Bill C-16: much needed protection from gender discrimination

Editorial photo drawn by Toby VanWeston

The negativity faced by Canadians who identify as transgender, or as any gender they were not assigned at birth, is a form of discrimination we must all agree to tolerate no longer.

Bill C-16, now before the Senate, looks to protect Canadians from discrimination based on their gender identity or expression.

Passing the bill would mean making amendments to the Canadian Human Rights Act to add gender identity and gender expression to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination. As well, it would amend the Criminal Code to add protection against hate propaganda. And it’s about time.

Those who oppose the bill state that it’s flawed. They say that the desire for inclusiveness has led us to handle each other too delicately. But, is showing respect to anyone ever too much to ask?

The Canadian Human Rights Act already protects citizens from discrimination on 11 grounds: race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, disability and even any past convictions, once they’ve been pardoned.

With a list this long, how can one’s gender identity/expression not already be protected, let alone up for debate?

This matter has become a sort of a political left vs. right debate. But it doesn’t have to be a dividing issue.

Human rights are for all. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, associated with the United Nations, states in Article One, “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” Therefore the treatment of anyone, especially in a country that has been active in the United Nations since its founding in 1945, should not be a topic of ongoing debate.

In a piece in the National Observer posted last October, Meghan Murphy writes, “There is no scientific foundation for the idea that sex is defined by a ‘feeling’ or by superficial choice.” This is not true.

Science has proven differences between the male and female brain, and in 2013 psychobiologist Antonio Guillamon and neuropsychologist Carme Junqué Plaja led a team of Spanish investigators in a study that used MRI to examine the brain of transgender subjects.

The team studied 24 female-to-male subjects and 18 male-to-female before and after hormone treatments. The result showed that even before treatment, the brain structure of the trans subjects shared more similarities with that of the brains of the gender they “felt” than the gender assigned to them at birth.

Leslie P. Henderson is a professor of physiology and neurobiology at Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine. She holds a PhD from Stanford University and has spent over 20 years studying sex-specific differences in the brain.

In an online piece published earlier last year, Henderson explicitly states, “It has to do with the biology of your brain.” Mic drop.

Transphobia and intolerance has no place in modern society.

Canada already offers federal legal protection for many marginalized groups of people: protection that ensures equal opportunity.

To express an interest in denying equal opportunity to anyone is an affront to human nature and a violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Enough of the stigma surrounding acceptance. Enough of the argument that wanting to allow others to live their lives how they’re comfortable is somehow weakening us as a species.

If passed, Bill C-16 will put an end to the discrimination faced by Canadians based on gender identity or expression. There is no sensible reason to stand in its way.


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