Narthaki Nataraj at the Ottawa Trans Library
The library is hosting a meet and greet Tuesday, May 23rd at 6 pm with celebrated Bharatanatyam dancer Narthaki Nataraj from Tamil Nadu, India. Narthaki identified as trans at age 10 and overcame numerous barriers to achieve her high standing in the world of arts and literature. Join us for this unique international cultural exchange. Narthaki will also be appearing at the Samanvaya Festival of Togetherness at the Canadian Museum of History May 26th.
Are corporations developing a conscience?
When I started this website in 2017, my undeclared intent was to celebrate the accomplishments of trans people and to focus on the positive. That’s been harder to do lately, as most recent news items about trans people report on the abuse hurled at us by transphobes. It’s hard to see the positives when you’re under siege, but seen another way it’s a kind of acknowledgement of the progress trans folks have made in being seen and in the contributions we’re making to society. A hateful acknowledgement, to be sure, but despite all that hate, we are moving forward.
For many years, we were largely in this battle alone, but lately many good hearted people – among them parents of trans kids, people in education, and those with a passion for social justice – have become valuable allies. The last group I’d ever imagined would join this list was the corporate world.
Corporations are very good at pink or green washing and saying things without any meaningful action to support them, but lately corporate America seems to have found a backbone. First there was Hersey, with their inclusion of Fae Johnstone on one of their candy bars. I thought this would be a one off, but then Bud Light enlisted Dylan Mulvaney, a trans actress, comic and influencer to help promote their beer. Bud Light even gave her a custom can with her face on it to commemorate the one year anniversary of her transition.
The result was predictable. Mulvaney became the subject of anti-trans attacks and the loudmouths of right-wing media called for a boycott of Bud Light and its parent company, Anheuser-Busch. The boycott hurt their sales among U.S.conservatives, but it was minuscule and the company’s stock actually rose after it reported strong quarterly earnings.
The rantings of right wing loudmouths attract disproportionately more attention than they deserve, but the loudmouths have their crackpot followers. The possibility that they will be violent towards trans people can’t be denied.
Now Miller Lite has apologized for all the years they turned women into objects with the sexist imagery in their advertisements. The 90 second spot featuring comedian and actor Ilana Glazer is both amusing and truthful, but soon the sourpusses among US conservatives were calling for another boycott over… what? Support for women brewers? An acknowledgement that Miller perpetuated misogyny and sexism? We can’t have that! We demand the right to be sexist pigs! What a miserable little world they live in.
I still find it hard to believe that corporations have found a conscience, but it’s a start. Now if Google and Facebook would come on board and stop profiting from spreading hate, maybe the haters would be silenced back under the rocks from which they crawled.
Meet Michelle Katrine Goodman
I recently had a long conversation with Michelle Goodman. Michelle is motivated to help our community in two ways. She has undertaken the thankless task of advocating for better trans health care at a time when all health care is in crisis; and she is open to helping people on a personal level who are looking for support.
I offered to let Michelle tell her story on Trans Ottawa as a way to reach out to the community. Her bio provides an insight into her motivation. She hopes you won’t have to go through what she did.
I was transgender but now I am a woman of maturity. I was born in Montreal; I am currently residing in Ottawa.
In the late 1980s, I wanted to transition. Back then there was no internet; there was a library which had the DSM manual. (Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorder). The manual had one page on that subject matter: we were transsexual and mentally ill.
At that time, if you wanted to transition you had to go through the Clark Institute in Toronto. Off I went expecting they were going to help and take care of me. The Clark was a mental institute that supposedly treated pedophiles, sexual deviants and transsexuals. Expecting help, I was a guinea pig of Dr Blanchard. Unknowingly, I was subjected to conversion therapy; it was pure mental torture courtesy of the Ministry of Health. Only one in two hundred trans people were approved.
Much has changed since then, we are no longer mentally ill, we are a phenomena.
There is a wealth of information and support available to us. Despite the great advances, it can still take 3-4 years to completely transition. It can be a difficult, daunting and frustrating process filled with anxiety
On March 02, 2022 I had my GRS; I achieved my complete transition within a nine month period.
Offer of support
I am now an activist and mentor.
I am making myself available to my community for those who are in transition or about to transition. I can guide you through a quicker process than what Canada has to offer or if you just want to talk to someone who has been there. My email is email@example.com
Trans Canada in the news
Trans folks are in the news a lot lately, although many of the stories are not so much about trans people, but about the haters. Here is a sample of news items from Canada I’ve compiled in the last month or so and am only now getting around to uploading.
Ontario – March 2023
It is no secret that school boards are being targeted by haters and the far right (probably synonymous terms) as the most vulnerable places to attack the inclusion of trans people.
In early March, parents angry over “safe spaces” for LGBTQ students disrupted a York Catholic board meeting, saying LGBTQ inclusive messages are at odds with their Catholic faith. The CBC reported that parent Sheree di Vittorio told the board, “Catholic schools should not allow transgender or LGBT students to attend.”
Yes, and the Ontario government should defund Catholic schools as religious bigotry is incompatible with a secular society.
