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Remembering lives lost due to anti-transgender violence

Transgender Remembrance was marked on Nov 20,  a day in which to reflect on the 325 transgender people around the world who have lost their lives between Oct 2016 and Sept 30 of this year.

Statistics Canada tracks the number of hate crimes based on sexual orientation, and in 2014 there were 155 reported cases and in 2015 there were 141 instances. This number is alarmingly high, as most transgender people suffer in silence when dealing with hate related issues.

From people using the right pronouns to challenges in school and healthcare, transgender youth face a large number of challenges. In a national survey in 2015, over one-third of transgender Canadians between ages 14-25 attempted suicide. Transgender Remembrance Day does not normally count the number of deaths by suicide ,but if it did, the number in remembrance would be even higher.

Transgender Remembrance is all about reflecting on an often bullied and low profile community. During different remembrance ceremonies around the world, the names of those who lost their lives to  anti-transgender violence are marked. Members of the trans community all pay respect and come out to attend this somber occasion.

Transrespect.org issued the full list this year of all the names of people around the world who have lost their lives. The list is a report of all transphobia issues and murders worldwide. There was one Canadian listed, Sisi Thibert, a transgender sex worker who was found stabbed in her apartment in Montreal just a mere two months ago.

Many trans-advocates do not just honour all those who have lost their lives, but as well victims and survivors of transgender targeted violence. Transgender remembrance started in 1999 in the United States by a transgender woman to mark the murder of another victim. During the reading of the names, there is often a moment of silence and a candlelight vigil. In Canada, there was a memorial held at the University of Winnipeg on Monday evening with over 100 people in attendance, and at Toronto Police Headquarters in downtown Toronto, Toronto police raised the transgender flag for the first time to mark Transgender Remembrance Day.

Danica Roem first transgender person elected as Virginia lawmaker

It was a historic moment in the United States last night as key areas in political history were marked. Of the many “firsts” in this election, the most inspirational was Democrat Danica Roem, who is now the first openly transgender person to be elected a seat in the Virginia House of Delegates.

Roem was elected over outspoken state lawmaker Robert G Marshall, who has held the house seat since 1992. Marshall previously refused to debate Roem and repeatedly used the wrong gender pronouns when referencing her campaign. Marshall was criticized for his social policy by Roem and often faced controversial issues amongst his own Republican statesmen. Known for his homophobic remarks, Marshall supported restricted bathrooms for transgender people.

Roem openly addressed her gender during her campaign and was open about her transition and the therapy she underwent when she was 28. In an interview with the Associated Press earlier this year, Roem highlighted the fact that politics should be inclusive of all.

” No matter what you look like, where you come from, how you worship or who you love, if you have good public policy ideas, if you’re qualified for office, you have every right to bring your ideas to the table.”

Roem beat Marshall by nine percentage points and out-raised Marshall during the campaign, collecting almost $500,000, with a lot of support coming from the LGBT community. While Roem had a strong social media presence and went door to door in the community discussing her platform, Marshall kept his schedule private, instead issuing advertisements attacking Roem’s transgender identity.

Roem referred to Marshall as a mirror of Trump and criticized him on his unwillingness to deal with social issues. When Roem won, many community supporters compared the victory to that of Barack Obama. It is even more inspirational considering the political climate of the United States, where a government exists that is hell bent on refusing basic rights to people within the LGBTQ community.

There were a few other historic wins during Tuesday’s election:

  • Andrea Jenkins won a seat in Minneapolis City Council to represent Ward 8. Jenkins is the city’s first openly transgender woman of colour.
  • In New Jersey, Ravinder Bhalla was elected as as the first Sikh Mayor in that state.
  • Jenny Durkan is the first openly lesbian mayor of Seattle.
  • Michelle Kaufusi is the first female mayor in the City of Provo in Utah.
  • Vi Lyes is the first black woman to be elected the mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina.
  • Kathy Tran is the first Asian-American woman to be elected to Virginia House of Delegates.
  • Zachary DeWolf is the first openly gay school board member in Seattle.
  • Melvin Carter III was elected the first black mayor of St Paul in Minnesota.

Let us know your thoughts below.

Senate approves transgender rights bill with majority

Thursday afternoon, the Senate approved a piece of legislation that amended the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code to include transgender Canadians. This means that gender identity and gender expression is on “list of prohibited grounds of discrimination” and therefore protected against hate propaganda.

