Tag Archives: transgender

The Dangers of Ignorance in Positions of Power

4 Oct

You have undoubtedly, by now, read or heard about MP Rob Anders petition against bill C279 and why he is opposed.


Let’s all take a moment to review:
– Transgender individuals currently don’t have human rights in Canada. This is a disgrace.
– Bill C279 is about rectifying this so that Trans Canadians are protected at work and where they live, have access to health care, and can learn in a safe environment. Oh, and go to the bathroom of their choice, without harassment. All basic human rights.

The bathroom issue, so often used when talking about Trans people, is ignorant an misguided (and transphobic). It also ironically misses the point that it is usually Trans people who are harassed in bathrooms, not the ones doing the harassing.

What is your company, organization or school doing to make bathrooms safe for Trans individuals?

PS – By the way, transgender men wouldn’t be using the women’s bathroom, as the article suggests. They would be using the men’s bathroom!
*sigh* we clearly have a lot of educating to do.

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Copyright 2012 Annemarie Shrouder
Speaker, Author and Facilitator on issues of Diversity and Inclusion.



The Cost of Exclusion

28 Aug

You may have heard/read about/seen the kafuffel about the transfather who breastfeeds his child and who wanted to be a La Leche League Canada Leader – and who was told “no”.

La Leche League Canada (LLLC) is an organization that advocates  breastfeeding. The “no” was because Trevor McDonald  does not identify as a mother, and therefore it would be “difficult for him to represent LLL philosophy”.

Interestingly, his “non-mother” status did not prevent him from becoming a member of LLLC in his hometown of Winnipeg,  from receiving support, and from being welcomed there with open arms. But attempting  leadership, I suppose, brings out a different side.

Ah, the challenges of sharing power…

Trevor’s hope (according to the article in Metro last Monday) was to “coach LGBTQ members and those who struggle, like he did, to breastfeed after chest reduction surgery”. Sounds like a niche market to me, and one which would benefit from a leader with personal experience and awareness – and a safe place to talk about specific issues other parents may not be facing. Sounds like a golden opportunity to reach out to a specific group, acknowledge that there are some differences, and provide support in a “culturally competent” way.

One cost of exclusion is missed opportunity.

If La Leche League Canada could see beyond the word “mother” to the diversity of parenting breastfeeding experiences that now exist, they would embrace Trevor and his vision of reaching out to  communities that currently may not feel safe or welcome to join. In so doing, La Leche League Canada would fulfill it’s mandate of advocating breastfeeding even more, and further their vision.

If your vision is clear, then embracing diversity and inclusion can only make it stronger, because you will include people and perspectives (and therefore ideas and actions) that you never dreamed of when you started. And you will go further.

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copyright 2012 Annemarie Shrouder
Speaker, author and facilitator on issues of diversity and inclusion.

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


The Difference an “X” Can Make

14 Oct

Last month Australia made a significant change on their passport application forms; there are now three options for “gender” – M, F and X. 

When your passport doesn’t reflect what you look like – when your listed gender doesn’t match who you  are – it can be, in the words of Senator Louise Pratt, “very distressing, highly  inconvenient and frankly sometimes dangerous.”

This is a human rights victory for transgender and intersex individuals in Australia, even moreso because sex reassignment surgery is not required to use the “x” option.

Imagine the relief of being able to mark X and being able to move through customs like everyone else instead of being grilled about why your passport says you are male, but you look female (or vice versa). For people who have experienced greater scrutiny at customs for other reasons (like race, or real/perceived ethnic origin or religion for example – especially since 9/11) you will understand what this can mean.

Hooray for Australia! Change happens when people start to “get it” – and even moreso (and faster) when people in power “get it”.

Senator Louise Pratt’s partner is transgender. This gives her an inside view into the barriers that transgender and intersex individuals face – barriers that those of us who are not transgender or intersex may have no idea even exist. Because of her experience, her position and her conviction, Australia has change!

It’s a small change, one that doesn’t impact cisgender people at all. There is still an “M” and an “F” to choose from. Australia has simply added another option – to recognize that not all realities are the same, and to make travelling more equitable and safe.

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