Meanwhile in Ottawa, police were called to a meeting of Ottawa’s public school board after a man who’d signed up to speak about policies on bullying questioned the use of washrooms by trans students. Trustee Dr. Nili Kaplan-myrth, who was acting chair, cut his microphone and asked for a recess. “There was no way to frame it other than transphobia,” the Ottawa Citizen reported Kaplan-myrth saying. “This space has to be a respectful space.”
Well, that got the transphobes into a proper tizzy. They created two online petitions demanding Dr. Kaplan-myrth’s resignation. The petitions were later removed. One comment on the petition spoke volumes about the quality of the dissent: “Communists need to be purged from public life in this country.” Sounds like the trucker convoy was back in town.
There is a silver lining to this story, however. In the follow up meeting March 29 – Dr. Kaplan-myrth was still there, fortunately – more supporters showed up than haters. The Ottawa Citizen reported trans woman Phoebe Qiao saying she thought the evening was a success for the trans community. “Allies and trans people and queer people in general showed up in droves in solidarity.”
Prince Edward Island – March 20, 2023
An example of the ease with which trans rights are dismissed or not taken seriously occurred in Prince Edward Island when PEI Progressive Conservative leader Dennis King was heard saying, “you don’t gotta drive everything down everybody’s throat” when talking about trans issues.
Is that what he’d say about Black people too?
Lucky Fusca, the executive director of the P.E.I. Transgender Network, called Kings comments “spineless”.
Although unrelated to this particular conversation, Pride P.E.I. said the organization no longer wants political leaders to participate in the Island’s annual Pride Parade. “In recent years, Pride P.E.I. has been proud to have representation from all of the Island’s major political parties in the parade, but sadly, this symbolic form of allyship has not been followed up with tangible efforts to address the rise in hate speech and acts of violence directed at our community,”
Quebec – March 14, 2023
In 2022-2023 fiscal year, the Quebec government gave $143,000 to PDF Québec (Pour les droits des femmes du Québec), a group supposedly promoting women’s rights that issued vile and hateful tweets against trans activist Fae Johnstone.
The CBC reviewed PDF Québec’s Twitter and ‘confirmed there were a series of personal attacks on trans activists. PDF Québec also shares resources encouraging trans people to detransition and refers to gender surgeries as “mutilations.”’ They also lobbied against the province’s ban on conversion therapy for trans folks in 2019. Oh, but when this became widely reported, the tweets magically disappeared and PDF Québec issued a statement saying, “PDF Québec does not attack people in their lives, or in their choice of sexual orientation or gender identity. On the contrary, we want everyone to live with dignity and without discrimination.” Not just transphobes, liars too!
It seems to me that when the light comes on, a lot of transphobes scurry away like cockroaches. You can’t erase what you said, however. Quebec’s Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Solidarity said, “Given the situation, an analysis will therefore be done prior to possible renewal of the PDF Québec grant agreement.”
British Columbia – March 9, 2023
Good news for a change! B.C. has introduced a bill to stop requiring sex markers on birth certificates. The changes would bring B.C. in line with Ontario and Nova Scotia.
“The government is committed to supporting the health and well-being of two-spirit, transgender, intersex, non-binary and gender-diverse people and making B.C. a more inclusive province when it comes to gender identity,” Health Minister Adrian Dix said.
Alberta – Feb 25, 2023
Finally, a man accused of hate-motivated crimes at drag storytime won’t commit to staying away from LGBTQ events.
According to Calgary police, on February 25th Derek Reimer and others “aggressively entered a library classroom”, shouting homophobic and transphobic slurs at the children and parents in attendance, “scaring the children while causing a disturbance and subsequently refusing to leave.”
Reimer faces six counts of harassment under Calgary’s Public Behaviour Bylaw, which includes prohibiting the harassment of anyone on the basis of sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or gender expression.
Over the years, Reimer has been convicted of numerous offences, including causing suffering to a dog, assault causing bodily harm, and two counts of aggravated assault.
Nice guy. A shining example to all transphobes.
Give us your oppressed and vilified trans folks
A petition initiated by activist Cait Glasson of Waterloo, Ontario and authorized by Mike Morrice, Green Party MP for Ontario’s Kitchener Centre, is asking the federal government to extend the right to claim asylum for trans and non-binary people “by reason of eliminationist laws in their home countries, whatever country that may be.”
The petition notes the rise in hate and rhetoric in the UK and USA, countries that have traditionally been regarded as “safe countries”. It is not easy for trans people from these nations to successfully apply for protection.
Canada isn’t perfect, but considering the race to the bottom that’s going on in the UK and many US states, this is an important petition that supports trans folks in these and other countries. Petition details and where to sign can be found on the Parliament of Canada Petitions page.
There is more on the petition and its sponsors on the CBC News site.
Georgina Beyer dead at age 65
March 2023 – Georgina Beyer, the world’s first openly trans MP, has died of kidney disease at age 65. Beyer was an actor, drag performer, sex worker and radio host before she pulled off a surprise victory as a Labour MP in her home country of New Zealand. A passionate advocate for the LGBTIQA+ community, her brutal experience as a sex worker was instrumental in her arguing on behalf of sex workers and her pivotal role in decriminalising prostitution.
New Zealand Prostitutes’ Collective grieved her passing, saying the collective “cannot put into words how deeply we mourn the passing of Georgina Beyer – an extraordinary woman who served her communities fearlessly”.
