Dear Don Plett

I read a letter you wrote to a member of a parenting group I belong to regarding Bill C-279. You seem very concerned about women who don’t want to share change rooms with trans women and one lone woman on a Native reserve who doesn’t want trans women (who are escaping assault and trauma) in the shelter she’s running. There are a few other people I’d like you to be concerned about.

I’d like to introduce you to my 17 year old child Jeremy, who is transgender and identifies as both male and female (also known as bi-gender). Jeremy uses the pronouns zie and zir. Zie replaces he/she while zir replaces him/his/her.

Jeremy is an amazing kid. Zie loves computers and electronics. I just watched as zie set up a webcam on our guinea pig’s cage and connected it remotely to zir cellphone so zie can check up on our piggy during lunch at school. Jeremy also set up our new printer a few days ago and connected it wirelessly to our computers and cellphones. I don’t know when I’ll ever need to print a document from my phone but if I do, Jeremy’s made sure it’s ready for me. Jeremy’s a huge Doctor Who fan and zir favourite colour is purple. Zie’s a kind child who always remembers to give me a hug before I leave to work in the morning.

I want Jeremy to grow up in a country where zie, and other trans youths, are supported and protected. Transgender people face extreme amounts of discrimination. They have high unemployment rates due to prejudice, struggle to find housing, face staggering amounts of verbal and physical abuse, and have correspondingly high suicide rates.

Last year I used to send my child off to a group for LGBTQ youths. Each night I’d sit by my phone hoping zie wouldn’t get beaten up on the way home. That’s not a worry this year simply because zie’s too scared to go out anywhere on zir own. Jeremy’s entire social life consists of going shopping with me.

Picture going shopping with your child and seeing person after person not just staring but continuing to stare after they’ve walked past, turning their heads back to continue looking. Picture standing in the line at the cash register as the person in front of you spins around away from the cashier to stare in blatant shock. You turn to realize they’re staring, open mouthed, at your child and continue staring for several minutes. Picture taking a quiet walk with your youth to the local greenspace while people scream obscenities out their car windows at your teenager. Picture walking home from the store while a couple of grown men laugh and point at your child, pretending to run away. The reality is there’s nothing Jeremy’s doing to stand out. All of Jeremy’s clothes are from the mens department and, while zir hair is just a bit below shoulder length, it’s not unusually long for someone who’s biologically male. Zie simply and naturally looks both male and female. Zie can’t try to fit in.

Jeremy had kids approaching zir in the boy’s bathroom in primary school, wanting to see zir privates to make sure zie had a penis. Zie had children harassing zir at 7 years old in the school yard, telling other kids not to play with Jeremy because zie was a he/she. And when Jeremy was around 8 or 9 years old we had an adult neighbour gather a group of local children and teach them to call zir “faggot” and throw pine cones at zir. We managed to get her evicted but what she taught lingered.

While you don’t come right out and say it, I get the feeling your biggest concern is sexual predators. You never mention trans men using male change rooms and washrooms, instead you focus on trans women in female change rooms and washrooms, as if all trans women are predators. The reality is they are no more likely to be predators than anyone else. We have laws to deal with predatory cisgender woman who want to sexually assault other women. Those same laws would deal with predatory trans woman and both incidents would be shocking simply because of how rarely they occur. If our sexual assault laws are weak then continue to work to strengthen them. Don’t strip a bill that’s designed to give some of the more vulnerable members of our country equal rights.

This bill also protects innocent children who are trans. These children look and act like the gender they identify with and they want nothing more than to be treated the same as their peers. Being able to use the same washroom and join the same team as their friends not only helps them emotionally but protects them as well. A young child who looks and identifies as female does not fare well in a male washroom.

Yes, some transgender people are gender fluid and some may indeed use one change room or washroom one day and the opposite the following day. This wouldn’t be for any nefarious reason but simply to use the washroom they felt safer in. I’ve talked to people who will not use the washroom for hours on end because they’re scared of the reaction they’ll face no matter which bathroom they try to enter. We, as a society, need to stop worrying so much about who’s in the bathroom with us and let people simply relieve themselves in peace. More single stall gender neutral washrooms would be a help as well.

You have a chance right now to protect truly marginalized people. You have a chance to allow people equal rights and the ability to simply be themselves. Please help keep all our children safe. Please give my transgender child a safe Canada to grow up in and let bill C-279 pass.

