Ottawa Trans Library update

The Ottawa Trans Library was an aspirational project that got sidelined when the pandemic arrived. About 22 months and lots of social turmoil later, however, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. With that hopeful idea in mind, I have been browsing real estate listings for possible locations for the library.

The first thing I learned is that renting a space in this city is more expensive than I imagined, and I never imagined it would be cheap. I thought Covid-19 would have made spaces available, but when it comes to real estate the supposed “magic of the market” doesn’t apply. A location that’s been available for 23 months for some reason never drops in price. I thought that’s the way it was supposed to work. Guess not.

So, my plan was to rent a hole in the wall, a small spot where interested trans folks could borrow books and gather to talk. In other words, as cheap as possible and a minimal investment of time and money on my part. Gradually though this project has expanded into a grander vision. We deserve better than a hole in the wall. We need a physical space that is part of the fabric of our city and announces that we belong here.

Oppressed people have always needed spaces where they can be safe, gather, meet new people and talk. There is no more civilized “third space” than a library. It’s much more than a place for books and the internet. It’s a community builder.

I don’t want to get ahead of myself because the place we rent will largely dictate what kind of space it will be. Ottawa Public Health precautions also need to be enforced, and will likely limit its scope initially. However, we’re all tired of the pandemic and it’s time to get moving again.

The Ottawa Trans Library is very much a Field of Dreams, build-it-and-they-will-come type project. It has the potential to be a step forward for the trans community in Ottawa, but how useful it will be is ultimately up to trans people.

I’m excited about the possibilities, but it may take a while yet before we’ll be able to find a suitable space. I hope not. This pandemic has been hell for a lot of people, and has isolated trans folks even more than they already were. We need to turn the page.

Stay tuned. I may have to curtail my enthusiasm, but sooner or later the right place will turn up!

 

National LGBTQ2+ monument

Canadian Heritage, the government department whose mandate covers culture, heritage and diversity, will be erecting a monument to LGBTQ2+ people along the Ottawa River between the Library and Archives Canada building on Wellington Street and the Portage Bridge to Gatineau. The monument is a joint project of the Department, the National Capital Commission and the LGBT Purge Fund, which has advocated for the project from the beginning and is funding it in part from money that would have been directed to LGBT people who have died but who would have received compensation for the government’s public service purge of queer folks between the 1950s and 1990s.

According to the LGBT Purge Fund website, the organization is “legally required to use the funds from the LGBT Purge settlement for specific reconciliation and memorialization projects.” Besides the monument, an “exhibition on the LGBT Purge at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg is being planned”, although a launch date for the exhibition has not yet been determined. (The museum has a bit of reconciliation to do of its own.)

LGBTMonument
On Common Ground

Canadian Heritage is inviting you to vote for your preferred design of the five that have made the shortlist. The deadline for your vote is November 28th. You can view short videos of each concept on their website. I chose On Common Ground, but each one has its merits and the videos describing them are all quite moving.

The survey afterwards is lengthy and a little ridiculous. It asks you to rate each monument by a long list of objectives. They should have warned you that you need to take extensive notes when watching each video because there will be a test afterwards. It’s a survey only a government bureaucrat would think will achieve its goals. I filled it out, but took a few guesses towards the end just to get through it. In the end, my choice was largely visceral.

Although the monument will be in Ottawa, it is a national monument that aims to tell the story of Canadians who were “persecuted, abused, dismissed, and marginalized” because of who they were. Despite the onerous survey you’re required to take afterwards to submit your choice, wherever you are in Canada, please consider participating.

 

Transgender Day of Remembrance

There is a good blog post on the Ottawa Public Library site that explains the significance and importance of November 20th to those who may not know: OPL Trans Day of Remembrance.