New Zealand prime minister Chris Hipkins offered his condolences, and said, “I certainly think Georgina has blazed a trail that makes it much easier for others to follow.”
This is the way we go forward, with people like Georgina Beyer. RIP. A life well lived.
Sweet reward! Ottawa’s Fae Johnstone honoured by Hershey
For years, Fae Johnstone has been a strong Ottawa-based voice advocating for women and trans folks. Now she finally gets a sweet reward: her own candy bar!
As part of their social media campaign in support of International Women’s Day, Hershey’s Canada has released five limited edition candy bars that feature the faces of five women to “shine a light on women and girls who inspire us every day.” It’s a great initiative that they’ve named “Her for She”, but even more meaningful for including Fae Johnstone as one of those women. How great is that? I’m usually a huge skeptic when it comes to corporate pink-washing, but this took some courage on the part of Hershey. Although the campaign is by Hershey Canada, the company is U.S. based and there has been a predictable call to boycott the brand’s chocolates by haters and crybabies. There have been loud voices of support also, however, and the company has indicated that they have no intention of backing down.
Most of all, this is a wonderful salute to Fae Johnstone for her tireless work on behalf of trans people. Congratulations Fae!
Transphobia’s desperate mutation
When I was young, the cisgender world’s transphobia consisted of us not being important enough to consider. When they did condescend to consider us, they operated under the certainty that they could crush us like ants on the pavement without anyone much caring.
Our response as trans folks was to stay out of the way as much as possible. We had very few allies and hardly any resources so we lived in the shadows. That kind of living takes its toll, of course, and many of us didn’t survive. In those days, however, no one counted suicide statistics among trans people. No one cared.
There’s only so much of this living you can tolerate. Sooner or later oppressed people rise up because the consequences of fighting back become acceptable when compared to the harm being continually inflicted on them. Whether it’s out of rage or justice, people revolt.
And so was born trans activism. Everything we’ve accomplished in the last 40 years has come with much pain and many setbacks. Nonetheless, I am often astounded at the changes I’ve seen in my lifetime. I’m happy I lived long enough to see improved trans health care, supportive parents, and trans people in public life.
But can I say that we live in less transphobic times than when I was young? I’ve been wondering about this lately, because the same types of people who felt confident when I was young that they could crush us like bugs have felt their power slipping away, and they don’t like it.
They don’t like that after years of invisibility, we are now living openly. They don’t like that the unthinking army that they counted on in the past to keep trans people in their place has woken up and is no longer unconsciously doing their bidding. They don’t like that we have cisgender allies. They see that marginalized groups that were previously fighting among themselves for the scraps the people in power were offering are now working together, and they don’t like that too.
To counter this, they needed to change strategies. The transphobia of my youth has mutated into a different yet entirely familiar beast. Transphobes have adopted the tried-and-true method of provoking fear. If you paint us as predators or amoral people threatening the values decent folks hold dear, you can get a significant portion of the population to stand against us. It doesn’t matter if you’re telling lies. In the culture of the southern US during the Jim Crow era, racists had no trouble convincing people that Black men were raping White women. When I was young, it was common knowledge that gays and lesbians shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near children because in a homophobic society everyone took for granted that they’d be “indoctrinating” kids into their “degenerate” lifestyle, or at worst, preying on them. In a transphobic nation like England, for example, the TERFs have it easy convincing people that trans women are a threat to cisgender women. You can get away with a lot of lies if you provoke fear among a population predisposed to hating the Other.
When powerful people see that they are losing their grip on the population, their attacks become fiercer. Their focus lately has turned to youth because fear for your children is the easiest fear to incite. They have managed to convince a portion of the population that teachers and social workers – traditionally viewed as caring professions – are now part of a plot by a dominant transgender lobby. That sounds ludicrous to the average powerless trans person, but it still works. When accompanied by hate messages and death threats, it’s clear desperation is setting in among the transphobes.
It’s all designed to make us invisible, to rouse the people to do their dirty work for them again. They even try to wish us out of existence by saying we aren’t possible, that there’s only two genders and two sexes and that’s the end of it. They remind me of myself when I was a little kid and my mom was telling me something I didn’t want to hear. I’d put my hands to my ears and start talking loudly to drown her out. In the end it didn’t matter though. My mom was always right, and we are too.
I’ve lived through both kinds of transphobia. When you experience them personally, it doesn’t much matter which one was worse. They’re both pernicious and ugly. We are, however, in a stronger position to battle the current one than we were the older model. That’s probably the best accounting I can give of it. And when we triumph over the current one, we’ll be stronger again to combat the next wave that comes along.
More Canadian activists you should know
Many of you will be aware that Rupert Raj’s activism goes back over 50 years. Rupert is still fighting the good fight and recently sent me a list of more Canadian trans activists to supplement the biographies I’ve compiled and which lately I’ve regrettably neglected. The list is especially welcome for including many Indigenous and Black people, and people of colour.
Thanks Rupert, and thanks to all the Canadian trans activists working to make this a better country for all of us; and when I say all of us, I mean every Canadian.
The books cited in this list are available at the Ottawa Trans Library.
