best interests of the people who elected them and the ones who didn’t.
This is not that. Working against the advancement and protection of
basic human rights for a vulnerable facet of the population is not
acceptable. It is counterproductive at best and malicious at worst.
Ignorance breeds fear. It is in the best interests of all people not
to let this fear become reflected in our laws, but instead to work for
greater awareness and understanding.
The Chronicle Herald, NS, Canada
WILLIAMS: Don’t transform transgender bill into safety issue
July 22, 2013 – 5:37pm
By EMILY WILLIAMS