 

The bill also amends the sentencing principles section of the Criminal Code, making it possible for a person’s identity or expression to be considered an aggravated circumstance by a judge during sentences.

Most importantly, gender identity and gender expression are now identifiable groups under Canadian law! This is an incredible accomplishment and brings Canada one step closer towards becoming a truly equal, fair, tolerant, and inclusive society.

The only disappointment was that it took this long to get Bill C-16 to pass. This request to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code has been proposed and tabled numerous times over the last decade. Bill C-16 was presented to the House of Commons a little over a year ago and was delayed at the Senate due to debate surrounding free speech.

The Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, called the bill a celebration of inclusion and diversity, “bringing us one step closer to strengthening laws against discrimination, hate propaganda, and hate crime based on gender identity and gender expression.”

“Trans and gender diverse persons must be granted equal status in Canadian society, and this Bill makes that status explicit in Canadian law,” she said in a statement.

The bill passed by a vote of 67 to 11 and now needs Royal Assent before it is considered a law.

Last week, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the Liberal government plans on introducing legislation that would erase past convictions against Canadians charged with crimes related to their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. He also said the government is planning on apologizing to the LGBT community by the end of this year for past discriminatory legislation and policies.

Alberta gender identity and expression guidelines debated

Transgender rights has been a popular topic in the media, as federal and provincial governments move to include gender identity and transgendered rights in legislation. Newly-NDP Alberta, led by Rachel Notley, joined the progressive movement by providing guidelines for schools about respecting and protecting transgendered students.

But, it’s been a challenge to get everyone on board. Protests erupted mid-May in Edmonton between transgender supporters and groups such as Parents for Choice in Education, trying to contravene transgendered rights in schools and the subsequent bill —Bill 10 —that allowed students to form gay-straight alliances in schools. This bill led the way for guidelines that were provided by the NDP government in January, which will be used as a benchmark for school boards to adopt and enforce in their respective schools.

Guidelines for Best Practices: Creating Equality for Gender Identities includes criteria to help schools navigate respectful treatment of transgendered students. Guidelines include respecting an individual’s right to self-identification, minimizing gender-segregated activities, providing safe access to washroom and change-room facilities, and responding appropriately to bullying behaviour.

Backlash of the new guidelines has mostly been centered on the issue of non-gendered washrooms in schools. Parents are concerned they are not being given the democratic choice to do what is best for their kids and there is anxiety around children with different sexual anatomy being in the same washroom. There has been backlash from the Catholic School Board, with Roman Catholic Bishop, Fred Henry denouncing the guidelines as anti-Catholic and the government as “totalitarian” for trying to impose them.

Trans Equality Society of Alberta (TESA), a non-profit advocacy group on behalf of transgender rights, is spearheaded by long-time activist, Jan Buterman. Buterman said he was not surprised by the backlash, but the protests and the intense comments are a new development. “We have been doing this type of advocacy for a long time and this type of pushback is new,” said Buterman. “This is parallel to the type of protests you see in Ontario with the changes in curriculum.”

This is not the first time that Buterman has seen transphobia in the school system. In 2008, he was fired by the Catholic school board for transitioning, and is still in a legal battle fighting the decision. Buterman’s mistreatment in the system led to forming the advocacy group Trans Equality Society of Alberta. Because of his drawn-out court battle and refusal to back down, Buterman has become one of the public figures of trans-advocacy and was even asked to look over the Albertan guidelines prior to their public release to schools.

Buterman said the guidelines were a move in the right direction, but there were key issues surrounding name documentation that were not dealt with. “The guidelines indicate [the students] would still use the name given on the birth certificate.” he said. “It is actually inappropriate that kids are being held to a standard that adults are not. The guidelines were a good idea in principal, but there were gaps and that gap specifically was staggering.” Children can choose to be called a different name under the new guidelines, but the name given on their birth certificate will remain as their official documentation in the school system.

Both supporters and dissidents have expressed issues with the guidelines, highlighting how difficult change can be to implement when it comes to gender identity. Recently, the federal government has joined the movement to include trans rights in legislation, which protect the legal and human rights of transgendered people in Canada.

It is clear that Canada is moving in the direction of protecting trans people and their rights, but some provinces are having more difficulties than others. It is about time that appropriate protection for this prevalent and vibrant community in the country is recognized and respected — and it’s unfortunate that so many people have a problem with it. Overall, trans-inclusivity in schools is a step in the right direction because it teaches a new generation that transitioning is normal and acceptable. Gender identity and expression are choices and provinces like Ontario and Alberta have led the way to promoting a more inclusive and accepting Canadian society.