Dual Identity: Indigenous Trans/Two-Spirit
- Elizabeth “Raven” James (Vancouver) – activist – chapter in Trans Activism in Canada: A Reader (2014)
- Sandy Leo Laframboise (Algonquin/Cree-Métis) – (Vancouver) – female activist – chapter in Trans Activism in Canada: A Reader (2014)
- Kiley May (Mohawk/Cayuga) (Toronto) – female filmmaker/actor/activist
- Tami Marie Starlight (Cree/Nehiyawak/Norwegian from Peguis Nation) (Vancouver) – activist
- Brandon Rhéal Amyot (Métis) (Orillia) – trans activist
- Judge Kael McKenzie (Métis) (Winnipeg) – Manitoba provincial court judge – activist
- TJ Cuthand (Plains Cree/Métis) – male filmmaker
- Johl “Whiteduck” Ringuette (Anishnawbe/Ojibwe/Algonquin) (Toronto) – male Indigenous chef/ activist
Multi-Identity: Indigenous Trans/Intersex/Two-Spirit
- Alec Butler (Mi’kmaq) (Toronto) – filmmaker/activist
Dual Identity: Indigenous Latin American-Canadian Trans
- Danielle (Dani) Araya (Toronto) (Mayan) – program facilitator/activist
Multi-Identity: African-Canadian/Indigenous Two-Spirit/Trans
- Monica Forrester (Bear Clan) (Toronto) sex-worker activist
- Amanda Cordner (Toronto) – gender non-binary queer actor/filmmaker (plays gender-fluid person 7ven on TV show Sort Of)
- Roslyn (formerly Leslie) Forrester – program facilitator/activist (no relation to Monica Forrester)
- Yasmeen Persad (Toronto) trans-female educator/program facilitator/activist
- Nik Redman (Toronto) trans-male health researcher/DJ/activist
- Ty Smith (Toronto) – trans-male TS consultant/activist
People of Colour trans
- Bilal Baig(Toronto) – South-Asian) (Muslim) gender non-binary actor/filmmaker (Sort Of)
- Norma Lize (Rainbow Refugee Society) (Vancouver) Lebanese – newcomer activist
- Shadmith Manzo (Toronto) (Mexican) – group facilitator/activist
- Vivek Shraya, PhD (Calgary) – South Asian trans-female professor/multimedia artist
- Nael Bhanji, PhD (?Toronto) – South Asia trans-male academic.
- Tom Cho (Toronto) – Chinese author.
- Kusha Dadui (Toronto) – Iranian trans-male youth worker
- Kaspar Saxena (Toronto) – Indo-German trans-male filmmaker
- Kenji Tokawa (Vancouver) – Japanese trans-male lawyer
Caucasian – English
- Angela Dawn Wensley (Vancouver) – activist – TransGender Publishng memoir
- Carolyn Middleton & Connie Radbone (Transition Toronto/Transition Support) (Toronto)
- Corey Keith (Calgary) – gender non-binary activist/author – TransGender Publishng chapter in Glimmerings and/or TRANScestors
- Jade Pichet (Pride at Work Canada) (Toronto) – activist
- Karen Wood (Cornbury Society) (Vancouver) – male crossdresser/group founder/activist
- Katherine Anne Johnson (1949-2014) (Vancouver) – prison activist – co-edited (with Stephanie Castle) Prisoner of Gender: A Transsexual and the System (1997)
- Gayle Roberts (Vancouver) – writer/activist – TransGender Publishng memoir
- Michelle DuBarry (Toronto) – male crossdresser/drag queen
- Michelle Hogan (Trans Health Lobby Group, Torchlight) (Kitchener) – /group founder/human rights activist
- Micheline Johnson (Ottawa) – group facilitator/activist
- Rachel (formerly, Sally) Lewis (Xpressions) (Toronto) – activist – fonds at The ArQuives
- Stephanie Woolley (Toronto Trans Alliance ) (Toronto) – activist
- Bobby Noble, PhD (Toronto) – professor/author/activist
- Chase Joynt, PhD (Victoria) – trans-male professor/filmmaker/activist
- Dan Irving, PhD (Toronto) – activist/professor/co-editor (with Rupert Raj) of Trans Activism in Canada: A Reader (2014).
- j. wallace skelton, PhD (cand.) (Toronto): teacher/activist.
- Joshua Goldberg (BC FTM Network, Transcend Transcend Transgender Support & Education Society. Trans Care BC) (Vancouver) – health researcher/activist
- Kevin Wilson, RC (Lukas Walther (BC FTM Network, ) (Vancouver) – counsellor/activist
- Kinnon Ross McKinnon, PhD (Toronto) – academic/athlete/activist.
- Lukas Walther, RC (BC FTM Network) (Vancouver) – therapist/activist
- Nicholas Matte, PhD (Toronto) – professor/author/activist
Caucasian – French-Canadian Quebecois
- Gabrielle Tremblay (Montreal) – actor)
- Nora Butler Burke, PhD (cand.) (Montreal) – academic student/immigration activist.
- Michelle de Ville (Montreal) – early activist
- Inge Stephens (Montreal) – early activist – ATQ & FACT Toronto member
Caucasian – English Quebeckers
- Patricia (Pat) Fisher (1932-????) (FACT Quebec) (Montreal) – 1970s/1980s activist – deceased.
