In British Columbia, some public schools do and some do not accommodate trans youth. Roman Catholic school system does not, though this is currently being challenged in a human rights proceeding.
This report from the Transgender Legal Defence and Education Fund:
Complaint Alleges Six-Year-Old Transgender Girl Denied Access to Girls' Bathrooms at School
TLDEF today announced that it has filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Division on behalf of a 6-year-old girl who has been barred from using the girls' bathrooms at her elementary school. For the past year, Coy Mathis, a first-grader at Eagleside Elementary School in Fountain, CO, has used the girls' bathrooms. In mid-December 2012, the Fountain-Fort Carson School District 8 informed her parents that Coy would be prevented from using the girls' bathrooms after winter break. The District ordered Coy to use the boys' bathroom, a staff bathroom, or the nurse's bathroom.
Coy was labeled male at birth, but has always known that she is a girl, and has expressed this since she was 18 months old. Since kindergarten, Coy has worn girls' clothing to school. Her classmates and teachers have used female pronouns to refer to her and she has used the girls' bathrooms, just like any other girl in her school.
The Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act prohibits discrimination against transgender students in public schools. Despite efforts to get the District to reconsider its decision, it has refused to do so. Coy's parents have removed her from school and are home schooling her until this Complaint is resolved.
"We want Coy to have the same educational opportunities as every other Colorado student," said Kathryn Mathis, Coy's mother. "Her school should not be singling her out for mistreatment just because she is transgender."
"By forcing Coy to use a different bathroom than all the other girls, Coy's school is targeting her for stigma, bullying and harassment," said Michael Silverman, TLDEF's executive director, and one of Coy's lawyers. "Through the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act, Coloradans have made it clear that they want all Colorado children to have a fair and equal chance in school," he added. "Coy's school has the opportunity to turn this around and teach Coy's classmates a valuable lesson about friendship, respect and basic fairness."
"We have five children and we love them all very much," said Mrs. Mathis. "We want Coy to return to school to be with her teachers, her friends, and her siblings, but we are afraid to send her back until we know that the school is going to treat her fairly. She is still just six years old, and we do not want one of our daughter's earliest experiences to be our community telling her she's not good enough."
In addition to TLDEF, the legal team representing the Mathis family includes Michael Flynn, Lucy Deakins, Jami Mills Vibbert, and Rosario Doriott Dominguez of Fulbright & Jaworski L.L.P.
For the latest information on Coy's case, including upcoming media appearances, please follow us on Twitter and "like" us on Facebook. We'll be posting the latest information there first.
Click for a slideshow of Mathis family photos.
Please donate today to help us fight for Coy's rights and the rights of children like her. Your support is critical to achieving a victory for Coy and transgender people everywhere.
The Supreme Court of Canada today issued an important decision about hate speech directed at queers.
The background to the case concerned four documents: two flyers, one called "Keep Homosexuality out of Saskatoon's Public Schools!" and "Sodomites in our Public Schools"; and two flyers which were the reprint of a classifed ad with handwritten comments added.
Under the Saskatchewan Human Rights code, it is illegal to circulate publications which "expose a person to hatred and ridicule" on a protected ground - here, sexual orientation.
So the big question for the court was: where does prohibited hate speech end, and where does freedom of speech begin?
The Supreme Court of Canada analyzed what a publication must be like in order to contravene the hate speech provisions. It said that there must be three main elements. First, the person judging whether the publication contains hate speech must do so from an 'objective' point of view, asking themselves whether a 'reasonable person, aware of the context and circumstances, would view the expression as exposing the protected group to hatred'. (In other words, you cannot only ask queers what they think about that question). Second, it is only hateful and contrary to the protections in Saskatchewan's human rights legislation if it is really hateful...in the sense captured by the words 'detestation' and 'vilification'. It's not hate speech just because it is repugnant or offensive. And finally, the decision maker must look to see what the effect of the hate speech is: is the probably effect that it will expose the targeted person or group to hatred by others?
The complainants had argued that the section of the human rights law under which they had been convicted was a breach of their constitutionally protected right to freedom of speech. True, said the Supreme Court of Canada: but, your right to freedom of speech has to be balanced against the right to be free from speech which is likely to cause hatred; and in this case, most of the human rights law is appropriate and impairs one's freedom of speech minimally.
Part of the Saskatchewan human rights legislation outlawed speech which "ridicules, belittles or otherwise affronts the dignity of" a person. That part of the law, said the Supreme Court of Canada, is too broad. And they struck it down.