 

Bobbi Charlton on Family Law

I would be remiss in not mentioning a second show on Canadian television that has a recurring role for a trans woman. It is Family Law, seen on Global television Friday nights. Like Sort Of (see below), the presence of a trans woman in the cast is not a big issue and the show itself simply presents her as office manager in the dysfunctional family law firm of the title. (As well as being a family firm, it also practices family law.) The character of Jerri Rifkin is played by Bobbi Charlton, whose credits include the series The Magicians and A Million Little Things.

The central premise of the series is that Abigail Bianchi (played by Jewel Staite) goes to work in her estranged father’s law firm as part of her probation and must work with two half-siblings she doesn’t know while maintaining her sobriety. In the episode I saw, Charlton’s character displayed a truer moral compass than the messed-up principals of the law firm she works for.

BobbiCharlton1
Bobbi Charlton

Charlton has worked over 35 years in the arts as actor, choreographer, director and writer. Her bio on the Global website describes her as “extremely compassionate and patient, but having personally experienced violence and human injustice she has a definite “line in the sand” that should not be crossed. This mindset ties in perfectly with her role as Jerri, whose inflexible belief in law and order crosses over to her “mama-bear” treatment of Harry’s children as well as unwavering support for Harry even though she doesn’t always agree with his decisions and personal choices in life.”

 

Sort Of a charming new series on CBC

I’d seen the trailer advertising Sort Of on the CBC streaming site Gem, but hadn’t got around to watching it until it appeared on CBC television in back to back episodes on November 9th. What a joy! Bilal Baig is a gender fluid person playing a gender fluid person of Pakistani heritage named Sabi who works primarily as a nanny. (One of the pleasures of the show is that it doesn’t waste any time explaining anybody.) It’s the kind of precarious existence trans folks will find familiar, and it becomes even more so when Sabi discovers their job will likely be coming to an end just in time for Christmas. An opportunity to go to Berlin drops into their lap, but then everything is turned upside down when the woman she works for – someone who asked Sabi what their pronoun was before they even knew – lands in a coma.

Bilal1
Bilal Baig

Sort Of has been described as a sitcom, and indeed I laughed out loud on a few occasions, but that doesn’t do it justice. There’s a moment when Sabi is returning to their apartment and finds their mom outside holding yoghurt containers of food. Sabi turns away upon seeing her, and we realize that despite living openly, they haven’t told their mom about themselves. It’s a heart-rending moment of being outed before they’re ready and one that many LGBT people will recognize. This scene is unique, however, as in the rest of the program Sabi doesn’t agonize over their identity.

The laughs are there too. Baig has a wonderful, deadpan look whenever they have to endure another of those ignorant comments that are part of most trans lives. Their long-suffering expression emphasizes the stupidity of the comment and makes us laugh at it without Sabi having to say anything more. Baig is a fine actor with a charming presence on screen, despite the part probably not being too far from their real life.

Baig is well known in Toronto’s theatre community. It was while they were acting in a play with Fab Filippo, another Toronto-based actor and writer, that the idea for Sort Of arose. Interestingly, according to a Globe and Mail article, Baig hadn’t come out to their family prior to the show appearing and as late as last month was preparing to out themselves by crafting a letter in Urdu to them.

There are other trans folks involved in the production of Sort Of besides Baig, and it shows. It’s something you can watch safely and enjoy without getting annoyed. Yes, there are scenes you’ve lived through and maybe don’t want to revisit, but Baig handles them deftly and there’s an ease and naturalness to the show that draws us into the lives of the characters. “There are trans and non-binary people who play trans and non-binary characters. There are also trans and non-binary actors who you think are cis because they never talk about their gender. They just appear and exist in the world, and then are off to do other things,” Baig said.

Cheers to Bilal Baig and Fab Filippo, and indeed the CBC for taking it on.