- Dale Altrows (former FTMI Canadian rep) (Montreal) – male activist
- Jo Vannicola (Montreal) – Non-binary actor.
Gender Mosaic reunion/celebration: revised date April 15, 2023
The Ottawa Trans Library is pleased to be hosting a long overdue celebration of Gender Mosaic. Founded in 1988, GM served the Ottawa trans community for over 30 years and was one of the longest running trans organizations in Canada.
Its history is the history of trans people in microcosm. It began when transphobia was the sea we swam in and having a trans support group was our lifeboat. As Gender Mosaic grew, its members threw themselves into education and outreach, culminating in later years with lobbying for the passage of Bill C-16. Perhaps most importantly, we also made friends for life.
This was our organization, and it’s time to celebrate what we did and the people with whom we did it. It’s people that made GM the dynamic organization it was for so long, and we look forward to seeing old friends and supporters again. Mark your calendars for April 15, 2023. More details as the date nears.
Ten Oaks Project call for Board Members
The Ten Oaks Project is a 2SLGBTQIA+ trans-led organization that provides summer camps and recreational programming for Queer and Trans youth across Ontario. They are looking for board members to help in their crucial mission. The board meets monthly in Ottawa at the Ten Oaks Project office, with a hybrid option. Applications are being accepted on a rolling basis. More information is available on the Ten Oaks website.
“My belief was reaffirmed: information is power”
README.txt is Chelsea Manning’s highly readable memoir
I like Chelsea Manning. I thought I’d say that up front before I reviewed her book, README.txt. By her own admission, she is an “advocate for transparency and open government.” I support that too. Transparency and open government are friends of democracy and anathema to dictators and fascists.
The US Army tried to portray the massive leak of documents she released on US military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan as endangering lives on the ground; but if you’ve seen the excellent BBC series Once Upon a Time in Iraq, you’ll know that the US military operation in Iraq was a mess. Chelsea Manning’s grievous sin was that she revealed that to the world before the US felt comfortable admitting it.
Manning is a smart woman. It’s not as if she leaked these documents thoughtlessly. Her job was intelligence analysis and she was very good at it. The army relied on her ability, but they weren’t so good at detecting that she also had principles. Under the smothering and sometimes absurd atmosphere of the US military’s policy of “Don’t-ask-don’t-tell”, that wasn’t so clear. Early in her career, however, Manning realized that the classification of government documents was not based on any demonstrable threat to national security. “The classification system doesn’t exist to keep secrets safe, it exists to control the media.”
Her work for the US Army is interesting enough, but the story that leads up to why she enlisted in the first place is no less interesting. A tough home life with parents that drank too much leads eventually to her living out of her father’s old beater 1992 Nissan Hardbody truck and resorting to mild criminality to survive. “I wasn’t just living on the margins, I was falling off the edge.”
She had computer skills, however, and enlisting in the army seemed like the solution to multiple problems. In the background there loomed the gender identity question, but this too was swept up in the reasons why she needed to enlist: ” I thought it would be a good way to externally enforce my own masculinity. I figured I wouldn’t have the desire to wear women’s clothing in such a regimented environment – if there was a uniform, I wouldn’t have to think about gender presentation at all.”
Despite being found not guilty of giving information to an enemy – “not guilty of treason, in other words” – she was sentenced to 35 years. It’s the going price for her having embarrassed the government, “disclosed unflattering truths, made officials’ lives more complicated, and revealed just how poor the army’s security procedures were.”
No longer having to face a transphobic world and justice system, however, she immediately began her transition. “There was no reason anymore to play along with masculinity.” The authorities were, of course, not cooperative, but here again Manning’s innate intelligence gave her an advantage. She knew her rights and understood how things worked, talents which, incidentally, also served her well in a hostile prison environment.
In one of his last acts as president, Barack Obama commuted her sentence. It didn’t erase her conviction, but acknowledged an over punishment for the crime. (Ya think?)
This is a highly readable memoir. Chelsea Manning reveals herself to be a woman of principle, not just for the one act of disclosure for which she’s famous, but with the way she conducts her life. People of principle scare the hell out of authoritarian governments.
It’s why I like Chelsea Manning.
README.txt is available for loan from the Ottawa Trans Library.
Sophie Labelle at the Ottawa Trans Library!
In collaboration with Trans Outaouais, we are proud and delighted to present trans activist and writer Sophie Labelle. Sophie is the author of numerous much loved books and comics for children and young adults. She will be at the library Sunday, December 18th from 5:30 to 7:30 PM. This is a French language event. The library is located at 1104 Somerset St. West in Hintonburg.
Two issues of Triple Echo
It’s been a challenge keeping this website current while being preoccupied with my Ottawa Trans Library duties. I don’t consider myself a serious writer, but writing is nonetheless something I need to do from time to time, and I’ve been feeling the absence of it in my life lately.
Since I’ve not written anything new, it’s a good time to dig up something from my past. A friend scanned a few copies of Triple Echo, the ‘zine I published around the turn of the century, and I’m adding them to the digital archive I’ve already uploaded.
