Monday, March 25, 2013

Transgender Identity

Warning: This post deals matter-of-factly with matters regarding sex, sexual intercourse, and human anatomy. If you are immature with regards to these matters, consult your parents before continuing.

On Wednesday, a private member's bill had its third reading in the House of Commons and passed the house with an 12-vote margin - and the votes of 18 Conservatives including four cabinet ministers. The prime minister, quite naturally, opposed it, along with most the rest of his party. The bill, C-279, is An Act to Amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code, with regard to the issue of Gender Identity. The full text is available through the link.

Christian, Buddhist, or somewhere in between, I think we can all agree that the greatest part about living in Canada is that our nation has a constitution that defends the right to free expression of religion. That means, among other things, that there's no real reason to go into any sort of religious dialogue when discussing human rights. The right to religion is already protected and nothing the government does can change your religious identity. For that reason, I'm going to avoid wading hip-deep into the theological implications of transgender politics and stick to the political side of things.

The English-Speaking world has conflated Sex and Gender for hundreds and hundreds of years. I happen to know that my employers don't distinguish between the difference and get very annoyed when you do. This is something that's so easy to understand, all you need is a concept of the mind and the body being separate - you need to have been alive for about a year, in other words.

Sex, strictly speaking, refers to the biological male-or-female-ness of an organism - the possession of the appropriate genetalia to perform the functions of the sexual act as is proper for that gender. In mammalian animal species, such as Humans, Cisgendered males have penises which are used to inject semen into the vagina, cisgendered females have vaginas with which to collect semen and wombs with which to bring forth offspring.

Gender is more psychological, and sociological studies suggest it's not the intuitive binary male-or-female we have come to expect. In an overwhelming majority of cases, those with male sexual organs exhibit gender identity closer to the masculine end of the spectrum and those with female sexual identity tend toward the feminine end of the spectrum. This is why the two terms are conflated, and it's also why we have terms like "butch", "sissy", "fruity", and so forth to describe individuals who stray too close to the middle, or opposite end, of the spectrum. It's also why terms like that are derogatory - humanity's social structure has, for hundreds of thousands of years, essentially reinforced the idea that homogeneity is good. Regardless of where you sit on the spectrum, if you think of your gender as being your sex, you're "cisgendered" and properly-aligned, and feel no need to change anything.

The root of the issue involved in trans identity comes in this way - some men and women tend so far toward the opposite ends of the gender spectrum that they identify as being a part of that end, regardless of their sexual identity. This is known as being Transgendered, and this is why some medical instutions began to develop increasingly sophisticated sex change operations - though undergoing such surgery is not always desired and, indeed, not a pre-requisite for being transgender. If you're curious as to the actual mechanics of being transgendered, ask a transgendered person you know, or use The Google.

In practice, this bill changes very little. Printed out in full and in both languages it is six pages long, with quite a bit of that being wasted white paper. All it does is establish legal definitions of the problem of gender identity, and establish both cisgendered and transgendered individuals as protected classes against discrimination and hate crimes.

It doesn't make it easier or harder to chemically or surgically transition from one sex to the next;
It doesn't spontaneously allow alterations to even civil marriage codes;
It doesn't infringe upon your right to religious freedom, regardless of how you feel your religion has informed your opinions on transgender identity.

The bill is up for its second reading before the Senate today. This would be a good time to establish a connection of some sort with your Senator and ask them to support Bill C-279.

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