This case has been long-awaited. Queers have been holding our breath to see whether the Supreme Court of Canada would uphold our right to be free from malicious homophobic speech, or whether once again our rights would be seen as subordinate to someone else's rights to free speech, or freedom of religion.
The post below is republished with the kind permission of Christin Molloy.
We expect similar changes to the Ontario ones to happen in BC shortly.
One upon a time, a legal change of sex was available in Ontario only to those Trans* persons who could prove with documentation that they had completed "transsexual surgery." Early in 2012, that requirement was found to be discriminatory in a human rights ruling. Consequently, the Ontario Registrar General was given six months to provide a new process for legal change of sex which would be accessible to all Trans* persons, as opposed to just "post-op" individuals.
The Registrar's office released their newly revised requirements in October, less than one week before their tribunal-imposed deadline was set to expire. As I reported then, the new requirements are grossly dissatisfactory for a variety of reasons.
In addition to the points I raised at that time, anyone under 18 is outright banned from having a legal change of sex (even if their parents are cooperative). This blatant form of age discrimination, targeting already disadvantaged Trans* youth, is a fact which I unfortunately omitted in my earlier piece on the topic. Thanks go to blogger Catherine (at ex puero ad puellam) for pointing this out.
As it turns out, the problems don't end there. I've received a very disturbing report which indicates the registrar is summarily rejecting applications based on nebulous requirements that are not published anywhere. Whether they are doing this on purpose or by mistake, the effect is the same.
When my source, "Illiana," had her application rejected (after a two month wait), she wanted to know the reason why. So Illiana emailed the Deputy Registrar General and requested an explanation, and was contacted the next day by a customer service rep from the specific department of the registrar's office tasked with verifying that applications are "complete and correct."
The first problem with Illiana's registration was relatively straightforward. "I didn't provide them with the birth certificate I was issued 20 years ago... (because it was) lost 15 years ago," she says.
In defense of the registrar, the change of sex form does say "please send ... all previously issued birth certificates and certified copies of the birth registration." Illiana's impression from the form was that since her certificate was long gone, there weren't any copies left to submit. However, what is really meant by the form is "must send," and "at least one copy." Indeed, when I legally changed my name (my parents lacking the foresight to name their son Christin), I actually had to first specifically order and pay for a replacement birth certificate, in my male birth name, only to then turn around and remail it back to the registrar to be destroyed as part of the name change process. Typical government efficiency.
Now, the legal sex change form isn't really as clear about this requirement as it could be, so we can easily forgive Illiana. Nevertheless, the requirement to send in the old certificate is reasonable (chalk it up to security). To the registrar's credit, rather than requiring Illiana to fork over cash for a replacement only to remail it back for destruction, the customer service rep advised her instead that she need only include a letter explaining that she isn't in possession of a birth certificate. Fair enough, lesson learned, she can re-submit her application and move on. Right? Not so much.
Turns out there were other "problems" with Illiana's application, revealing some previously unknown and gravely troubling barriers for Trans* persons trying to access this process.
"(The) next topic was that I didn't include a physician's letter," explains Illiana. The letter Illiana did include was written not by her medical doctor, but by her psychologist. It was therefore unsuitable, explained the CSR. What? The application form clearly states "A letter (on the medical professional's letterhead) signed by a practicing physician or a psychologist (including a psychological associate) authorized to practice in Canada."
Illiana explains, "(the CSR) said this had to be on letterhead of a physician certified by the college of physicians and surgeons Ontario." Unfortunately, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario does not certify psychologists; that would be a job for the similarly named, but distinct, College of Psychologists of Ontario.
This issue may have been simply due to miscommunication. However, best case, the rep is just confused, but is incompetently providing misinformation to Trans* clients. Worst case, the application form is actually erroneous, and a psych letter won't get your application through the process.
Admirably keeping her wits about her, Illiana pointed out the discrepancy to the CSR. "Nowhere is that criteria stated on the Service Ontario website... and the application form clearly states... psychologist (is acceptable)." Of the CSR's reaction, Illiana had this to say: "She seemed to relent, and I'm not sure whether she was trying to purposely mislead me, or she had no idea what the form read, or what psychology is."
Based on my own experiences with government bureaucracy, I find it most likely that the rep was simply in error... however, Illiana's reaction underscores the fundamental truth: Trans* people have little motivation to trust agencies of federal and provincial governments which - have - consistently - failed - them - at - almost - every - turn.