It’s difficult reading something you wrote over 20 years ago. It’s not just that the terms I used then may seem inappropriate now. It’s coming face to face with the ideas and arguments I believed then and wondering whether I still believe them now. I was almost fearful of uploading these for that reason, and yet reading these issues now reassured me that they’ve stood up pretty well. I may cringe at parts of them, but on the whole I have nothing to be ashamed of. What a relief!
Triple Echo v1 no1 was published in December 1998, but at the last moment I decided I’d put 1999 on the cover. First issue, first blunder. The date remained 1998 on the inside. Oh well.
Earlier that year, I organized a photo shoot of my friends in New Edinburgh Park and Rideau Falls, and used the photos for this issue. The reproduction isn’t great, but the memories are. I also like what I wrote in the editorial: “The trans community is at an interesting point in its history. We are on the verge of creating our own culture instead of just mimicking the one we have had to grow up with.” So true, and I’m glad I lived long enough to see it.
For the cover of Triple Echo v1 no3, I used a photograph my friend Sharon took of a mannequin behind a display window. She looks pensive and almost real. I’m not sure what message I was trying to convey, but I loved the photo and it seemed meaningful.
The two anti-trans candidates running for school trustee positions in Ottawa were soundly trounced in the election October 24th.
In Zone 6, incumbent Lyra Evans, an experienced and committed trustee, received over 54% of the vote. Shannon Boschy, whose signs blared “Education not Indoctrination”, received just over 9%. The result is especially gratifying as Ms Evans is trans.
Meanwhile in Zone 8, Donna Dickson, another advocate for all kids, obtained over 55% of the vote while anti-trans candidate Chanel Pfahl had just over 18%. Of the three candidates running in Zone 8, Pfahl ended up in third place.
As the CBC reported, many anti-trans candidates were funded by groups that cloak themselves in righteousness, but are in fact some of the most divisive in our society: Christian fundamentalists and the American far right, which can’t keep its nose out of other people’s business.
We have caring teachers, trustees and education professionals in this province who are doing their best to ensure all youth have access to a good education. The idea that they are “indoctrinating” kids to a gender ideology is ludicrous.
[Although not all election results have been reported, here’s a link to the October 25th CBC article stating that anti-trans candidates failed to make “major gains”.]
More on anti-trans school board candidates
Further to my article below, the CBC has twice reported on anti-trans candidates running in school trustee elections. The first article is Ontario wide, while the second reports on candidates running in Ottawa only. The article about Ontario candidates revealed that a Christian group and the American far right are funding many of these candidates. Oh, and why am I not surprised to find Derek Sloan’s name in there also.
In both articles, Shannon Boschy blames school policies for his being estranged from his trans child. Boschy, whose huge signs shout “EDUCATION not INDOCTRINATION”, would have us believe that his attitude had nothing whatever to do with it. Right. Sure.
School’s back, and so are the “gender ideology” warriors
In late August, the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal dismissed a complaint made by parents of a six-year-old girl that an Ottawa elementary school had discriminated against her daughter based on her sex and gender identity because of remarks made by her teacher. The teacher had initially said there was no difference between a boy and girl before correcting herself and drawing a spectrum with boys on one end and girls on the other with points between. She considered it a teachable moment about gender identity in response to a class member being teased.
During the hearing, the mother of the girl described the discussions around gender identity at the school as “cultural colonization” and a method of “reprogramming a child’s identity.” She reported that her daughter found the lessons “very upsetting”. The tribunal noted, however, that neither parent was able to explain how they came to the conclusion that their daughter was upset by the lessons.
Not surprisingly, the mother also runs a website and Twitter account that criticizes education and legal matters on child gender identities, particularly policies around transgender and gender-diverse rights.
I was thinking of this mother recently when a nonbinary youth around 12 years old came into the Ottawa Trans Library. They were eager to show their two girlfriends the library and some of their favourite books. The parents of the girls were obviously aware that their daughters had a nonbinary friend and didn’t have a problem with it. The girls themselves were friendly and weren’t at all upset by a visit to a trans library. On the contrary, they were walking around with big grins on their faces. One of them even complimented me on my shoes! All of which led me to conclude that if the daughter of this complaining parent was indeed upset, then she learned it from her mother.
There’s an old maxim that says kids aren’t born racist; they learn it from their parents. We can substitute transphobic in that expression and it would still be true.
School Board Trustee Election
Municipal election day in Ottawa is Monday, October 24, and there are two anti-trans candidates running for a trustee position with the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board. One of them, Shannon Boschy, is running in Zone 6 against Lyra Evans, the only trans school trustee in Canada.
Evans has an exemplary track record of advocating for inclusive education, not just for trans kids but for children from lower income neighbourhoods. Some of the committees she’s worked on include Budget, Special Education, and Environmental Education.
Meanwhile, Boschy has allied himself with Chris Elston, a prominent Canadian anti-trans activist, and joined him in a demonstration outside Broadview Public School in October 2021. Boschy also appeared with Elston during the truck blockades that terrorized the residents of downtown Ottawa in February.
There is not much to his platform beyond being against “trans ideology”, although in the September edition of the community newspaper The Manor Park Chronicle, he’s added “Protecting parental rights and relationships with their children as primary cultural and moral guides”, which is code for much the same thing.
The anti-trans folks run with some nice company, don’t they? It would be a dark day in this city if a committed and experienced school board trustee like Ms. Evans lost to a trucker convoy candidate.