 

Talking about trans folks. And talking, and talking, and talking

I’ve been minding my own business lately and didn’t have much to say about anything trans, but while I was away the world was talking. The world is always talking about trans! Do we exist? Do we have a right to exist? Are we a threat to children? Women? To confused cisgender folks who suddenly think it would be cool to be trans? Every ignorant Tom, Jane and Harry has an opinion, and there are a lot of ignorant Toms, Janes and Harrys. When they express them, the media is there to faithfully report them. Then we launch a counterattack and the media reports that too. Sometimes I think we were better off living in semi-obscurity.

Lately the media has stopped printing the names of lunatics who go on killing sprees because they don’t want to give them publicity and encourage other lunatics to do the same. Could we institute something like that for people giving their opinions about trans folks? Let ’em talk, but I don’t wanna hear about it.

The CBC has been on a trans blitz recently. I trace it back to an October 23rd opinion piece written by Jessica Triff, a trans woman who views the trans activism of the last decade as radical and often toxic. That’s a discussion worth having, although it was disingenuous of her to typify all trans activism this way. Triff also had some highly problematic opinions on what constitutes a trans woman. I’m sure she thought she was being helpful. Perhaps the CBC saw it as a moderate piece that the rest of moderately transphobic Canada could agree with because they allowed comments, unusual for a trans article. (Too much hate to moderate.) Sure enough, the majority of commentators seemed to agree with Triff.

I’m guessing again, but the follow up story on November 7th was likely written because reaction from the trans community was not quite as positive. Triff’s piece was referenced in the article, although the article was otherwise about the simmering backlash against trans rights in Canada. Titled “Anti-trans views are worryingly prevalent and disproportionately harmful…”, it presents a good overview of the current state of transphobia in the country.

One of the items cited in the article is Quebec’s proposed Bill 2 that “would create separate designations for sex and gender identity on official documentation. The bill would also limit changing sex identifiers to those who have medically transitioned.” What an ill-considered bit of work that is! Let’s out trans people in a transphobic society! The bill could only have been conceived by someone who regarded us as a threat to – what? – and then sought to contain us in some kind of hierarchy of beings based on categories of sex and gender. “Since announcing Bill 2, Quebec Justice Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette said he is open to finding better solutions.” You think? How about doing nothing?

Bill C-17 has been in effect for four years now. Society has not collapsed. Women’s rights have not been infringed. And yet, how easy it is to convince people of the opposite, that something needs to be done about those category problematic trans folks. Preventative legislation needs to be enacted. No evidence required.

The last article was from CBC Ottawa on November 8th. After all that blathering, I was glad to read a mildly informative piece about the troubles two local trans women have faced transitioning during the pandemic. Covid has been isolating, no doubt of that, and getting rid of the beard has been pretty well impossible. It’s a good human interest story, but then the pandemic has been tough on everyone. Having your cancer treatment postponed is no picnic either.

We need to count our blessings, and get on with what we need to do.

In the article on anti-trans sentiment, trans woman Florence Ashley says that people who are inclusive of trans folks are largely in the background. “The best that they do is not be transphobic, not interfere with the well-being of trans people. Whereas the people who are against trans people are very negatively impacting them.”

They’re also the ones talking the most and the loudest. When we are feeling especially vulnerable, we need to shut out their endless jabbering to preserve our sanity. But be grateful for the “radical” activists who are there to address their slanders on our behalf.

 

Book Club!

Book lovers may wish to note the following trans friendly meetup group: “We are a book club focused on reading and discussing books that tend more towards “literature” (i.e. probably not anything by, for example, James Patterson). We’re trans/LGBTQ+ inclusive, but the books we read aren’t exclusively about those topics. Join us if you like lively discussion over a coffee or a beer.”