But wait, there's more.
That was not the only problem with Illiana's letter, the rep told her. In addition to the misunderstanding as to whether or not a psychologist's letter qualifies as a letter written by a "doctor or psychologist," apparently the registrar also disapproved of the particular phrasing in Illiana's letter. She explains, the rep told her "the letter isn't accepted without an explicit statement that the birth certificate change is 'male to female.' The Registrar rejected (my psychologist's) letter... because it only said that the birth certificate sex designation is incorrect as it is, and should be changed."
Really? The published guidelines given to Trans* people on the Registrar website, and on the application form itself, state that the text of the doctor or psychologist letter "c. confirms that the applicant's gender identity does not accord with the sex designation on the applicant's birth registration; and d. is of the opinion that the change of sex designation on the birth registration is appropriate." Illiana says her psychologist wrote "...the birth certificate sex designation is incorrect as it is, and should be changed." And the registrar's office canned it because it didn't use the magic words "male to female," a requirement which is not published anywhere.
Infuriatingly, Illiana further reports "(the CSR) also said that several other applications such as mine have been similarly rejected."
Are you kidding me, Registrar General? Since the Ontario registrar does not recognize non-binary identities, one wonders what could possibly be the source of confusion here. Especially given that the separate Statutory Declaration form, which must also be submitted in the same package, is explicitly filled out by the applicant with a request to change sex designation "from (fill in blank) to (fill in blank)". Illiana's read "male" to "female," and her existing birth record read "male," so it's not as if there was any potential for misunderstanding.
Regarding the entire debacle, Illiana suggests "I have doubts that the current published criteria are understood by the Registrar's office staff, and since they reject complete applications based on unpublished criteria, (they) are not honoring the ruling of the tribunal in good faith." Hear, hear.
Some clarity, and a post-nonsense happy ending for Illiana? Illiana is to be commended for challenging the transphobic discrimination she experienced at the hands of the Registrar's office. Whether it was caused by wilfully disruptive anti-trans staff, or perhaps just institutional ignorance, it is unacceptable regardless. Because Illiana had the courage to follow-up with a challenge, she was contacted soon afterward by the Deputy Registrar, Sandra Leonetti.
"She was very nice and explained that they are in a learning mode with regard to the new requirements, and I should resubmit the package with a letter stating that I don't have the long form birth certificate, and with the psychologist's letter that accompanied the original application."
That is a bit of good news for Illiana... As for anyone else who has had their application rejected under murky circumstances, you might want to get in touch with the Office of the Registrar General.
"After talking with Ms. Leonetti, I feel that she is sincere about providing fair service, including Changes of Sex Designation applications. I feel that not all people in the Registrar's office are up to speed on everything to do with the new process. I expect that things will improve with regard to application processing as the people in that office get better acquainted with what is really required."
It is a shame that the "learning process" at the Registrar's office has come at the expense of Ontario Trans* people. Let us hope that they get their staff training issue under control.
Have you had a similar problem? Anyone who would like my help, or who has a story they'd like to share, please contact me.
An Ontario transsexual woman won $22,000 in addition to back wages, for harassment she received from her employer while she was transitioning. She worked in the packing company as a shrink wrapper. Her coworkers treated her very disrespectfully; management did nothing.
The employer refused to let her use the women's washroom till she "proved" she was a woman; and wouldn't change her shift so she could avaoid harasssment in the men's changing room. Ultimately the manager fired her.
Vanderputten v Seydaco Packaging Corp  OHRTD No 1946
In a progressive judgement, the Federal Court of Canada has decided that there is an an obligation upon the Refugee Protection Division to specifically discuss why the Applicant, as a homosexual living in a place where it has been demonstrated that homosexuals are harassed, would not be subjected to persecution as she cannot live her sexual orientation openly. Some GLB refugee claims are thrown out because a person cannot prove that they are queer. Here the applicant proved that, and also proved that in her home country queers faced persecution. This is an important case because it says that it is up to the government to show she would be safe returning home, rather than up to her to demonstrate that she would be in danger. C.C.F. v. Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration),  F.C.J. No. 1346
Bill C-279, which passed second reading in June 2012, would amend human rights legislation to add 'gender identity' to the list of protected grounds. (While trans people have been consistently successful with human rights complaints on the ground of 'sex', adding 'gender identity' makes it clear to the public that transpeople are protected by human rights laws).
