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Hey Montreal folks, check this one out! Happening Friday and Saturday, January 20-21.
Beyond Visibility: Femme Day of Action in Montreal will be a series of events for queer folks on a self-identified femme/inine spectrum to come together in conversation, coalition, and celebration of *all* the parts of ourselves and our many communities. We aim to illuminate the cultural, political and artistic work of all participating individuals and groups; to create and hold space to ally with and learn from each other; and discuss ways to align organizing to ensure that femme communities grow as generative, intersectional sites of gender justice. We are organizing in solidarity with the events that are happening as part of the Femme Week of Action (January 15-21). Read the rest of this entry »
I’m up to my adorable fedora in finals right now, so I hereby open up a call for submissions for anyone who wants to guest post here (our first!) regarding Christie Blatchford’s asinine, homophobic (but she loves gays! Really! She just hates “feys”), femme-hating screed in the National Post (little boys hugging is the end of masculinity and therefore civilization! next week: kittens playing with yarn and why they enrage me so!), which I won’t link to but which I’m sure you can find.
Comment here if you’re ready to read her beads!
A bunch of stuff has happened lately, but before I move onto the next thing, I just want to say how staggered and aghast I am at the attacks in Norway. [TW: Violence, racism]
But I have a really good excuse: I’m volunteering for the federal election campaign. Voting day is May 2, then give me a little while to decompress, and I’ll be back with you!
Bill C-389 passed. The House of Commons voted — narrowly, but with support from every party — to outlaw discrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression in federal areas of jurisdiction and to consider crimes based on those grounds as hate crimes.
I’ve been working on this issue for a really long time and it’s an incredible relief and joy. For me, both as a genderqueer person and as someone in love with a trans man, it really hits home.
Let’s hear it for Bill Siksay, the bill’s sponsor and the NDP’s LGBTT issues critic. He’s a wonderful person and he’s retiring from the House at the end of this parliament, and I can’t think of a better legacy to leave behind.
It now must pass the Senate before the next election in order to become law. But if this should fail to happen, either because it gets defeated in the Conservative-dominated Senate or an election is called before it passes, the NDP has a very solid groundwork for reintroducing it in the next Parliament until it finally is passed. In the meantime, I hope the provinces move on introducing their own bills, to cover provincial areas of jurisdiction as well.
But enough of this. At least for a day or two, let’s celebrate
This evening I had the opportunity to go see, for the third time, Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo. If you’ve never heard of this troupe, they perform all-male drag ballet, pointe shoes, tutus, temperament, and all — for more than 30 years now. And they do it wonderfully.
In one of the purest examples of camp I’m aware of, they combine very strong technical virtuosity, erudition, and obvious love of the art to produce a plainly affectionate but screamingly funny send-up of the conceits of classical ballet. It’s highly accessible to non-ballet fans, and amid the parody, the dancing itself is extremely good, sometimes resurrecting nearly forgotten works, and many of the numbers show the dancers’ skills off impressively. Do go and see them next time they’re in town.
On a more serious note, it’s a little fortuitous that I actually had the time to go and see them, since as previously mentioned I’ve been working my gay ass off on Canada’s Bill C-389 on trans and gender-variant people’s rights, which faces its greatest test tomorrow afternoon in Parliament: its final vote in the House of Commons at third reading.
Time is very short, and the last vote in December was quite close. If you haven’t already, contact your MP, or several MPs, and urge them strongly to be both present and voting in favour of the legislation. The vote is expected to take place around 5:30 p.m. Eastern, and you can watch it on CPAC.
Once that’s done, I hope to release my next article within a short time. Sorry for the wait, but things have been pretty hairy around here.
This was the first time the whole house held a recorded vote on the issue. The tally was 143 for and 131 against. All New Democrats and Bloquistes present voted in favour, as did most Liberals; however three Liberals voted against and several abstained. Most Conservatives voted against, but five voted in favour, including one who spoke against the bill at second reading, which to me indicates that they can be turned. Exciting days ahead.
I’ve had the opportunity to meet Bill several times, and a more self-effacing, caring, devoted MP, with more integrity and commitment to our communities and giving voice to the silenced, you will never meet. He has been in politics for every one of the right reasons. We’re going to lose one of the best MPs Canada has ever had, in my opinion, as well as an unprecedented voice for trans and genderqueer equality.
However, he is not resigning now, but staying in parliament until the next election. So he will continue to shepherd C-389 until then. Also, the bill was seconded by no fewer than 12 MPs, including Megan Leslie of Halifax who has worked with the trans community for years and gave a wonderful speech at 2nd reading. So if it doesn’t pass in this parliament, I’m confident it’ll be reintroduced in the next.
Today is the international day for the depathologization of trans identities. Trans people around the world are calling on psychological and psychiatric authorities to stop considering their identities to be disease states, and demanding full access to transition-related care as a human right, without requiring a diagnosis of mental illness.
As we speak, a team of psychiatrists is working to rewrite the notorious Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Illness (DSM-IV), revising among others the articles dealing with trans identities and cross-dressing. Yes, cross-dressing is currently considered evidence of mental illness – but only in men.
It doesn’t inspire confidence that the committee is headed by the dread Dr. Kenneth Zucker, head of the gender clinic at Toronto’s Centre for Addictions and Mental Health (a.k.a. “Jurassic Clarke”). Say his name to most any Canadian trans person and watch them shudder.