An exploration into the world of Pansexuality

“Gender identity is diverse and there are no binaries. Look into the etymology of “gender” and the word itself means nothing more than genre or kind,” says pansexual and transgender advocate, Sabbina Gibson. “This kind of binary perspective on it has been opposed and imposed on us. As a pansexual, all genders are embraced, not both. It is not one or the other.”

Gibson is a transgender woman living in Toronto. Taking a break to talk to me from personal training at Pursuit OCR, an adult obstacle course located at a converted industrial building in Parkdale, I begin to understand the hurdles Gibson and other pansexuals have to climb to help others understand their sexuality.

“Pansexuality is something that people are becoming more aware of, that more people will be able to identify with, and as a result they will not keep it in the closet. Then it will be able to be discussed openly,” says Gibson.

The first step to discussing pansexuality openly is understanding exactly what it means to each individual person within the context of their lives, and what the word means as a sexual label.

“I think sexual labels need to be defined by the communities and people who use them. We can’t define other people’s identities. In my health research I use a definition of pansexuality that draws on the etymology of the word (“pan” means “all” in Greek),” says PhD researcher for indigenous health and sexuality, Margaret Robinson.

Pansexuality is defined as a sexual attraction, romantic love, or emotional attraction toward people of any sex or gender. The term is becoming increasingly recognized in modern society, but still confuses many people. Understanding the label is a primary step to embracing this type of sexual marker and allows people to further identity with it.

Gibson says that heterosexuals look for a person with particular character traits, similar to a pansexual, but the physical aspects that a person looks for can be very superficial.

Gibson adds, “Someone who is pansexual may have an attraction to physical traits, but an attraction in someone’s personality becomes much more overarching than just a person’s appearance or a specific focus on someone’s genitals.”

Gibson also notes that her experience as a transgender woman has played a part in her identity as a pansexual because it can be difficult to find a partner.“Being pansexual, I don’t have gender preference as a way to increase my odds of finding somebody,” she says. “At this point, I don’t care who it is in terms of their gender as long as I mesh with them on an emotional and personal level.”

Logan Facette, a practicing pansexual from Calgary, AB. agrees with Gibson’s definition of pansexuality. He places emphasis on a person’s personality rather than their gender.

“My sexuality happens with the changing of the seasons. I never know who I’m going to be attracted to at any specific moment,” says Facette.

Facette is an open and outgoing person and is a passionate advocate for people with disabilities, having suffered from epilepsy himself. His favourite saying is “the only disability is a bad attitude,” and he is confident in his identity as a pansexual, demonstrating how irrelevant the need to justify sexuality really can be.

“I really don’t know why I’m pansexual.  I don’t need to justify it. I need to be confident in what my mind is telling me,” he says. “This person is hugely attractive and I don’t need to know what their gender is.”

Facette is also married and monogomous. “My partner is female. She has the same attractions as I do. I am very free-flowing with my sexuality and is something I really wanted in my partner,” he explains. “There needs to be total honesty and communication in the relationship. I quickly learned I wasn’t comfortable with being “bi”. I kept looking and I came upon pansexuality.”

University of Toronto professor of philosophy of sexuality, Ronald De Sousa, emphasizes the importance of drawing the distinction between bisexuality and pansexuality to further understand the meaning of “all” in the Pan identifier. “Pan requires thinking of people without bringing in their gender. Bisexuals may be distinguished because they may not be open to people that are in-between genders,” says De Souza.

Bisexuality is defined as an attraction to the same and different, but is often termed as an attraction to two specific genders rather than all genders. That being said, Robinson notes the difference between the two types of sexual labels leads some people to frame pansexuality as trans-friendly and bisexuality as transphobic, which is not the case.

“There’s been a tendency in some circles to frame pansexuality as trans-friendly and bisexuality as transphobic, but that ignores the reality of bi communities, our trans-inclusive history, and it ignores the trans people who identify as bi. I’m bisexual because I have attraction to people with the same gender as me and also to people with genders different from my own,” says Robinson. “Identity is contextual. Identifying as bisexual connects me with specific communities, particular histories, and particular values. I fit the definition of pansexual, but I don’t use that label.”

Pansexuality also attempts to overcome the common correlation of gender and sexuality, rather than specifying sexual orientation towards genders in any way.

