Right to Exist in Public Spaces

Bill C-16 is an act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act to add gender identity and gender expression to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination.   This bill is sorely needed by the transgender community in Canada and has been ten years in the making. Previous Conservative governments let this bill stall and die in the Senate. But now in 2017 it has enough parliamentary support to pass and is supported by a large number of Canadians.  Bill C-16 is currently in the Senate on its second reading.  I have posted about my support of this bill before, as well as emailed senators to let them know how important I think this bill is to protect very vulnerable transgender individuals.  (For example, did you know that transgender people have an 8 percent chance of dying by homicide?  Yeah, walk around with that knowledge on a day-to-day basis.)

So of course there is a pastor from New Westminster, Paul Dirks, with a website opposing Bill C-16.  He has been vocal in the media and has started a campaign to get people to write to their senators to oppose this bill (by offering them prizes for doing so).  There is a protest on Sunday morning (a silent one so as not to disturb their worship service) at New Westminster Community Church.  Paul Dirks has launched a website to further his opinion that gender-neutral and trans-inclusive gendered washrooms would result in individuals preying on women in these spaces.  He says he is opposed to this human rights bill because he wants to protect women in his life, like his wife and daughter.

So this is where I sigh sadly, because I know his mindset.  I came from the world he and his church community live in.  Yes, men want to protect “their women,” but they fail to do so on so many easy levels: equality in the pulpit, on boards running churches, preaching complementarianism as a spiritual imperative, implying marriage is for procreation, obsession with “biblical” expressions of masculinity and femininity, and on and on and on.  This failure, I believe, is because it would require giving up the highly-lauded ideal of patriarchy (the man is the head of the home, spiritually and physically).  Basically, a giving up of men’s entitlement to what others do with their bodies and their lives, especially when it comes to women and women’s sexuality.  This includes trans men and women as well, because for pastors like Paul Dirks, that is a corrupted and sinful expression of his ideas of sexuality, masculinity, and femininity: so of course granting trans men and women human rights would be a “danger” to the women in his life he says he’s protecting.  It’s much easier to participate in this twisted savior complex when the alternative is acknowledging that your cohort’s narrative (white, straight, and male) causes much harm to women, trans people, LGBQ communities, children, and then repent of same.  That would require you asking the right questions.

“The bill opens spaces for predators to come in,” Dirks said.

Seriously? I have been harassed by men in many different contexts. (Big aside here: I won’t call men “predators” because then it’s easy for people to dehumanize men as a whole, which is not my goal; also, it lets men like Dirks visualize the issue with unsafe gender-neutral/trans-inclusive places as not being his problem because it is “predators” [read: animals] causing his wife and child to be unsafe, not deeply-entrenched ideas of the white, straight, and male narrative being in charge of everyone’s sexuality and sexual expression.)  Back to my experiences: Where have I been harassed?  Hmm, let’s see.  The train, the bus, the bus stop, the sidewalk, stores, the parking lot, and my own fucking car (a guy tried to get in while I was stopped at a red light.  I should have had a “women only” sign on it.  That would have stopped him).  Basically any public space where I could be and even my own private space of my vehicle have seemed to say to men, please, come give me unwanted attention and harassment.  You know where I have never, ever been harassed?  The washroom.  And that goes for gender-neutral and trans-inclusive gendered washrooms (which are in Europe, and people are just in there to pee, in case you are wondering), and the classic gendered washrooms whose preservation as-is seems oddly important to Paul Dirks.

I really hope, dear readers, that more people will understand where harassment of vulnerable people, especially our transgender friends, originates from and that protecting of these vulnerable people requires deep reflection of our own complicity in structures of harm that still exist today in our society.

Please come to the silent protest if you can, friends.  See the link above for info.  The right for transgender people to exist in public spaces is a huge human rights issue, and without legislation like Bill C-16, the very erasure of trans individuals will continue in our society.

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