I’m running all over today, but I’ll expand more on these themes in an upcoming blog post.
I’ve been involved in working for queer rights in the arena of electoral politics for quite some time now, so it’s a little odd that yesterday was my first time watching a debate in the House of Commons in person. About twenty or so queer and trans people and me sat in the public galleries and watched the second hour of debate on Bill C-389, the bill proposed by queer NDP MP Bill Siksay to add gender identity and gender expression as prohibited grounds of discrimination in the Canadian Human Rights Act and the hate crimes provisions of the Criminal Code.
The bill covers both gender identity and gender expression. This is important because it spreads its protection as widely as possible, to cover transsexual and transgender people as well as people (like me) whose gender presentation is at variance with what society expects of us. As an example, when Khadijah Farmer, a cissexual woman, was thrown out of a New York City restaurant (in Greenwich Village on Pride Day, for pete’s sake) for using the women’s washroom because she was read as a man by the bouncer, she successfully won a settlement under New York City’s ordinance banning discrimination based on gender presentation. A law professor was quoted as saying that if she had had to sue based on New York State’s statute banning discrimination based on sex, she would have had more difficulty.
Furthermore, explicitly including both gender identity and expression will lead to conversation around the discrimination that targets trans and gender-variant people. As Bill Siksay said,
Accessing these protections through a convoluted process using other possibly related categories, usually the categories of sex and disability, diminishes the protection and limits our understanding of the causes and effects of the particular discrimination. A right that has to be explained is not a particularly effective right.
Back to my day. I have often seen the inside of the Commons chamber on CPAC, and a few times on brief visits, but never had a chance to study it for a long time, and it’s quite beautiful. I’ve long admired the Gothic revival architecture of our parliamentary precinct, but the inside of the chamber glows with lush stained glass and is decorated with rows of detailed, otherworldly allegorical carvings (allegory is my favourite genre of visual artwork) and a gorgeous linen covering on its ceiling, painted with coats of arms.
It was the first time ever that trans and gender-variant people’s rights have ever come to a debate in the House. And we picked a good day to watch, because somewhat unexpectedly, the bill was passed at second reading immediately, without going to a vote! (The procedure is referred to as “on division”). The joy in the galleries was palpable: both the surprise and relief (we thought there would have to be a vote, which would have been the next day) and the joy of having our issues undergo serious consideration by our legislators. Our communities have so thoroughly been ignored up till now that in many cases we simply lack any instinct to submit our grievances to our elected representatives — what would be the point? we feel.
Any extent to which I’ve been able to overcome both that complete radio silence and the feeling of preemptive disenfranchisement that it produces has been the most rewarding part of my work. Yesterday, I felt an excitement about the political process that, certainly under our present government, has at times been damned hard to sustain.
(Also as part of my trip, I had a chance to have lunch with a marvellous femme dyke friend who’s one of the main inspirations behind this blog.)
There is still a ton of work to do. The bill now goes to committee, which will be the first time that trans and gender-variant people have a chance to speak on the subject in Parliament (several MPs noted this fact during the speech as a reason it was so important to get this bill to committee). It must pass through all the remaining stages — committee, two House votes, and the Senate — before Parliament is dissolved for the next election, in order to become law. I’ll keep you updated on its progress.
As previously discussed, awesome New Democrat MP and spokesperson for LGBTT rights Bill Siksay continues to advance his Bill C-389 to protect trans and gender-variant people from discrimination by adding gender identity and expression to the Canadian Human Rights Act and the hate crimes sections of the Criminal Code.
It’s just been announced that there’s only a week left before it’s voted on on second reading. Its second hour of debate will be this Tuesday at 5:30 PM Eastern, and the vote is expected the next day.
Every vote will be crucial in this minority Parliament. Bill’s issued a call to action on his website; check it out, as well as this action centre with lots of ways to contact your MP to make sure they support equal protection for trans and genderqueer people. Take action today!
Holy crap, I’ve been sick for the last three weeks and I come back here and suddenly people are reading my blog! Four hundred hits in a day! More than a thousand this month! Zomg! *sweatdrop*
I can only apologize abjectly to you (especially those of you who made the three weeks’ worth of comments I just approved all at once) and hope you’ll keep reading.
While I prepare some upcoming blockbusters on body image and other things, here’s a quote from a recent issue of Toronto’s Pink Play, timely given the hockey fever that has taken over this city:
“Sports enthusiasts are nerds too!” says Jaime Woo, writer/activist and co-creator of the videogame conference GamerCamp. “Look at all the stats they know and their fantasy pools with all their imaginary match-ups—‘What if the Pittsburgh team of ‘72 was up against the Atlanta team of ‘85?’”
When he says it like that, it does sound pretty geeky. “What are the big battle scenes in Lord of the Rings”, he insists, but “just a heightened version of football?”
But he’s playing with fire here—football is sacred in a way that Dungeons and Dragons is not. In a culture (straight and gay) that prizes a confident masculinity above all else, anyone feminine or introverted or unathletic or otherwise falling short of that ideal gets marginalized—even if the fantasies they love correspond with it.
Thanks so much to the lovely people who took part in the femme guys workshop I helped facilitate tonight. I really appreciate your interest and willingness to share!