Oh, Canada!

20120519-085106-gAs Wikipedia says, ‘Most Canadians believe [their] country to be a strong proponent and positive model of human rights for the rest of the world. For example, in 2005, Canada became the fourth country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide with the enactment of the Civil Marriage Act.’ But a piece of news today make me think that Canada has some way to go on transgender human rights.

British stand-up comedian Avery Edison had overstayed her visa on a previous visit to Canada and was detained by the Canada Border Services Agency last week when she tried to re-enter the country. Avery, who is transgender, is legally female; all her ID documents state that she is a woman. However, Canadian immigration officials thought it appropriate to detain her in a men’s prison. Read more here

Again, this case boils down to genitalia. If you have male genitalia, you are a man and must be kept segregated from women for their protection. Really? Do we really think that little of men that every single person with a penis is a danger to women? I am amazed that more men have not objected to this smear over the years. I assume the thinking behind it is based on the myth that men, fueled by testosterone, are unable to control themselves in close proximity to women.

This begs a question: what would Canada’s immigration authorities have done if Avery been FtM (female-to-male) with a passport that said M instead of F. Would the rules have worked in reverse? A great many FtMs elect to have top surgery but do not elect to have surgery to construct a penis because it is expensive, complex and not necessarily satisfactory. So, what happens to a transman in the same situation as Avery?

He has had gender alignment surgery but not to his genitals. OK, we’re obsessed with whether a transperson is pre or post-op. So, this is easy: post-op – put him in with the men! But all people with a penis are sexual predators and, in with the men, our transman still has a ‘port’ in which the other inmates can ‘drop anchor’. Put him in with the men and you put him at risk of being raped. Wait a minute, that might mean he takes his own life on your watch, and newspaper headlines, and law suits, and enquiries, and scapegoats…

Sorry, did we say ‘in with the men’? What we meant was that he has female genitalia so put him in with the women! But here’s the thing: while rape/sexual assault by women is rare, it is physically possible. If you believe all men are inherently dangerous because they are testosterone-fueled, you now have exactly the same level of male hormones walking around with your women prisoners in a transman as in a cisman and, even without a penis, the ability to sexually assault a woman. Think about it… Sure?

Sorry, did we say ‘in with the women’? We meant to say ‘in solitary’. Wait a minute, that might mean he takes his own life on your watch, and newspaper headlines, and law suits, and enquiries, and scapegoats…

It is a nonsense, and it stems from the nonsense view that everyone with a penis is a danger to women. As everyone knows, the vast majority of men are not sexual predators and are perfectly capable of ‘keeping it in their pants’. Owning a gun doesn’t make you a murderer. Only men who have a history of violence towards women should be considered a danger to women.

The same arguments apply when discussing whether a transwoman should be allowed to use the ladies toilets/changing room. Of course she should – unless she has a history of violence towards women. I would also point out that transwomen, being women who are taking hormones to suppress their natural testosterone levels in order to maintain their transition, are much less likely than even the most placid cisman to perpetrate a crime against women.

When it comes to toilets/changing rooms, I would like to see gender distinction removed altogether – I don’t see the need for it – and unisex facilities provided instead. But, if we still insist on segregation of genders, everyone who is legally a man should be with the men and everyone who is legally a woman should be with the women – simple. As I have just demonstrated, the question of whether someone who is transgender is pre-op or post-op is invasive and irrelevant.

As a society, we need to stop generalising and second-guessing people’s behaviour based on their sex/gender. The crimes of a tiny minority of sick individuals are being used to define the treatment of the majority. If we spent more time and money on systems that enabled us to accurately identify people who are a risk to the public and less on systems that are inherently inefficient because they are deliberately designed as a ‘catch-all’ to tick the box that says ‘we’ve covered our backsides on this one’, we would end up with a safer society for everyone.

Copyright © 2014 Liberation Publishing (www.liberationpublishing.co.uk)

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