Would like to join? Go to: https://www.meetup.com/lit-club-trans-friendly/

 

RachelUsedThis
Rachel Steen

 

Showdown on Broadview Avenue

Tip of the hat to the large and diverse group of counter-protesters, including students, parents and politicians, who showed up October 19th to register their displeasure with anti-trans crusader Chris Elston, who was picketing the two schools on Broadview Avenue (Nepean High School and Broadview Public School). Elston has been travelling across the country and been greeted similarly elsewhere. He likes to provoke, film people’s reactions, and then play the innocent. His strategy is as much to enrage and motivate others who think like him as it is to protest. (Indeed, ultra right wing Rebel News portrayed his Montreal appearance as, “Montreal thugs attack activist who opposes puberty blockers for kids.”) It’s not just trans folks and their supporters who are his targets. He was arrested in Vancouver for “causing a disturbance” after police warned him several times to stop “antagonizing” protesters gathered in solidarity with Mi’kmaq fishermen. Like all transphobes, Elston claims he is not one, but as Nepean High School student Nerisse Kazmierski astutely observed, “He claims that trans lives matter and then shows a complete and utter disrespect for all of their autonomy and their actual thoughts.” More on the CBC Ottawa site, as well as many others. The attention seeking part of his strategy is quite successful. Fortunately, so far the anti-trans part isn’t.

 

A transphobic society says okay to Netflix and Dave Chappelle

I posted this article on October 14th when I thought the story had played itself out. I’m happy to say I was wrong. Thanks to the work of Netflix employees who continue to leak damaging internal communications that make co-CEO Ted Sarandos look like a tone deaf bumbler, the pressure to remove Chappelle continues and appears to be building momentum. Netflix first suspended a trans employee who tweeted criticism of the special, before reversing the suspension. Now they’ve fired the person responsible for leaking financial information about what the show cost ($24.1 million US, more than what Netflix paid for the hit The Squid Game). It seems they believe throwing gasoline on the fire is the way to put it out. At least 1,000 employees have reportedly planned a virtual walkout for 20 October in response. I’m greatly encouraged by all this, but will leave my original article up. We’ll see where this story ends.

This is not about Dave Chappelle’s latest transphobic diatribe on Netflix. I’ll leave it to others more powerful than I and who have some insight into the comedy industry to repudiate it. Black trans woman and comedian Dahlia Belle’s has written an article in The Guardian titled “Dear Dave Chappelle, transgender comedians can take a joke, but why are yours so unfunny?” that is worth reading.

I’m more interested in how this affair reflects on society in general. If you’re trans and reading this, it is no secret to you that we live in transphobic societies. As a species, we’ve evolved to the point where we’re starting to believe it’s not a great thing to single out entire populations for hate simply for being who they are, but we’re not yet that good at putting the principle into practice. It’s been such an integral part of human history that we’re reluctant to lose the thrill of ganging up on people. The gratification that comes from feeling superior may be superficial but it’s powerful. Netflix co-chief executive Ted Sarandos, responding to criticism his network has received for airing the show, said that some people may find the comedy “mean-spirited”, but “our members enjoy it”. You can be cancelled for making sexist, misogynistic, racist and homophobic comments, but isn’t it great that we still have trans folks that we can lay into?

Dave Chappelle isn’t losing his job. On the contrary, the Washington Post quoted Sarandos as saying his show won’t be removed, citing “creative freedom” and that “it’s an important part of our content offering”. Translation: it’s making us money. The rich and powerful exploiting the relatively poor and powerless is okay as long as a supine population lets them get away with it. Capitalism has been doing that since its inception so it’s no surprise Sarandos thinks raking in dollars is more important than doing the right thing; but if it were another comedian joking about Black people in this derogatory way, their “creative freedom” would get shut down pretty quickly.

As a trans woman, I’m not thrilled that so many people enjoy being “mean-spirited”. Worse still, they probably don’t even think of it. People will claim they’re not transphobic because they’ve accepted it’s not a nice thing to be, but they don’t think getting a laugh at trans people’s expense is a serious offence. They’re like the guy who sexually harasses a woman co-worker and then complains that she can’t take a joke. They don’t give much thought to the things that have a negative impact on your life.