The second candidate is Chanel Pfahl, a former secondary school teacher running in District 8. According to the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, Pfahl “repeatedly posts and retweets anti-trans statements, fear-mongering about “Critical Race Theory,” and far-right media figures on her Twitter account.” More people you’d rather not invite to dinner. Pfahl is running against Donna Dickson, who is advocating for increased funding for mental health programs and promoting free breakfast programs, and Shannon Kramer who “will advocate for an environment where all types of students are encouraged to succeed.”
Well, I certainly know who I wouldn’t vote for!
I’m old enough to remember when it was taken for granted that gays and lesbians should never, ever, be teachers. Heterosexuality was apparently such a fragile sexual orientation that children could be taught to adopt a “homosexual lifestyle” whose great attraction at the time was social persecution. People don’t change much. Now it’s “gender ideology” that’s the great threat to “our” children. It can be tiring waiting for the human race to evolve, but I am consoled by the many people I’ve met who see the haters’ smokescreen for what it is.
Book review: The Myth of the Wrong Body
There are many good ideas in this book, but the author, Miguel Missé, undermines them by insinuating that his personal experience of being trans is the Truth for all trans people. He speaks of our bodies being “robbed” from us, acknowledges that it’s a strange term to use when trans people are fighting for the right to take hormones or have surgery, and yet continues to use it anyway. His great Truth is “there is nothing biological or innate about this intense rejection of the body.” This is the pattern in the entire book: I know about your suffering, but listen to what I’ve discovered!
Missé dismisses proposed biological causes for being transgendered as “essentialist”. He is a great skeptic of “identity”, asserting at one point, for example, that “Heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, and the entire range of possible sexual orientations are not intrinsic traits.” Huh? So, conversion therapy should work then, right? His ideas are as essentialist as the ones he abhors.
He’s so enamoured of his personal epiphany that he’s blind to the diversity of trans experiences. We’ll probably never be certain of the causes of transgenderism, but the most reasonable explanation is that it’s biological sometimes, other times it’s not. Some people have a fluid sexual orientation, others do not.
I have met many trans women in my life who couldn’t be men if their lives depended on it. How did they develop such a feminine appearance? It sure as hell wasn’t testosterone that did it. So, yes, it can be biological. Some people are indeed born in the wrong body, and their desire to change it is not unreasonable. Missé would tell them, “Love your body!”, but that’s a political position that he’s imposing on a personal issue.
Is it any wonder that a lot of trans folks are angry with him? He thinks it’s because he hasn’t explained himself very well. Maybe, but it sure sounds like he’s throwing some trans folks under the bus for the sake of his theory.
It’s unfortunate, because otherwise his views on the trans body often make sense. For Missé, we are not women and men, we will always be trans women and trans men, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
His thoughts on “passing” as cisgender are a reflection of that idea. What he wants “is for society to let us look trans, not to applaud us only once a trace of trans remains.” He’s skeptical of this new era of trans acceptance. “The majority of trans references presented as successful in this new wave of trans visibility are precisely the people who pass totally unnoticed as men or women… it is problematic to understand passing as the trans ideal and the key to social acceptance.” He borrows a phrase from Lucas Platero, who calls this the “trans spectacle”. It’s toxic “because it promotes total self-absorption and obsession with the body’s evolution without any solidarity, community, or critical reflection. Just me and my body which I mold to my will.”
Sure, it’s provocative, but there’s a lot of sense to it too.
He has many good arguments about trans minors also. His central thesis is that by identifying youth early on as trans we create an identity for them that limits their choice of gender expression. He is concerned “that the entire projection of these young people’s futures is founded on the notion that their lives will be much better if they don’t look like trans people and can pass unnoticed as adults.”
Missé is writing about Spain, where he lives, and while that may be the case there, my sense of the situation in Canada is that therapists don’t rush into suggesting hormone therapy and body modification without presenting other options. Still, his ideas on care for trans youth are not unreasonable. Unfortunately, he then does what he so often does in this book. In attempting to reinforce his argument, he makes an absurd, wholly unsupported statement that will make the questioning reader groan. In this case, he suggests that gender non-conforming youth were better off before trans identification became current, “that the range of possibilities in their minds was broader than it is today.” What good was that “range of possibilities” if they only existed in their minds and could not be tested in reality? No good at all.
It is good to have thought provoking political ideas that may advance trans acceptance to a deeper level than where we’re at now. It is also good to be aware that some of those political ideas exist as theories, and when applied to existing trans realities as facts appear critical of some trans people for the choices they make about their bodies. Missé is good at the former, but he needs to do a little work on the latter.
The Myth of the Wrong Body is available for loan at the Ottawa Trans Library.
Canadian Trans Activists
Here are two more worthy individuals who, it shames me to say, should have been included in the Directory of Canadian Trans Activists long ago.
Ivan E. Coyote
Born August 11, 1969, Whitehorse, Yukon
Writer, performer, filmmaker, and educator.
Coyote has published 11 books, 10 with Arsenal Pulp Press. Columnist and regular contributor to Xtra! and Xtra! West, Georgia Straight and CBC Radio. Writer-in-residence for various institutions over the years: Carleton University (2007), Vancouver Public Library (2009), The University of Winnipeg (2011), and University of Western Ontario (2012).
