Bathroom Transphobia

by | November 17, 2010
filed under Feminism, LGBT, Politics

by Kaitlin

Evangelical Christian leader Charles McVety and president of the Canada Family Action Coalition is doing what he does best – fear mongering. He was quoted in the Globe and Mail yesterday making ridiculous statements, like, “Any man could self-identify as a woman and enter any female-specific space such as a bathroom, change rooms and even showers at the local pool.”

Charles McVety

All trans people want is respect, equal rights, and protection under the law – and yes, this does include the right to use the bathroom. The funny thing is, though, that I have never, ever felt unsafe in a bathroom, regardless of whether or not there were trans people present. Sadly, I can’t say the same thing for my trans friends; each of them to whom I have spoken has at least one bathroom horror story. As Bill Siksay so rightly pointed out when asked to respond to Charles McVety, “The reality is that trans people are the ones that face danger in public washrooms. They’re the ones who are regularly assaulted, insulted or denied access, and that’s the real problem with washrooms in Canada. The real problem is the discrimination and violence that trans people face when they use a public washroom in Canada, and hopefully the bill will go some way to educating people about why that’s the problem, and why that’s inappropriate, and why that needs to be addressed.”

I honestly believe that Bill C-389 is the most important Bill currently before Parliament, for what could matter more than fundamental human rights? It’s also important to me for personal reasons; it hurts on a very visceral level to know that my partner, the woman I love, isn’t entitled to the same protections under the law that I enjoy.

Charles McVety’s comments make the world less safe for all of us; in the past I’ve written about just how unsafe I felt growing up as a gay person and using the change rooms before and after PE class, for the vitriol that McVety spews affects all of us who might be suspected to be attracted to people of the gender changing in that room. Yet harassment rarely begins with queers, it instead begins with people who believe that all others should fit in the little boxes and carry out the neat little gender roles assigned to us at birth.

There is a little part of me that feels very protective of my partner; I want to keep her safe from anything that could hurt her because I know that neither our society nor our current laws do. But I would like some help. I would like our elected representatives to step up and say that they will change our laws to make sure that she enjoys the same protections that I do. I would like our society to stand together against bigots like Charles McVety, and make the cultural shift needed to ensure that the National Post, Globe and Mail, or Toronto Sun wouldn’t bother to give him the time of day. Most of all, I’d like to know that everyone feels safe to go to the washroom, that children are raised to understand that trans people are no more or less safe than everyone else who may be sharing the washroom or change room with them, and that trans people may feel safe and secure using the washroom of their choice no matter what point of transition they’re in.

I am grateful to my own Member of Parliament, Bill Siksay, for taking the initiative to introduce a bill that will make life safer for a lot of people. I’m also grateful to all of the MPs who have supported this Bill, whatever their political party or ideological bias. I don’t believe that this is simply an issue of the left, for human rights should be championed by all parties. At lease some members of each party have supported Bill C-389 thus far, and for that I am glad. I would ask each and every one of my readers to take the time to contact their MP to ask them to support this Bill; no matter what you think your MP’s ideology or party line, he or she may listen. You can find your Member of Parliament here.


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