Gender is defined as “the state of being female or male, with reference to cultural differences rather than biological ones.” Sexuality is defined as “a person’s sexual orientation or preference”. Too often, gender and sexuality are blended into the same meaning.

“How absurd is it to filter all of your sexual partners within the criteria of gender,” says De Souza. “Freud said, ‘Heterosexuality is much in need of questioning.’ I agree because people’s sexuality should be free. It shouldn’t be bound by heterosexual monogamous relationships. Gender and sexuality have nothing to do with humans in any way except by these ideas about what you are supposed to do as a woman and a man.”

Gibson agrees. “Gender and sexuality is too intertwined for people to distinguish what the difference is. Even in the LGBTQ culture,” she says. “There is not just one gender or the other, and there is no distinct boundary. Gender becomes a grey area and an expression of a much more complex human nature.”

Over the last century, the discursive space to discuss different types of sexualities and labels across the spectrum has increased substantially. With the wake of feminism in the 1970s, sexuality became a prevalent topic and though homophobia still persists, heterosexuality is no longer seen as the only mode of sexuality in western society.

Robison further explains there are a few generations of women and men interested in enforcing gender binaries, which opens up the space to more gender fluid expressions of sexuality. Potentially, the next possible wave of change in the world of sexuality of understanding is the eradication of the need to label sexuality into a category at all.

“The point here is not about whether you are hetereosexual, bisexual, homosexual or pansexual. The reality is that if you are human, you are just simply sexual,” says Gibson. “How you categorize it and contextualize it is your individual decision.”

“The clock so patiently waits on your song” – An ode to David Bowie

When I wrote the review of Blackstar last week and asked whether this was David Bowie’s ode to himself, an ode to his inevitable death, I did not expect such a literal response. Bowie passed away early on the morning of Jan. 10, merely two days after the release of his Blackstar album. I was devastated and couldn’t help but think that we’ve lost one of the greatest musicians of our time.

David Bowie was a musician, an artist, a film star, a performer, and a mime. He was an iconoclast and lastly, a self-proclaimed blackstar. The lyrics to the title song of his final album give his audience a final answer to his self-proclaimed public identity.

“I can’t answer why (I’m a blackstar)
Just go with me (I’m not a filmstar)
I’m-a take you home (I’m a blackstar)
Take your passport and shoes (I’m not a popstar)
And your sedatives, boo (I’m a blackstar)
You’re a flash in the pan (I’m not a marvel star)
I’m the Great I Am (I’m a blackstar)”

The beloved spaceman left fans an epic goodbye in Blackstar, as we all should have expected. In a way, a concept album to help fans understand his death is so very “Bowie”, defining his entire ideology as a performer and as an iconic influence of pop culture.

In 1995, Bowie’s notes on his album Outside said, “We don’t expect our audience to necessarily seek an explanation from ourselves. We assign that role to the listener and to culture. As both of these are in a state of permanent change there will be a constant “drift” in interpretation. All art is unstable. Its meaning is not necessarily that implied by the author. There is no authoritative voice. There are only multiple readings”.

Bowie defined a cultural movement that allowed the fusion of art, performance, and music into a pop culture. Instead of creating a single public identity, he let the audience ascertain the meaning of his various works. His 27 studio album career began in 1967 with David Bowie and ended with  Blackstar in 2016.  Bowie was also inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.

Bowie3-above arguably though

Arguably though, Bowie’s character was not completely absent from his role asThomas Jerome Newton in The Man Who Fell to Earth or Ziggy Stardust, his spacey alter-ego. Instead, Bowie’s success is that he managed to maintain a sense of absolute humanity and personality in his work while cultivating an air of mystery as to which direction he would take next as a performance artist and musician.

But, what makes a timeless icon? Perhaps it was Bowie’s ability to keep fans guessing while using his power as a pop culture icon to spread messages of love and acceptance. V&A researcher Dr. Kathryn Johnson, author of “David Bowie Is”, says, “this creative tension between power and empowerment is central to Bowie’s lasting cultural impact and enduring popularity”.

