TALKING TRANSGENDER

"So What Is It Like To Be Transgender?"

A brochure you can download from PFLAG Canada

CLICK HERE to download this informative brochure

Transgender people face unique challenges - such as widespread stigma, discrimination and often hate crimes, the complex process of getting appropriate identity documents, finding culturally competent healthcare providers, and family and parenting issues - make these citizens some of the most vulnerable in Canadian society. These issues affect thousands of people and their families, representing all ages, classes and ethnic groups, who together are an integral part of Canada.

Imagine that you are different and no one understood or even wanted to hear about it. As M2M, this shouldn't be too hard to understand for most of us. This is how many transgender individuals feel and often in a much stronger and negative way than M2M. Inside they feel like one gender but the world perceives them as another. It's a sensitive issue that's only just being explored in popular discourse.

Some points to think about:

  • Realize that transgender persons can be gay, straight or bisexual. Transgender status is about 'identity', not 'sexual predisposition' (referred too as 'orientation' by some). For example, males who transition to female can be attracted to men or women as they were before the transition. It's their 'identity' that changes, not their 'sexual predisposition.'
  • Know that transgender is a medical condition called 'gender dysphoria'. Transgender persons are not mentally ill, any more than any other segment of society. However, they often face more struggles from a lack of support, stigma and discrimination. Transgender is not something 'created', it is a lifelong condition.
  • Coming out as transgender is a gradual process for many. A first step for many is dressing as their true sex when and where they perceive it safe to do so. Please note: this is NOT the same as a person who dresses/performs in 'Drag'. Another early step maybe the use of 'hormones'.
  • A transgender person can undergo sexual reassignment surgery (SRS), but not every transgender person does.
  • Recognize that transgender people are the 'T' in LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bi Transgender and Queer) community. All of us in this community are considered sexual minorities, and we share many issues, even if 'sexual predisposition' isn't one of them.
  • Respect that once a person begins transitioning, most want others to use the pronoun that fits their new, outer appearance. If you are unsure, ask, "How do you identify?"
  • Remember, there is NO 'one size' fits all answers when talking about individual transgender persons. Like everyone else in society, we are all unique.

International Laws Protecting Transgender

Information on transgender protections specific to each country's laws and court cases are sparse. While some countries provide legal protections for transgender people, most do not. However, international transgender issues are rapidly evolving.

In the European Union, a 1996 decision of the European Court of Justice in P v S and Cornwall County Council provided protections from employment discrimination related to 'gender reassignment'. The United Kingdom formalized this EU decision when it passed the 1999 Sex Discrimination (Gender Reassignment) Regulations. This law provides protections for transgender people 'intend[ing] to undergo,... undergoing or hav[ing] undergone gender reassignment," and applies to any stage of employment. The European Court of Human Rights has continued to uphold and require protections for transgender people, and both the United Kingdom and Spain also have laws that allow transgender people to change their name and gender on official documents without needing to undergo surgery.

Two U.K., studies - one conducted before the ECJ decision and one after the adoption of the 1999 U.K., non-discrimination law - demonstrate that while discrimination against transgender employees has decreased, it continues to occur frequently. Before the ECJ decision, 37 percent of people who had transitioned and subsequently changed jobs claimed that they were forced to leave. After the enactment of the 1999 U.K., non-discrimination law, this decreased to 16 percent. However, only half of people surveyed were allowed to use the appropriate bathroom while in transition.

Outside of Europe, South Africa and many states and territories of Australia also prohibit discrimination against transgender people. Businesses that operate in these countries are prohibited, and could be held liable for, discrimination against or harassment of transgender employees.

The International Bill of Gender Rights

"The international Bill of Gender Rights (IBGR) strives to express human and civil rights from a gender perspective. However, the ten rights enunciated below are not to be viewed as special rights applicable to a particular interest group. Nor are these rights limited in application to persons for whom gender identity and gender role issues are of paramount concern. All ten sections of the IBGR are universal rights which can be claimed and exercised by every human being."

The international Bill of Gender Rights (IBGR) was first drafted in committee and adopted by the International Conference on Transgender Law and Employment Policy (ICTLEP) at that organization's second annual meeting, held in Houston, Texas, August 26-29, 1993.

1.) The Right To Define Gender Identity

All human beings carry within themselves as ever-unfolding idea of who they are and what they are capable of achieving. The individuals' sense of self is not determined by chromosomal sex, genitalia, assigned birth sex, or initial gender role. Thus, the individuals' identity and capabilities cannot be circumscribed by what society deems to be masculine of feminine behaviour. It is fundamental that individuals have the right to define, and to redefine as their lives unfold, their own gender identities, without regard to chromosomal sex, genitalia, assigned birth sex, or initial gender role.

Therefore, all human beings have the right to define their own gender identity regardless of chromosomal sex, assigned birth sex, or initial gender role; and further, no individual shall be denied Human or Civil Rights by virtue of a self-defined gender identity which is not in accord with chromosomal sex, genitalia, assigned birth sex, or initial gender role.