It’s encouraging that many people found Chappelle’s schtick distasteful, but the truth is there weren’t nearly enough of them. We live in transphobic societies. Despite the work of trans activists and the help of our supporters, change won’t come easily or quickly, but it will come. In my lifetime, I’ve seen changes I couldn’t imagine when I was young.

The struggle for rights and dignity is a long one, but slow and steady wins the race. Anger has a way of being self-defeating. Patience and persistence are better long term strategies. We can’t let these Chappelle moments discourage us. We’re on the right side of history, and I have no doubt that folks from the future won’t find him very funny.

(For a more thorough demolition of Netflix and Ted Sarandos, see this article written by Kathleen Newman-Bremang. Originally published by Refinery29 in the UK it has been re-posted by Yahoo.)

 

Non-binary server in B.C. awarded 30K for being unfairly fired

October 2021 – There is an article on the CBC news site about Jessie Nelson, a server in Gibsons, B.C., who was awarded $30K by the B.C. Human Rights Commission for being fired after asking to be addressed by their correct pronouns. While it’s undoubtedly a decision supporting non-binary people, the text of the article suggests non-binary people have some work to do to be taken seriously.

The Commission found that the managers at the restaurant in Gibsons, B.C. “seemed committed to providing an inclusive workplace” but that “their response to Nelson’s complaints lacked any sense of urgency.” While some co-employees respected their pronouns, one bar manager in particular was so flippantly derisive that the relationship between Nelson and the manager became increasingly hostile. The Commission found Nelson was “terminated because of ‘how they responded to discrimination’ from their employer” and the bar manager. In other words, the bar owners felt Nelson was being too pushy about their pronouns.

It’s undoubtedly the right decision. The restaurant owners could have fired the bar manager, but instead blamed Nelson for not working with the team. It’s ultimately a question of respect, but the whole sad story shows that many cisgender people do not take non-binary people seriously. I’m sure that many reading the story would be outraged by the decision for the same reason.

 

Book review: Trans Pornography

I learned a lot from this special issue of Transgender Studies Quarterly on trans pornography, but could never quite convince myself – as several of the contributors have – that performing it was “empowering”. TransPornThe increasing popularity of trans porn in recent years has fortunately moved the industry from its early exploitative origins when trans people were labelled with derogatory terms like “she-male” and “tranny”, but it’s difficult to ignore that most of the people who get involved do so because they’re excluded from other employment. That there are significant issues around race and racism in trans porn, consent and HIV considerations, the fact your window to make money is very small, and that there is a “relatively high rate of regularly occurring suicides in the industry” suggest to me that trans porn might not be your best choice toward “empowerment”.

And yet, life is complicated.

The reality is trans people do need money to survive and because of their limited job prospects, the lure of trans porn, particularly in the age of new media where for the first time they are able to control the content, can be persuasive.

There is a chapter here on trans* porn remix (TPR) videos that analyzes the highly creative ways that “microporn employs images of trans* bodies taken from traditional productions, as well as cisgender images that are remediated to be read as trans*.” These sophisticated editing techniques obviously run afoul of copyright laws and so are created anonymously, but they engage the viewer in ways that I never dreamed possible. Unlike most trans porn which is directed at a nominally cis hetero male audience, TPR engages a broad range of viewers. The videos are a form of sex/gender play in which viewers imagine themselves exchanging bodies with performers of a different sex.

One example of this is a subgenre called “sissy hypno”. A gentle voiced narrator will mimic hypnosis through suggestion and repetition – “you are the girl” is a common phrase – as the “viewer begins as a man and undergoes a transformation into a sissy or woman.” The audience for this type of video is diverse. Cis men may imagine becoming the ‘opposite gender’, but trans women will have different experiences with this material. “TPR represents a dovetailing of identities and sexual practices, in which transitioning becomes mixed and conflated with fetish gender play.” Aster Gilbert, the author of this article, maintains that “TPR represents possibilities for pre-realization trans* people to experiment with their sex/gender identities in productive ways.”

