Potty Panic in Parliament: Conservative MP Links Trans Women with Sexual Predators
Potty panic in the halls of Parliament
By Mercedes Allen; April 10, 2012 - rabble.ca
Did he just say that?
Xtra is reporting that during the first hour of discussion for the trans human rights bill C-279, Conservative MP Dean Allison attempted to link trans women with sexual predators.
[Bill C-279 sponsor Randall] Garrison says not all Conservative MPs feel that way. “That’s at the core of the old Reform Party attitude that I think is a significant part of the Conservative caucus, but there are others who don’t share those views.” He says there are 65 sitting members who voted against same-sex marriage. “That gives you an idea.”
That's the bad news. Here's the good news: seven people spoke regarding the bill. Of them, five -- including NDP, Liberal and Conservative MPs -- spoke in favour of the bill, although one had requested that a definition be added. A sixth, Kerry-Lynne D. Findlay, provided the party position that the bill was "unnecessary" and that terms were "undefined." It was on the positive side of predictable until Dean Allison (Conservative, Niagara West-Glanbrook) dropped this little nugget:
However, I would also like to discuss a very real concern that was expressed during debate on an earlier version of this bill from the previous Parliament. In fact, this argument resulted in the previous bill being dubbed the “bathroom bill” in certain quarters.
The fact is that creating a right to gender identity and gender expression would likely result in men who are in gender reassignment therapy having access to girls' bathrooms. As the bill would also give special rights to those who simply consider themselves to be transgendered, the door would be open to sexual predators having a legal defence to charges of being caught in a women's washroom or locker room.
I find this potentially legitimized access for men in girls' bathrooms to be very disconcerting. As sexual predators are statistically almost always men, imagine the trauma that a young girl would face, going into a washroom or a change room at a public pool and finding a man there. It is unconscionable for any legislator, purposefully or just neglectfully, to place her in such a compromising position.
Special rights, of course, is a dog whistle to the Charles McVety crowd, who are concerned that trans peoples' "special right" to find work, find a home, travel in society and access public goods and services might trump the everyday ordinary right to stand in their way of doing exactly that. Which demonstrates why explicit inclusion is necessary.
It's not unexpected from Mr. Allison, though, who voted against same-sex marriage in 2005 and then in 2006 for the failed attempt to "reopen the debate" on marriage equality (interestingly, done as a motion, much like Stephen Woodworth's upcoming M-312), as well as for two personhood bills which would likely have granted rights to a fetus which would supersede those of the mother.
Even if expected, though, it's staggering to have an elected representative in Canada's Parliament openly attempt to link transsexual women and sexual predators.
We need to parse that statement for a moment, though. Mr. Allison didn't explicitly call trans women sexual predators, although it could be inferred from the statement. I've written before about the long history of "Bathroom Bill" tactics used when trans human rights come up for discussion, and most times that legislators have openly attempted to make this connection, they've backtracked and said that they weren't referring to trans women, but that real predators might avail themselves of that law.
Assuming, of course, that a real sexual predator would want to buy the clothing and do whatever makeup and preparatory work he'd feel would be needed so that he could wander through public, hoping to not attract attention or ridicule, all so that he could access a washroom that he'd probably have better luck entering when no one's looking.
Here's the straight facts about washrooms:
- Currently, there is no law governing washroom facilities;
- Trans people have already been accessing washrooms appropriate to their identities for as long as they've existed (and transition was developed in the 1940s / 1950s, with some apparently trans people having lived even prior to that);
- Trans human rights legislation exists in close to 150 cities, counties, states and other jurisdictions, some dating back to 1975;
- No demonstrable pattern of trans people attacking women has occurred;
- No demonstrable pattern of real sexual predators using trans rights legislation to justify assault has occurred;
- Assault is still assault, no matter where it happens or who perpetrates it;
- No community should be deprived of their right to live, work, travel and access services all on the off-chance that an individual outside that community or even inside that community might commit an assault;
- Washroom fear has been the perennial specter used to oppose civil rights at many others in history -- desegregation, early gay civil rights, the HIV scare -- and each time the overblown, irrational myths have proven unfounded.
The idea behind human rights is that they're universal. Every person deserves to be judged according to their merits and faults, and not by the myths and prejudices that are associated with a particular characteristic. Although we don't name every characteristic in human rights laws, every so often we discover that one exists for whom the myths and prejudices are so distorted that discrimination is not only likely, but inevitable.
Myths and prejudices like Dean Allison demonstrated right on the floor of Parliament.
This is in fact why trans human rights protections are necessary. There is reason to be optimistic, but this is also an uphill battle. Please contact your Member of Parliament and tell him or her why you support rights inclusion for transsexual and transgender people.
Mercedes Allen is a graphic designer and advocate for transsexual and transgender communities in Alberta. She writes on equality, human rights, LGBT and sexual minority issues in Canada, and the cross-border pollination of far-right spin. She blogs at Dented Blue Mercedes and operates a trans information website at http://www.albertatrans.org/.