Bowie was a master of allusion. He created subtle references to reflect important issues — such as the blurring boundaries of gender and authenticity in creativity — thus enhancing his power as a relevant artist and musician. Bowie’s various works over the past four decades also highlighted and challenged “normal” ideologies.  In the essay “Out of this World: Ziggy Stardust and the Spatial Interplay of Lyrics, Vocals and Performance” by Barish Ali and Heidi Wallace, they make references to the power of allusion. “Allusions…lead the curious almost anywhere and thus expose the curious to culture that they might not otherwise have stumbled upon. These paths can amount to novel cultural genealogies, revealing connections where none were previously perceived.”

bowie-when david bowie played

For example, when Bowie played Ziggy Stardust, his alter-ego space alien messenger, he began to explore the idea of the “other” — either as a space alien or a person who dressed and acted uniquely. His androgynous costume style choices and performance techniques gave way for marginalized groups such as transgendered individuals to find empowerment in Bowie as a fearless cultural icon.

Bowie did not want his fans to get comfortable though. He abandoned his role as Ziggy Stardust suddenly and without notice on July 3, 1973.  In 1980, Bowie came out with Scary Monsters, which moved from the physical exploration of space aliens to the exploration of the trans-human experience. He dressed in stylized androgynous outfits and helped to create an important discussion surrounding the feminine and masculine. In 1983, Bowie shocked fans again with his release of Let’s Dance, where he embraced a more masculinized role, solidifying the idea that Bowie desired to exist as an impermanent cultural phenomenon rather than one defining impression.

images-Bowie's final album

Bowie’s final album, Blackstar, follows similar themes. It brings in the chaotic jazz influences last seen in his Scary Monsters album and pushes boundaries through the performative exploration of death. The final song of the album, “I Can’t Give Everything Away” defines the idea that Bowie was dedicated to giving his fans everything he could, but in the end the meaning was the audience’s to discover.

“When we hear Bowie’s voice, we do not hear the authoritative “Bowie” message or project. We hear the dramatisation of performative identity and culture in the making; we hear the fluctuation. And ultimately, we hear ourselves—our own responses to the indefinable,” says Ali and Wallace.

Blackstar is ultimately about death; yet, potentially, it is about the eternal life of Bowie’s work as well. He left his fans with a final goodbye, and one that can be cherished for years to come.  As Bowie prophetically stated in his role as Thomas Jerome Newton , “Well I know I’m not a scientist. But I know all things begin and end in eternity”.

See you in eternity Starman.

 

WATCH : Caitlyn Jenner’s Speech at the Espy’s

https://youtu.be/5j5AC_NgQpc

“If you want to call me names, make jokes, doubt my intentions, go ahead,” she said inside the Nokia Theater, surrounded by fellow athletes. “The reality is, I can take it.”

Caitlyn Jenner wowed in white at the Espy’s yesterday as she accepted the Arthur Ashe Courage Award. Watch her moving speech as she speaks about her transformation, challenges, and most importantly – successes.

Caitlyn Jenner: Olympian Hero to Transgender Icon

Former Olympian champion Bruce Jenner made his debut as a woman today on the cover of Vanity Fair magazine. The cover is currently going viral on the internet and we know exactly why! Whether it’s the brunette locks, her fierce expression, or those super toned legs, Caitlyn Jenner completes every criteria of the modern day bombshell.

Just a few months ago, the reality star sat down with Diane Sawyer, still known as Bruce Jenner, in an emotional 2 hour interview, coming out as a woman. Now referred to as her, this is Caitlyn’s first public appearance since the interview and transitional surgery. It is confirmed, however, that Jenner has not yet gone through genital surgery.

“If I was lying on my deathbed and I had kept this secret and never ever did anything about it, I would be lying there saying, ‘You just blew your entire life. You never dealt with yourself,’ and I don’t want that to happen.” Jenner stated in the 22 page cover story, on newsstands June 9.

Caitlyn-Kenner-Red-Dress

Caitlyn Jenner took to social media to tweet from her new account “I’m so happy after such a long struggle to be living my true self. Welcome to the world Caitlyn. Can’t wait for you to get to know her/me.” Celebrities, friends, family, and her fans also tweeted out their support and commends Caitlyn for her bravery.

It’s no doubt the 65 year old has become an overnight icon for the transgendered community. She joins the list of other transgendered celebrities such as Sonny and Cher’s son, Chaz Bono and former Miss Universe contestant, Jenna Talackova. We’re looking forward to seeing what more Caitlyn has in store for us. 

Although North American society is quickly becoming more welcoming towards the LGBT community, it’s evident that the ‘T’ is often overlookedLike Jenner, there are still many people out there who are struggling to come out as transgendered. If you or someone you know needs help with any transgendered related issues, visit http://www.translifeline.org/.