Coyote often combines their story telling with performance. Co- founded Taste This, a queer performance troupe that incorporated live music, poetry and story-telling into their shows. Some of the musicians they’ve worked with include Veda Hille, Dan Mangan and Rae Spoon.
In 2010 Coyote joined with two of their compatriots from Taste This, Anna Camilleri and Lyndell Montgomery, to create Swell, which premiered at the 2010 Vancouver Pride in Art Festival.
In 2012, collaborated with Rae Spoon on a touring multimedia show called Gender Failure. A book based on the show was published in 2014.
Delivered a TED talk in Vancouver in November 2015. Entitled “We all need a safe place to pee”, it advocated for the need to have gender neutral bathrooms in all public places.
In 2020, Coyote performed as part of CBC Gem’s Queer Pride Inside special.
Throughout their work, Coyote has consistently interrogated the gender binary through storytelling and performance, and has made a significant contribution to Canadian literature through their representation of queer lives.
For more on Ivan Coyote see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ivan_Coyote
Michael A. Miqqi Alicia Gilbert
Born Brooklyn, NY. Emigrated to Canada in 1968.
Ph.D., University of Waterloo (1974); BA, City University of New York
Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at York University, Toronto, Canada. Research interests are Philosophy, Critical Reasoning, Argumentation Theory, Informal Logic, and Transgender and Gender Theory.
Book review editor and regular columnist for Transgender Tapestry, the magazine of the International Foundation for Gender Education.
Director of Fantasia Fair for 8 years. (Fantasia Fair started in 1975 in Provincetown, Massachusetts, to provide cross-dressers and transsexuals an opportunity to mix in a tolerant environment. It evolved from a holiday experience to an event that combined practical, social, and educational opportunities for personal growth.)
Founding member of the Toronto trans group Xpressions; editor Monarch: Canada’s Transgender Reader.
Recipient in 2007 of an IFGE Trinity Award.
S/he has presented workshops at numerous trans events including Fantasia Fair, Southern Comfort, and Trans/Equity: Past, Present and Possibilities.
Besides her research writing and two novels, Gilbert has published works on gender theory, including “The Feminist Crossdresser,” in Trans/Forming Feminisms (K. Scott-Dixon, ed., 2006); “Defeating Bigenderism: Changing Gender Assumptions in the Twenty-First Century.” Hypatia (2009) and a chapter in the recent book Rethinking Transgender Identities (2022) titled Defining a Crossdresser.
Gilbert is a cross dresser and an activist in the international transgender community. “I’m thinking of doing a workshop called Not Trans Enough. So many trans people look upon me as a dilettante. Worse yet, cross-dressers are considered annoying little sisters: ‘They wear too much makeup, they don’t know how to dress properly, they get in the way.’ In being out, I see myself as an educator in the trans world. People can point to the cross-dressing professor and say, ‘Being a cross-dresser doesn’t make you weird.’”
York University profile: https://profiles.laps.yorku.ca/profiles/gilbert/
Questions and answers on the sex life and sexual problems of trans-sexuals
This booklet, published in 1950, provides an interesting snapshot of trans life two years before the great shift brought on by news of Christine Jorgensen’s sex affirmation surgery. It consists of letters written by diverse trans people to D. O. Cauldwell, a medical doctor who had acquired a reputation as being an expert on matters gender. Some write in desperation, some to reassure themselves that they’re “normal”; most are baffled by themselves and accept Cauldwell’s medical authority.
On this, Cauldwell is not as transphobic as one might assume, given the era. His position generally is that the differences between the two acknowledged sexes is not as great as it seems, and is largely a social construct. This view enables Cauldwell to have compassion for his letter writers, but it also oversimplifies the complexity of gender and how individuals identify with it. The range of trans identities represented here is far more varied than the dichotomy of transsexual-transvestite that became the template in the medical community in later years.
Consequently, the title is deceiving for modern readers, as the term “trans-sexual” serves here as an umbrella term for what we’d call “transgender”. There are indeed transsexual people writing for help, but also people whom we’d recognize as non-binary.
Regarding transsexual people, Cauldwell has no understanding. “There is no necessity for an individual who is a member of one sex to cultivate a persistent attitude that he or she is sexologically (or biologically) of the wrong sex.” He declares that “being metamorphosed into an individual of the opposite sex” cannot be done by medical or surgical means. At the time, this was probably true, although all that would change in two years. He also asserts that taking hormones would not result in breast development, which is demonstrably not true. He regards changing the shape of your sex organs as “mutilation”.
However, regarding non-binary people he is more sympathetic, and has no “rational objection to the term mental or psychic hermaphroditism”.
This booklet is interesting both in understanding historical attitudes to trans people, and in reading the stories of our trans ancestors. And for those still flogging the tired theory that being trans is a trend, Cauldwell’s conclusion from 1950 that being trans “is far more prevalent than it is suspected of being” is a fitting rebuke.
“Questions and answers on the sex life and sexual problems of trans-sexuals” is available for viewing at the Ottawa Trans Library.
Digital archive of Notes from the Underground completed
These are the last issues of the Gender Mosaic newsletter, Notes from the Underground that I have that were not scanned. 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.
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 missing 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