Tag Archives: gender identity

Improving Human Rights in Canada

11 Apr

What’s it like to not have human rights protection in Canada?
Yes, you read correctly.

You may be thinking if someone is old enough, and depending on their identities, that they may remember.

Think again.

If you are transgender* in Canada, you are not protected under the Canadian Human Rights Act or the Criminal Code. Nor do you have protection under provincial or territorial Human Rights Codes or Acts – unless you live in the North West Territories.


Bill C-279 – the Federal Gender Identity Bill – hopes to change this.

Bill C-279, introduced by Mr. Randall Garrison (Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, NDP)  had its first reading in the House of Commons last Thursday April 5th. The debate was…interesting, and if nothing else showed the ignorance and misunderstanding that undermines human rights for transgender individuals in Canada and around the world.
(To read the transcript of the debate, check out Hansard. All comments are listed separately starting on the page linked to and continuing on the following page.)

One of the arguments in the second reading debate was that the higher courts have successfully taken on cases for transgender plaintiffs using sex as a prohibited ground, so why do we need another category?

Food for thought:  By listing some identities and not others, we send a problematic message that some groups’ rights are more important than others and that only these groups are therefore worthy to be listed. Transgender individuals have unique experiences of discrimination that differ from those we would typically see under the prohibited grounds of sex – by virtue of the fact that they challenge our idea that gender and sex match in all individuals, and also challenge gender norms in the attempts of transgender individuals to live as the gender they feel they are.

It is the challenging of “what we know about gender” and the challenging of deeply ingrained gender norms that causes discrimination and transphobia – and which also underlies the debate in the House about whether all Canadians should be afforded human rights in this country. It’s tragic.

What you can do.  The second half of the second reading will take place (hopefully) in May or June.
1. Spread the word.
2. Get in touch with your MP and urge them to vote for it Bill C-279 – for including Gender Identity and Gender Expression in the Canadian Human Rights Act as well as the Criminal Code.  To find your MP.

See more.

copyright 2012 Annemarie Shrouder
author, speaker and facilitator on issues of Diversity and Inclusion.

*transgender individuals’ gender (social constructs of what it means to be male or female) and sex (biology) do not match. The new term cisgender is used for individuals whose gender and sex match.

Recent article on Bill C-279


Family Stickers

28 Oct

A little levity on a Friday afternoon….with a message, of course.

I walked into the pet store earlier this week and was confronted with a large cardboard marketing campaign for Family Stickers – the new thing in advertising who we are through our vehicles. You may have seen them – they are stick figure stickers that one is meant to put on the back window of the vehicle to depict ones family – including pets.

I have seen these on people’s cars, so the concept wasn’t new. What was new was the idea of choosing the figure that “fits”. Of course I scrutinized the poster from a diversity lens and noted several concerns – now that I’ve been to the website, some of these are less, but here are a few after a quick perusal.

On the website you can choose your family members  (adult, teen, child, baby and pet) and then you are given a multitude of options to complete the image by choosing a head and a body. You can also create them in colour. Although I’m not sure about the names (white to dark mocha), hooray for options!

I was pleasantly surprised to see a mixture of possible hairstyles and activities the bodies could be doing. As an example, there is a dreadlock option for hairstyles for males and females (yay!). But there is also some stereotypes/cultural misappropriation like the feather head-dress option for boys (ugh).

The bigger issue that stood out for me today (and what I’m going to focus on)was gender: Before you get to these choices of colour or body or head, you have to choose male or female (adult, teen, child or baby). Too bad!

Here’s the issue:
While it seems that the body choices are doing similar activities, not all of the activities are the same: both have “doctor” options, for example, but only females have a “fairy” option and only males have a “business suit” option. What about guys who take themselves, lightly or a woman who is in Corporate Canada? And what if you’re trans-identified?

Ah the world of binary gender and gender role stereotyping.

I, for one have a hairstyle that more closely matches a choice in the “adult male” category. While I suppose I could just go into the adult male category for my stick figure representation and call it a day (it’s just a stick figure for crying out loud), it bugs me. There is a bigger message; an undercurrent that can add to the perpetuation of lack of choices, expectations, sexism and homophobia, biphobia and transphobia.

What is so gendered about a stick figure that I should have to choose? Seems like a safe place to start challenging some of our ideas and expectations of gender and gender roles and opening these up.

 Wouldn’t it be great if all of the options were available for each family member category so that everyone had the same choices of how to represent themselves? In fact, wouldn’t it be great if there were no categories at all, just a bunchof choices for colour, heads and body?

See more.

Copyright 2011 Annemarie Shrouder
author, speaker & facilitator on issues of diversityand inclusion


Gender Identity & Human Rights

23 Sep

We’re lucky in Canada to have a Human Rights Code that recognizes the inherent right to fair and equitable treatment, regardless of who we are…well, almost.

Gender Identity is still not specified as a prohibited ground for discrimination under the Code.

Most of us probably haven’t given this much thought.
For most people, gender identity matches their physical bodies.
For some people, however, this is not the case.
Transgender, trans-identified and transsexual individuals face discrimination and violence, and currently have no real human rights protection.

MP Hedy Fry is changing that by introducing Bill C-276: An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code (gender identity and gender expression).

Take a look.
And then think about what you need to be more aware of and learn in order to help make spaces more inclusive for transgender, trans-identified and transsexual people in your communities, organizations and families.

See more.

copyright 2011 Annemarie Shrouder
author, speaker and facilitator on issues of diversity and inclusion


Gender & Sex – learning the difference

25 Aug

Last week I saw a short article in the Metro News about a new at-home gender prediction test that pregnant women (and pregnant trans men) can take at 7 weeks.

It is called (no surprise) “Pink or Blue”. *sigh*

But this post is not about colours. It’s about gender versus sex. It’s a distinction that we have to learn in this country (in fact, in most countries) because they are not the same. Once we wrap our heads around this, the lives of transgender individuals will hopefully start to become easier.

A colleague of mine put it quite simply once during a training we were delivering. He said: gender is between your ears, and sex is between your legs. Gender is your sense of being what society says is a man or  a woman. Sex is about what biologically defines you as  male or female. It’s that simple.

Transgender individuals’ gender identity does not match their assigned sex. Cisgenderindividuals’ gender identity does match their assigned sex (Fenway Institute, 2010).   Trans-identified people are challenging what we have been taught about gender and biology. It’s a hard concept for many people to grasp; but it’s a lived reality that sadly is still not recognized by the Human Rights Code (currently gender identity is covered under sex and disability).

Pink or Blue says it tests for gender, but it doesn’t; it can’t. What it is really testing for, is sex. If you take the test and it comes out “blue” (for example) you still have a chance (although slight) that your biological boy will identify as a girl – or vice versa.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a problem with the test. But we have to start changing our language. Doing so will mean acknowledgment and respect for the lived experiences and realities of transgender individuals – something that is still sorely lacking around the world.

See More.

copyright 2011 Annemarie Shrouder
President – Building Equitable Environments

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