The internet has become the place where we interact with others in our process of sexual self discovery, and so trans porn is the first place many people see trans bodies. The medicalization of transsexual people created an environment where they were expected or required to have a dysphoric relationship with their genitals. “A trans* woman who enjoys the pleasure of her ‘girl dick’ was historically disallowed.” Trans porn has normalized the representation of trans bodies for many, which isn’t a bad thing.

The cis hetero male, however, is still the primary customer and their sexual desire for trans bodies pose no small number of problems, including objectification, shame and, of course, violence against trans women. As Gilbert notes, “within the cultural context of expanded trans* rights and visibility, cis-hetero attraction to trans* bodies remains a troublesome terrain.”

Indeed, there is a chapter here written by a “transamorous” cis man that is perhaps more revealing than he realized. He explains his attraction by noting that his marriage works on an emotional level, but that he hasn’t had sex with his wife in fourteen years. He has a moment of self reflection when he tells us that for a while he blamed himself, but then plunged into having sex with various men and women. He does not tell us how his wife feels about this.

At the end of the article, he regrets that there is a stigma associated with being attracted to trans women and suggests that if the world were less transphobic this stigma may dissipate, but of course he himself would never speak up for his own desires. He has a wife, after all.

There is another essay written by a young trans woman performer in which she gushes about how sex work is the most rewarding job she’s ever had. She feels she’s making a difference in someone’s life when they tell her “My wife doesn’t understand me”. Cheating husbands have been delivering that line to their gullible mistresses since the beginning of time. In this new variant, trans women are the ones playing second fiddle. The author of this essay would do well to read the one in this same volume by Korra Del Rio, a trans porn veteran who has a far more clear-eyed view of the business she’s involved in.

So, yes, it’s complicated. It’s far safer for trans people to produce trans porn in which they have some control and can exercise their creativity than it is to work the street. It can be validating, but its exploitative nature is never far from view.

Pornography in general was not considered a subject for scholarly study until the publication in 1989 of Linda Williams’s book Hard Core: Power, Pleasure and the “Frenzy of the Visible”. This issue of the Transgender Studies Quarterly reveals that there is more than enough for study in trans porn alone.

 

‘We Still Demand’ is on the street

As I was walking on Elgin Street the other day, my eye spotted a series of posters attached to assorted poles in the PosterLandBack-Usevicinity of the Human Rights Monument. The banner at the top of each one read “We Still Demand”, a reference to the first demonstration for gay rights held on Parliament Hill in August 1971, but the social justice message underneath varied for each poster. They were clearly put up by members of LGBTQ community, but why did my spidey sense start tingling and suggesting this was an initiative by trans folks in particular?

PosterSexEd-UseThe first one I saw was not about LGBT issues at all, but rather a call to return land to Indigenous people. The further I walked the more they focused on issues relevant to LGBTQ folks: here was one calling for “queer inclusive sex ed”, another demanding “no banks” at Pride. But as I walked further, my spidey sense seemed to have been correct. Here was one demanding “gender neutral options” and another for “trans health care for youth”. There’s one last one at the corner of Lisgar Street that has been torn down, but that’s to be expected. We know there are angry people out there who don’t like that people are demanding to be heard.

PosterTransHealth-UseI may be wrong and this is not a trans initiative, but I have noticed that trans youth, being the most oppressed of the LGBT community, also have fire in their bellies for all social justice issues. Regardless, you have to love the passion necessary to engage people on the street with these posters. Cheers to the perpetrators, whomever they may be!

 

Book review: Trans medicine: the emergence and practice of treating gender

This history of trans medicine makes clear the problem from its inception has been that many medical providers don’t really know what they’re doing. Author stef m. shuster writes: “Confronted with a lack of scientific evidence to guide their decisions, and often having little experience with this population, providers face a considerable degree of uncertainty in medical decision making.” Uncertainty makes medical professionals uncomfortable, and to combat it they established standards and guidelines. In the past, these standards usually strictly enforced the gender norms of the dominant society and were responsible for the gatekeeping that characterized trans medicine for so long.