Thank you,

Michelle
(address and phone number redacted)

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Protecting our children…

I’ve always told my children that we’re lucky to live in Canada, with our Charter of Rights and our focus on prevention of hate crimes instead of freedom of speech. I was even happier and more proud the spring Jeremy turned seven as our province became the first in Canada to legalize equal marriage. I looked at Jeremy and was glad that zie’d be able to marry whomever zie fell in love with. This was important as Jeremy had crushes on two boys and a girl that year and had told me mere weeks earlier that zie was going to marry zir male classmate when they grew up.

My kids were safe and protected.

A couple of days ago I discovered that there are only two doctors in all of Ontario that are able to approve sex reassignment surgery. Granted, this doesn’t affect Jeremy as zie seems fairly happy with zir body but it was still a surprise. Ontario’s a huge province, just over a million square kilometers, and has a population of 13.6 million people. It would take close to 30 hours to drive from one side of the province to the other. Then came the bombshell. The two doctors, Kenneth Zucker and Susan Bradley, both favour reparative therapy for trans kids. Zucker asks “parents to take away their child’s “feminine” toys and instruct the child not to play with or draw pictures of girls” (obviously focusing on MtF children *cough* homophobia *cough*) and goes on to claim that parents who fail to force their child into gender norms are offering “some type of emotional neglect.”

Jeremy during a short hair phase proudly showing off zir new earring and newest stuffed animal.

Jeremy during a short hair phase, proudly showing off zir new earring and newest stuffed animal while drinking zir favourite princess punch. Zucker would definitely disapprove.

Suddenly I was looking at Jeremy and feeling like zie wasn’t quite so safe.

Immediately after reading this, I discovered that only four provinces in Canada have gender identity down as a reason for protection against hate crimes (Ontario, Nova Scotia, Manitoba and the Northwest Territories) and only Ontario and Nova Scotia include gender expression. And then came the real shocker… House Speaker dismisses bid to vote again on transgender protections.

From what I understand by reading this article, NDP MP Randall Garrison created a bill called C-279. This bill requested protection, based on gender identity, to the Criminal Code and the Canadian Human Rights Act. Now here’s the kicker. Bill C-279 PASSED by twelve votes! Three months ago the Conservative government decided to re-vote on this issue but by committee instead. The committee held only nine members, five of which were conservative. At the time, one of the committee members was David Wilks, one of a mere handful of Conservatives who voted yes for protection. He got swapped out of the committee. It doesn’t say who voted for which side but with five Conservatives and five no votes, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to guess. Conservative Senator Don Plett is the one who moved to have the bill sent to committee, saying that he was concerned that the bill would allow abuse of laws and let “pedophiles take advantage of legislation that we have in place”. He went on to claim he was trying to protect “the rights of five- and six-year-old children”. How the fuck is saying that someone can’t beat the shit out of a person because they look male but are wearing a skirt going to protect a five year old child?

I was reading a post on the blog Raising my Rainbow last fall. The post talked about how Lori’s six year old son, CJ, was scared to use the bathroom because the other boys kept trying to check his genitals to make sure he was a boy and not a girl. He was so scared, he ended up wetting his pants while waiting for the dismissal bell. He hadn’t used the toilet in over six hours. I read this post to Jeremy and was surprised by zir answer.

“Mom, you have to write to her. How old is CJ again?” I said six and Jeremy thought a bit more. “Okay, tell her he’s probably still young enough to use the kindergarten washroom. That might be an option. But if it’s not, tell her he shouldn’t use the stall. It’s not safe. What he needs to do is get right close to the urinal so the little walls on each side will offer some protection. Maybe his Dad could show him how, if he’s got a Dad.”

Zie watched as I dutifully typed the information down. Meanwhile I tried to hide my surprise. Jeremy hadn’t given that information as someone trying to think of something that might help. Zie’d given that information as someone who’d been through the exact same situation and had come up with something that helped zir. And I’d never known. Apparently Jeremy found it so commonplace to have fellow classmates checking to see if zie had a penis that zie didn’t even mention it to me; at least not until Jeremy had discovered someone zie might be able to help.

The sad thing is these aren’t isolated incidents. But apparently the Conservatives are only interested in protecting the rights of most five or six year olds. And that makes me furious. Both my kids deserve to be protected.