The pioneer days of trans acceptance
Although I wake up every day thankful to be a citizen of Canada, I am also often reminded that when it comes to trans acceptance in this country we are still very much in pioneer days.
People in Canada who hate trans folks are not often so blatant about it as William Whatcott. If you missed the news from British Columbia, Whatcott tried to prevent trans woman Morgane Oger from being elected in the 2017 BC election solely because she was trans. He had no critique of her policies, but rather printed 1500 flyers claiming Oger was a “biological male who has renamed himself … after he embraced a transvestite lifestyle.” He declared himself against the promotion of “homosexuality and transvestitism” and described being transgender as an “impossibility” and a “sin”.
If you haven’t guessed it yet, Whatcott is one of those love-thy-neighbour Christians who have a hard time loving their neighbours. He joins his loving compatriots Tanya Granic Allen, who ran for leadership of the Ontario Conservatives seemingly for the sole purpose of cancelling the sex education curriculum, and Laura-Lynn Thompson, who finished fourth in the Burnaby byelection won recently by NDP leader Jagmeet Singh.
Laura-Lynn Thompson distinguished herself by calling the idea of gender fluidity “the greatest and most insidious assault against our children that this nation has ever seen”. Thompson is a former Christian broadcaster and pundit who had run earlier for the position of school trustee in Burnaby. When asked by local paper Burnaby Now how as a trustee she would support trans kids, she replied she would “love them to pieces”.
Personally, I’m inclined to resist being loved to pieces by someone who considers me a threat to children. It’s probable she may have a different interpretation of the word love than I. Think conversion therapy.
Although Thompson lost both elections, it is hardly reassuring to learn that, running for Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party of Canada, she garnered almost 11% of the vote in the federal byelection.
Whatcott meanwhile didn’t get any support from the BC Human Rights Commission after Oger filed a complaint against him. They concluded recently that his actions “drew on the most insidious stereotypes and myths about transgender people” and that his flyer exposed Oger “to hatred and contempt.” Whatcott was ordered to pay Oger $55,000 in compensation. As I said, I’m glad I live in Canada.
This is not to say that Whatcott did not have his defenders. They were the usual gang who brayed about free speech while pretending that it comes with no responsibility attached. In truth what they really preach is free speech for themselves, but not so much for sexual or ethnic minorities or the liberal left. They’re arguing for their right to control the agenda and, in the memorable words of Brazilian philosopher of education Paulo Freire, their “freedom to oppress”.
The passage of Bill C-16 in 2017 was a huge breakthrough for trans people, but when it comes to trans acceptance in this country we are still very much in pioneer days. There is much land left to clear before we can build our home, and while we work we can never forget there are bears in the woods and snakes in the grass.