TransMedicineWhile there may be much to criticize about the way trans people were treated in the early years of trans medicine – generally regarded as the mid-20th century – its early practitioners should also be afforded some sympathy. Working with trans people was not regarded as a wise career choice, and there was a fine line between what some doctors regarded as innovation and others as quackery. Doctors needed to protect themselves from legal liability. In attempting to establish legitimacy to hormones and surgery as suitable therapeutic procedures, they enlisted the aid of mental health professionals to help identify the “worthy” patient.

It wasn’t long before physicians became concerned about the expanding role psychologists and psychiatrists assumed in trans medicine. They had been asked only to assess a patient’s mental health, not to demand extensive therapy sessions which drained the finances of an already low income population.

And so began our misery. For the mental health professionals of the time, “identifying as trans was a symptom of delusional thinking, and anyone who wanted to ‘change their sex’ was met with suspicion and labeled as having some form of psychosis.” Physicians gradually began to lose their authority over trans medicine.

It all makes for a fascinating history that explains much about how we got to where we are. While treatment for trans folks has improved so that our own agency is now considered, the central weakness of trans medicine still creates problems for its practitioners. In a profession that is evidence-based, there is actually very little scientific evidence to rely on. Consequently, the standards that were developed to help practitioners feel they were on solid ground mostly reproduced a binary definition of transgender and imposed a set of normative expectations on trans patients.

shuster characterizes current professionals working with trans clients as either “close followers” or “flexible interpreters”.

Close followers regard gatekeeping as a tool to benevolently aid clients from having regret. However, this inevitably limits a trans persons agency and often reinforces dominant gender norms. Flexible interpreters don’t see guidelines as rigid rules, but rather as recommendations. They are better able to embrace uncertainty. Some even regard gatekeeping as unethical and “were keen to avoid creating barriers to care.”

While medical practitioners were struggling with how to treat trans people, non-binary people came along and threw another wrench into the works. They are sometimes dismissed as not knowing their gender identities. As one practitioner put it, “Give me a man who says he wants to be a woman, or a woman who wants to be a man, and I know what to do. Give me a genderqueer person and – what is that?”

This book is an excellent study of trans medicine, and of how the uncertainty of the medical profession shaped its treatment of trans people.

 

Digital archive of Notes from the Underground completed

The dog days of summer have arrived in Ottawa in what we hope are the waning days of the pandemic. My motivation the past few weeks has been limited to reading a few books and watching my tomatoes ripen from green to orange to red.

NFTUMargoBetween these sedentary activities, I found time to scan the remaining issues of the Gender Mosaic newsletter, Notes from the Underground. Unfortunately, there are missing issues from Margo’s term as editor. These are MR9, MR12, MR14, MR18, MR21 and MR22 (issue numbers are at the top left.) If any former GM member still has a few of these lying around, I’d be happy to take them off your hands.

In the meantime, here are the last issues to be scanned. I like that Margo always had an upbeat, rallying headline to each issue she edited. From vol. 2, 2000: “Power and Presence is Yours. However You Must Reach Out and Be Seen”. Vol. 4 2000 preached unity: “One Community – Respecting and Benefiting Through Our Individual Differences”. Or vol. 4 2001, “What If We Refuse to Apologise” (Right on! Unfortunately, this issue is short pages.)

Aside from the above mentioned issues, the digital archive of Notes from the Underground is now complete.

2000-02 MR6   2000-03 MR7   2000-04 MR8

2001-04 MR14-partial   2003-3 MR20   2004-01 MR23

 

Canadian Trans Activists

I knew when I began compiling this directory that I was going to encounter a few obstacles.

I knew it was impossible for me to be aware of all activists working in the country, and did not want their being excluded from the directory to be seen as my thinking their work was not worthy. Also, because I started this project with a list of people I was aware of and have been filling in their bios first, younger trans activists were likely to be excluded in the beginning.