Christine Molloy reports that Calgary MP Rob Anders (Calgary West) has told his constituents and his church pastor that passage of the bill would allow 'transgender men' (he means transwomen) to have access to women's washrooms.
Jan Buterman, a trans advocate, and Christine Molloy both argue correctly that an objection to trans people using the washroom appropriate to their gender identity is based on the assumption that trans people are likely to act inappropriately in the washroom: a quintessentially transphobic argument.
Write your MP and dissociate yourself from these transphobic arguments; and tell your MP to support Bill C-279.
Lombardi's life at Midas Auto Services Experts was hell for Paul Lombardi, a gay man employed as a Service Advisor, after he was transferred to the Oshawa store in July 2008. He was taunted and harassed, including through text messages. Finally he blew up. Lombardi was fired on October 31, 2009, allegedly because he had got into a physical fight with a technician on the job. He filed a human rights complaint.
The Tribunal found that the conduct in the workplace included:
- harassment on the grounds of disability and sex, largely through text messages and remarks
- that the harassment and ongoing depression that resulted were partly responsible for the applicant’s involvement in the fight that led to his termination
The Tribunal held that the employer knew of the harassment, but had done nothing to deal with the situation.
The Tribunal awarded Lombardi $20,000 in general damages for pain and suffering, AND compensation for his salary, benefits and vacation pay from October 31, 2009, to August 31, 2010.
The lesson for employees: you should tell your supervisor if you are being harassed. The employer has a duty to investigate the situation and deal with the harasser (and NOT by transferring or demoting you out of the workplace!)
The lesson for employers: harassment between co-workers must be addressed immediately. There must be a zero tolerance policy. And if the employer finds out that one employee is harassing another, the employer must deal with the harasser, not transfer the harassee - otherwise, the harassee is being made to pay for the harassment.
(Ontario Human Rights Tribunal Decision: Lombardi v Walton Enterprises (c.o.b. Midas Auto Services Experts)
In a BC Human Rights Tribunal case, Guiget v NRI  B.C.H.R.T.D. No. 191, the employer requested that the tribunal dismiss the case because it could not succeed.The complainant, Ms Guiget, said that her coworkers called her "fucking dyke", and though she complained to her supervisor several times, nothing was done.
The tribunal refused to dismiss the complaint, which will now go to a hearing.
Employers ARE responsible for the conduct of their staff, and have a positive duty to maintain a harassment free environment. If you are being harassed at work, do the following
- keep a daily log of everything that happens, and your response. Be detailed; you may need this years later
- tell your supervisor or HR
- send your supervisor or HR an email "confirming the conversation" - this is so they cannot later deny that you told them about the problem. In the email, include what you said and what they said.
Angela Dawson is a transsexual woman who lived at. Atira Women's Resource Society. She was evicted by the society, and ultimately agreed to leave the residence. Atira's grounds for the eviction were that Dawson did not observe the non-violence rules of her agreement with the housing facility (which provides housing for women in the Downtown Eastside).
Later Ms Dawson said she had been harassed by other tenants; and filed a human rights complaint. But her complaint was dismissed even before a hearing because Atira produced affidavits (sworn statements) from tenants who complained about Ms Dawson, and about Atira's responses to Ms Dawson, but Ms Dawson did not have equivalent sworn statements. So the tribunal concluded that Ms Dawson could not possibly succeed at a hearing, and dismissed her complaint.
The take-away lesson for people who are harassed for being queer is that in order to be successful at a human rights hearing, you MUST write down everything that happens as it happens; you must bring the harassment to the attention of the managers/employer/landlord; and you must get witnesses who will agree to sign sworn statements about the treatment you received.
The same take-away lesson applies to societies, employers, or landlords: document situations and your response to them as the situation occurs, and be prepared to produce sworn statements from witnesses.
Dawson v. Atira Women's Resource Society,  B.C.H.R.T.D. No. 166
Christin Molloy has reported (http://chrismilloy.ca/2012/05/tobys-act-likely-to-become-law-in-time-for-pride-full-details-and-next-steps/) that "Toby's Law", the Ontario private members bill that adds "gender identity" and "gender expression" to human rights legislation in that province, has received all party support and is likely to pass very quickly.
B.C. queers may remember Toby Dancer, after whom the bill was named. Toby lived in Vancouver in the early 90s.
B.C. does not yet included gender identity or gender expression in its human rights legislation; however trans people have been successful in all of the human rights complaints that they have brought on the ground of 'sex' and/or, sometimes, 'disability'. So trans people are protected by the current law.