from the editor
// Sarah Vitet

A transgendered woman in New York, named Temmie Breslauer, was arrested in January for using the wrong subway fare card, as reported by Jezebel. At the police station, she says she was questioned about the appearance of her genitals. When she explained that she was in transition, rather than putting her with the female inmates or in an individual room, she was chained to a pole with her arm lifted above her head, and left in that position for 28 hours. In addition, she claims that they called her names (such as “he-she,” “Lady Gaga,” and “faggot”) and laughed at her. Meanwhile, people who were charged with the same misdemeanor that she was (theft of services) were processed and allowed to leave.

Breslauer says that the ordeal aggravated her post-traumatic stress disorder, giving her difficulty sleeping and leaving her suicidal. She is now suing for compensatory and punitive damages. Breslauer isn’t the first trans person the NYPD has been accused of harassing, though. In October during Occupy Wall Street, Justin Adkins was arrested for protesting on the Brooklyn Bridge. When the police discovered that Adkins was transgendered, he says that “they had me sit down in a chair next to the filthy toilet, and handcuffed my right wrist to a metal handrail.” He claims that he was laughed at and stared at by police officers throughout his detainment.

In Canada, issues regarding transgender discrimination have been raised by the public discovery of a recent change by the Harper government to the Aeronautics Act, which now states that: “An air carrier shall not transport a passenger if...the passenger does not appear to be of the gender indicated on the identification he or she presents.” The regulatory change did not have to go through Parliament, but was rather passed through ministerial fiat. While there have been no reports yet of transgendered people being refused passage on flights due to these regulations, the potential is clear. In order to change the gender on your passport in B.C., you must either have had sex reassignment surgery, or have a letter with a scheduled surgery date within the next year. At that point you can get a passport for two years at a time, as the five-year passports are only issued with a changed birth certificate (keeping in mind that surgery wait-lists can be over three years). Regardless of personal gender identification or appearance, whether transgender people are allowed to fly or not is now up to the discretion of airport security. According to the Transportation Minister: “Any passenger whose physical appearance does not correspond to their identification can continue to board an airplane by supplying a letter from a health care professional explaining the discrepancy.”

According to an online CBC poll, 92.7 per cent of readers (roughly 2000 voters) believe that Parliament should re-introduce the transgender rights bill. Bill Siksay’s Gender Rights bill was passed through Parliament in 2010, but didn’t get through Senate before the election was called. Now both the NDP and the Liberals now have MP’s introducing Private Member’s bills to amend the Human Rights act and the Criminal code in regards to gender identity and gender expression.

Randall Garrison is the NDP MP whose bill C-279 should be up for a second reading near the end of February, before Hedy Fry’s similar bill C-276. Garrison has spoken recently about the airline regulations, saying: “A lot of transgendered people are non-operative, which means that there wouldn’t be any medical letter that would be possible … I’m not sure that a doctor would issue such a letter.” Garrison says that although he believes that the government is trying to chip away at LGBT rights, he doesn’t think this regulation was necessarily targeted towards transgender people, though it does affect them. “I’m not sure that this is anything more than insensitivity and a lack of understanding of the issue,” he said.

The 2010 transgender rights bill that Siksay introduced was passed in Parliament, though the majority of Conservative MPs voted against it. With the Conservatives holding a majority government now, it is of vital importance that we take an active role in getting bill C-279 passed. MPs for every riding are easily accessible to contact, and it is the responsibility of every member of society to stand up for equal rights, not even but especially if we are cisgender, as we enjoy the privilege of living in a society that at the very least recognizes our basic human rights.

//Sarah Vitet, editor-in-chief

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