I mention these defects as a plea for patience. The directory is imperfect, but its premise is sound: we should know and celebrate the achievements of the Canadians that have made this a better country for trans folks. Thus, I slog on.

With these three activists, the directory numbers twenty individuals.

Kristen Worley

b. 1966, Toronto, ON.

Former world-class cyclist and now an international inclusivity and diversity advisor, educator and public speaker.

After starting her transition in 1998, became the first athlete in the world to submit to the International Olympic Committee’s Stockholm Consensus, a gender verification process that would allow her to engage in her sport as Kristen. Though she fit their biological criteria, the IOC, international and local cycling associations and the World Anti-Doping Agency insisted that transitioned male-to-female athletes should not receive testosterone. They regarded the testosterone supplement as performance enhancing, although Worley required hormones to stay healthy and to compete, as her body after transition did not produce any hormones. Their ruling failed to recognize that born women produce testosterone also.

Because Worley had stopped competing, she was able to take her case to the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal, rather than the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which is the only legal avenue for an athlete with a dispute who is still active in the sport. Thus, she became the first athlete to legally challenge the gender policies of the International Olympic Committee and related international sports bodies, which she successfully argued were designed to discriminate against female athletes. In 2017, the IOC agreed “to promote inclusive sporting environments,”

Also worked with South African middle-distance star Caster Semenya, who had challenged International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) rules that sought to control naturally high testosterone levels in female athletes.

With co-author Johanna Schneller, wrote Woman Enough, an account of her battle to dismantle assumptions about gender, especially in sport, through scientific fact.

Martine Stonehouse

b. 1956, Toronto, ON

School caretaker with the Toronto District School Board (retired).

Toronto Pride Award in 2012. Subject of 2016 documentary Transfixed, which also highlighted her challenges as a trans woman with Asperger’s. One of 16 community torchbearers who carried the flame in the torch relay in advance of Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games.

In August 1998. Stonehouse had been approved for gender confirmation surgery (GCS), but in October of that year the Ontario government delisted GCS from OHIP, leaving Stonehouse along with several others no choice but to pursue legal action.

With support from CUPE and lawyer Susan Ursel, who worked pro bono, she launched a complaint with the Ontario Human Rights Commission. Stonehouse won the right to complete her sex-change surgery, as did two others whose approvals had been cast into limbo. However, the surgery remained delisted. The government of Ontario eventually relisted gender-confirming surgeries in June 2008.

Became involved with the labour movement in 1999 as her case with OHIP ground on. Sat on her local’s equity committee, the Pink Triangle committees of both CUPE Ontario and CUPE National, and the pride committees of both the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) and the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC).

Part of Trans Lobby Group with Susan Gapka and Rupert Raj, whose work and political lobbying eventually made Bill 33, (which added gender identity and expression to the Ontario Human Rights Code) a reality in 2012.

Martine Stonehouse’s oral history is available from the ArQuives.

Trish Salah

b. 1968, Halifax, NS

Writer, activist, cultural critic, and university professor. B.A. (1992) and M.A. (1994) in creative writing at Concordia University in Montreal. Ph.D. in English Literature at York University (Toronto)

Author of Lyric Sexology, Vol. 1 (2014), Wanting in Arabic (2002), and numerous scholarly articles.

Lambda Literary Award for Transgender Fiction 2014 (for Wanting in Arabic).

While a teaching assistant at York, was politically active in the Canadian Union of Public Employees as the first transgender representative to their National Pink Triangle Committee.

Currently teaches in Gender Studies at Queen’s University (Kingston). Her creative and scholarly work addresses transgender and transsexual politics and experience, transgender literature, theory and cultural production, postcolonial literature and theory, diasporic Arab identity and culture, anti-racism, queer politics and economic and social justice. Her poetry moves between and combines traditional and experimental forms.”

Wikipedia entry