2.) The Right To Free Expression of Gender Identity

Given the right to define one's own gender identity, all human beings have the corresponding right to free expression of their self-defined gender identity.

Therefore, all human beings have the right to free expression of their self-defined gender identity; and further, no individual shall be denied Human or Civil Rights by virtue of the expression of a self-defined gender identity.

3.) The Right To Secure And Retain Employment And To Receive Just Compensation

Given the economic structure of modern society, all human beings have a right to train for and to pursue an occupation or profession as a means of providing shelter, sustenance, and the necessities and bounty of life, for themselves and for those dependent upon them, to secure and retain employment, and to receive just compensation for their labour regardless of gender identity, chromosomal sex, genitalia, assigned birth sex, or initial gender role.

Therefore, individuals shall not be denied the right to train for and to pursue an occupation or profession, nor be denied the right to secure and retain employment, nor be denied just compensation for their labour, by virtue of their chromosomal sex, genitalia, assigned birth sex, or initial gender role, or on the basis of a self-defined gender identity or the expression thereof.

4.) The Right Of Access To Gendered Space And Participation in Gendered Activity

Given the right to define one's own gender identity and the corresponding right to free expression of a self-defined gender identity, no individual should be denied access to a space or denied participation in an activity by virtue of a self-defined gender identity which is not in accord with chromosomal sex, genitalia, assigned birth sex, or initial gender role.

Therefore, no individual shall be denied access to a space or denied participation in an activity by virtue of a self-defined gender identity which is not in accord with chromosomal sex, genitalia, assigned birth sex, or initial gender role.

5.) The Right To Control And Change One's Own Body

All human beings have the right to control their bodies, which includes the right to change their bodies cosmetically, chemically, or surgically, so as to express a self-defined gender identity.

Therefore, individuals shall not be denied the right to change their bodies as a means of expressing a self-defined gender identity; and further, individuals shall not be denied Human or Civil Rights on the basis that they have changed their bodies cosmetically, chemically, or surgically, or desire to do so as a means of expressing a self-defined gender identity.

6.) The Right To Competent Medical And Professional Care

Given the individual's right to define one's own gender identity, and the right to change one's own body as a means of expressing a self-defined gender identity, no individual should be denied access to competent medical or other professional care on the basis of the individual's chromosomal sex, genitalia, assigned birth sex, or initial gender role.

Therefore, individuals shall not be denied the right to competent medical or other professional care when changing their bodies cosmetically, chemically, surgically, on the basis of chromosomal sex, genitalia, assigned birth sex, or initial gender role.

7.) The Right To Freedom From Psychiatric Diagnosis Or Treatment

Given the right to define one's own gender identity, individuals should not be subject to psychiatric diagnosis or treatment solely on the basis of their gender identity or role.

Therefore, individuals shall not be subject to psychiatric diagnosis or treatment as mentally disordered or diseased solely on the basis of a self-defined gender identity or the expression thereof.

8.) The Right To Sexual Freedom

Given the right to a self-defined gender identity, every consenting adult has a corresponding right to free sexual expression.

Therefore, no individual's Human or Civil Rights shall be denied on the basis of sexual orientation; and further, no individual shall be denied Human or Civil Rights for expression of a self-defined gender identity through sexual acts between consenting adults.

9.) The Right To Form Committed, Loving Relationships And Enter Into Marital Contracts

Given that all human beings have the right to free expression of self-defined gender identities, and the right to sexual expression as a form of gender expression, all human beings have a corresponding right to form committed, loving relationships with one another, and to enter into marital contracts, regardless of their own or their partner's chromosomal sex, genitalia, assigned birth sex, or initial gender role.

Therefore, individuals shall not be denied the right to form committed, loving relationships with one another or to enter into marital contracts by virtue of their own or their partner's chromosomal sex, genitalia, assigned birth sex, or initial gender role, or on the basis of their expression of a self-defined gender identity.

10.) The Right To Conceive, Bear, Or Adopt Children; The Right To Nurture And Have Custody Of Children And To Exercise Parental Capacity

Given the right to form a committed, loving relationship with another, and to enter into marital contracts, together with the right to express a self-defined gender identity and the right to sexual expression, individuals have a corresponding right to conceive and bear children, to adopt children, to nurture children, to have custody of children, and to exercise parental capacity with respect to children, natural or adopted, without regard to chromosomal sex, genitalia, assigned birth sex, initial gender role, or by virtue of a self-defined gender identity or the expression thereof.

Therefore, individuals shall not be denied the right to conceive, bear, or adopt children, nor to nurture and have custody of children, nor to exercise parental capacity with respect to children, natural or adopted, on the basis of their own, their partner's, or their children's chromosomal sex, genitalia, assigned birth sex, initial gender role, or by virtue of a self-defined gender identity or the expression thereof.

Reprinted form IBGR Project, P.O. Box 930, Cooperstown, NY 13328 U.S.A. Telephone: (607) 547-4118. FAX: (607) 547-2198. E-Mail: StuComOne@aol.com.