OPINION: Tories R4 proposal ignores high cost of anti-trans rhetoric

by | Nov 28, 2018 | Opinion

Kit Kolbegger

The Progressive Conservatives will likely be debating whether or not “gender” is real at their next party conference, in a resolution called R4. I can’t say I’m surprised.

I have identified publicly as transgender for 11 years now. Waking up to the news that someone, somewhere, doesn’t believe I exist isn’t an uncommon occurrence.

The Ontario Tories voted for R4. The U.S. government issues a memo that could roll back protections for trans people that were only granted a couple of years ago. The World Health Organization won’t be officially removing “transgenderism” from its list of mental illnesses until 2022 at the earliest.

Gender expression and identity has been wide and varied for millennia. Many First Nations recognize people as “two spirit,” a third gender identity. There have long been hijras in India and Pakistan. There are muxes in Mexico and fa’afines in Samoa.

And yet, the debate stills rages over whether we exist, or if our identities are just “liberal ideology.”

Even within the queer community, trans people are often left fighting their own battles. It wasn’t a gay white man who threw the first brick at the Stonewall Inn — whatever Roland Emmerich’s pink-washing film Stonewall might show you.

And at Trans Day of Remembrance last week at Queen’s Park, the community said nothing while two trans people were arrested. One dared to interrupt the moment of silence. The other stepped in to defend her.
I didn’t see any tweets from the police-run Twitter account @TDotGayCop about the incident, though the account posted other images from the event. (Police shouldn’t be welcome at Pride.)

It is frankly exhausting to see these debates and events happen over and over again. Ford says R4 is dead in the water, that it won’t have any impact. But it already did.

I saw posts on social media from people rushing to get their health card changed to match their gender identity, or rushing to put their legal name changes through, or worrying that OHIP would stop covering the gender-confirming surgery they have been waitlisted for.

Luckily, the trans community is safe from that for now. But for how long?

The right wing has nothing to lose in giving up their insane fantasy that trans people are out to destroy society, or whatever it is that makes them so willing to throw the whole community under the bus.

Gender identity isn’t contagious. No one is out there trying to “turn the children trans.” We pay our taxes — and we’d pay more of them if the median income of trans people wasn’t $15,000 a year, as Rainbow Health Ontario reported in 2015.

There is also a real cost to not accepting trans people. Rainbow Health also predicted that if society became more accepting, suicide attempt rates for trans people would plummet to 25 per cent.

And according to the Trans Pulse survey, for youth, having accepting parents is the difference between 4 per cent of youth attempting suicide and an overwhelming 57 per cent attempting it.

So, to the Tories, I issue a challenge: talk to us. Meet trans people where we stand, in our homes, our schools and our streets.

You might find us not quite so non-existent after all.