From the legal rights of same-sex couples, to the prevalence of women in power, Canada has historically blazed ahead of our friends south of the border in the progressive thought and action departments.
Now, with Donald Trump front and centre, the United States is clearly moving backward in time. Of course, the most recent – and perhaps the most shocking and despicable – is Trump’s ban on transgender individuals from joining the military.
Naturally, the move has been met with no shortage of backlash – from the commentary of late-night talk show hosts, to protests in major U.S. cities. One thing is for sure; it definitely seems like a particularly mind-blowing move to us Canadians. While we still have a ways to go on some fronts, we are one of the more progressive nations in the world when it comes to supporting transgender individuals, and the U.S. – and frankly, the world – should take a page from our book.
Here are just a few examples of the major moves Canada has made as of late.
Transgendered Individuals are Protected Under Law.
Perhaps most notably, this past June, new federal protections for transgender Canadians was finally set to become a law after a strong (but, sadly, not unanimous) show of support in the Red Chamber. The bill – which updates the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code to include the terms “gender identity” and “gender expression” – has been before Parliament for over a year. It makes it illegal to discriminate on the basis of gender identity and expression, makes it a hate crime to target someone for being transgender and will extend hate speech laws. The legislation now awaits royal assent. Overdue? Yes. But the fact that it’s happening is more than can be said for most countries.
Canada Issued an ‘Unknown’ Health Card to a Gender-Neutral Baby.
This past June, Canada made headlines for issuing an ‘unknown’ health card to a gender-neutral baby in B.C. The baby’s parent, Kori Doty, is a non-binary transgender parent who wants to raise the child genderless for the time being and is therefore fighting to have the now nine-month-old baby’s gender omitted from other government documents. The baby was born at Doty’s friend’s house in November, so a medical professional wasn’t there to record the baby’s gender. While Canada’s Vital Statistics Agency agreed to register the baby’s gender as ‘unknown,’ it is refusing to issue a birth certificate for the child, as currently (key word: currently), the Vital Statistics Act requires a birth certificate to specify sex.
Ontario Has Plans for Gender-Neutral Birth Certificates.
The good news is that we’re closer to making gender-neutral birth certificates a reality. In May, it was announced that gender-neutral birth certificates could be issued to Ontario residents wanting them as early as next year. While the move comes with no shortage of red tape involving other governments, consultations are underway this summer as Ontario works to ensure a gender-neutral birth certificate that would be legally recognized in other jurisdictions. The hope is to make these a reality by 2018 – because it’s safe to say that gender-neutral babies are not a disappearing trend.
A Canadian Transgender Inmate Was Transferred to a Female Prison.
In a historic first, in June, Canada’s federal prison service approved the first transfer of a transgender inmate to a correctional facility based on gender identity as opposed to biological anatomy. Fallon Aubee – who had been the victim of harassment and physical abuse at the previous institution – had been serving a life sentence at B.C.’s Mission Institution before her request to be transferred to Fraser Valley Institution for Women had been approved. This will undoubtedly blaze the trail for other trans women who find themselves behind bars.
We Made Baseball History with the First Pitch by a Transgender Individual.
In June, Rachel Lauren Clark – a transgender woman who is the board secretary for Pride Toronto and an award-winning transgender activist – threw the ceremonial first pitch before the Toronto Blue Jays took on the Baltimore Orioles during Rogers Centre’s Pride Night. She became the first trans person to do so in the history of the major league. If that doesn’t make a hard-hitting statement in a traditionally male-dominated sport, we don’t know what does.
Canada Embraces Transgender Troops.
Not long after Trump hit Twitter to announce the new ban, the Canadian Armed Forces took to Twitter themselves to promote a very different approach to recruitment. “We welcome Cdns of all sexual orientations and gender identities. Join us!” reads the tweet. Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan’s spokesperson Jordan Owens said that the government is building a defence team that “reflects Canadian ideals of diversity, respect and inclusion.” The National Defence continues to work to update the Canadian military’s transgender policy, which first came into effect in 2012 (four years before the U.S. ended the ban on transgender people serving openly in the military).
As time goes on, we can only expect new laws, considerations and adaptations when it comes to the inclusivity of transgender individuals. We’re already making international headlines on the matter – let’s make some more.