Humber’s Centre for Human Rights, Equity and Diversity announced the release of a new policy on gender diversity Feb. 24. The policy presents the Humber community’s responsibilities, including its students and employees, towards “protecting gender expression and gender identity consistent with the Ontario Human Rights Code.”
This policy geared expressly to trans people – it spells out a long list of nuanced terms including transgender, intersex and transsexual — is a great step forward in respect to protecting what the Ontario Human Rights Commission has called one of the most vulnerable and marginalized communities in society.
A 2012 poll by the National Post found that an estimated five per cent of Canadians identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. Five per cent may seem like a small number but this statistic means that approximately 700,000 people in Canada identify as LGBT.
The portion of those in the queer community who are trans in some sense is not known but it has become clear that they represent a number of people increasingly determined to receive the same rights and respect that others under the queer umbrella has sought for so long.
Any form of harassment based on a person’s gender identity or expression is against the law in Ontario. The terms “gender identity” and “gender expression” were added as grounds of discrimination in Ontario’s Human Rights Code in 2012. To clarify and fully attend to the new grounds, the OHRC released a new policy on preventing discrimination based on gender identity and gender expression in 2014.
Following the province’s own setting out of such legislation, Humber’s policy, which was in the works for a year and a half and was approved Feb. 10, names self-identification as the “sole and whole measure of a person’s gender”; highlights the single-person all-gender washrooms on campus and says it will make maps available that locates them; and formalizes the point that any individual within Humber’s community is entitled to be referred to by the gender pronoun of his or her choice.
The 13-page policy shows that Humber is taking the necessary steps to provide a safe and inclusive environment for its students, faculty and staff. It not only recognizes the need for a policy that specifically protects a person’s freedom to self-identify as whichever gender they wish, but moves towards preventing gender-based harassment in our community.