Transgender activists speak out - Say they are not protected under the provincial Human Rights Act

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James Moriarty

By Flavio Nienow

Special to The Telegram

“Powerless is a word that a lot of people in this room can relate to,” said transgender activist James Moriarty, the keynote speaker Friday at the International Day Against Homophobia breakfast in St. John’s.

Under the Human Rights Act, people are protected based on certain grounds such as gender, political opinion, religion and race, but there’s no specific protection outlined for transgender people.

“Until that happens, we’re at a huge disadvantage,” said Moriarty.

Gerry Rogers, the NDP MHA for St. John’s Centre and a transgender issues activist, agreed, saying “there’s no good reason not to go forward with this.”

“Transgender people are among the most bullied people in our society,” she added.

Statistics from a survey of schools by  the Canadian organization Equality For Gays and Lesbians Everywhere (EGALE), show that 74 per cent of trans youth have been verbally harassed about their gender expression, and 37 per cent have been physically assaulted.

In Canada, Ontario, Manitoba, Nova Scotia and the Northwest Territories have included gender identity in their Human Rights Code.

“Newfoundland is lagging behind,” said Rogers. “It’s something that we have been pushing and lobbying for.”

Rogers said she presents a petition in the House of Assembly “at least once a week” asking to include the grounds of gender identity in the Human Rights Act.

In 2010, the Newfoundland and Labrador Human Rights Commission made a submission to the provincial government asking that  transgender be included as a specific prohibited ground in the Human Rights Act, said the commission’s executive director, Carey Majid.

“The government, for whatever reason, chose not to do it,” she said.

The Department of Justice says the Newfoundland and Labrador Human Rights Commission accepts complaints related to gender identity issues based on gender grounds, and that “currently, there is no gap in the province’s legislation regarding complaints related to gender identity and gender expression.”

EGALE recently began a project in  school districts in Newfoundland and Labrador and has found transgender youth in “every region of the province,” said EGALE’s executive director Helen Kennedy.

“Trans people are brothers, sisters, lawyers and even our politicians,” said Rogers. “They have the right to full protection under the law.”

Gender identity is not yet covered by the Canadian Human Rights Act. Bill 279, the gender-identity bill recently passed in the House of Commons, is currently being debated by the Senate, said Kennedy.

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Recent comments

  • barbara findlay
    May 21, 2013 - 14:15

    It is very important for gender identity and gender expression to continue to be added to provincial and federal human rights laws, because it makes the existence and the protection of trans people visible. But trans people should be aware that even WITHOUT those words, they can file successful human rights cases about discrimination against trans people, using the existing ground of 'sex'. All of the trans cases in Canada fought on that ground have been successful(Some of the cases were lost for other reasons).

  • Jacqueline Carey
    May 21, 2013 - 09:48

    I find the negative, uninformed comments in this article the most scary thing of all. Being trans* is so much more than a 'feeling.' Years ago, I didn't know much about the trans* community and I still have a long way to go but I'm trying to learn. The more I learn, the more myths that get busted and the more I want to help. What I do know forsure is that trans people are PEOPLE and all people deserve basic human rights. If we don't fight for all people to have these rights, then we are failing as a society. It doesn't even matter how a person feels about this issue in particular, because we are heading toward a slippery slope if we start saying that only some humans deserve human rights. I encourage all people to learn more about the "T" in LGBTQ. If you keep your minds open and ask questions and do some research, you will come to know that being trans* is very real. I commend Gerry for all that she does around this issue. I've also decided to put my full, real, name by my comment as I think these sites that allow us not to do that promote bullying and inappropriate comments from folks hiding being their computers and a false name. I am a trans* ally and I am proud of the folks out there advocating for a very vulnerable part of our society.

  • Jennifer McCreath
    May 19, 2013 - 07:32

    It's nice to see other transfolks and allies stepping up to the plate to speak out. For many years, it appeared that I was the only transperson doing this. As your article states, there are transfolks all over the province and many of them have or are facing various human rights obstacles. It's a shame we have to spend so much time fighting for basic rights such as health care access and freedom from employment discrimination, freedom from housing discrimination, freedom from violence, bullying and ridicule, etc. Contrary to popular myth, transfolks are generally well educated people who suffer from chronic underemployment. there ARE gaps in the legislation and i believe my Human Rights case last year proved that. I really hope the Liberals and Conservatives will get up with the times on this. Human Rights need to be a universal matter, not a political pawn matter. Kudos to James and Gerry for speaking out this week!

  • melanie stewart
    May 18, 2013 - 18:56

    Not "she". This is an article about trans* awareness - it's in the damn title. Check your pronouns and edit your articles, telegram.

    • Don
      May 19, 2013 - 11:28

      The only use of "she" in this article is in reference to Gerry. Gerry identifies as a women, and supports transgender rights, but she does not identify as transgendered herself. So, "she" is the correct term. If it was in reference to James, you might be correct. "He" or "Ze" would be the preferred pronoun - depending on how James wishes to be identified.

    • jennifermccreath
      May 19, 2013 - 12:01

      the 'she' appears to reference Gerry Rogers, who is not a trans identified person, but a publicly-out female lesbian.

  • ClearSkies
    May 18, 2013 - 15:48

    What are all you sympathizers going to do when somebody wants to become a sheep? This is a bunch of bunk and should not have any attention paid to it.

  • Paul or Paula
    May 18, 2013 - 13:34

    Political correctness and all BS aside, there is definitely something askew here.

  • Leslie
    May 18, 2013 - 12:29

    DNA is not "gendered" per se, it is hormone production at about the five week period that determines biological sex. Gender is exclusive from biological sex, studies show.

  • jarge
    May 18, 2013 - 10:17

    If I might say so, when we are born our DNA is male or female, one or the other. It cannot be changed.

    • Cher
      May 18, 2013 - 14:48

      Totally's male or female. The changes that such people like Gerry Rogers want to make in society are very scary. Being gay is one thing but to "change on paper" whether a man feels he is a woman; and or a man wants to dress in drag to feel better inside...or a woman wants to dress like a man to feel empowered...gender-identity is just that...A FEELING...not the sex/gender of a person! Why did Gerry Rogers go into politics in the first place I wonder...was this her main objective? Scary times with people like her in the House.

    • Don
      May 19, 2013 - 11:31

      You would be absolutely correct if this was an article about biological sex. This story, however, is about gender - a social construct.

  • Tony
    May 18, 2013 - 08:53

    This is the NDP's main focus, to hell with the economy! Yeah I can imagine where we would go if they ever got in government! It's actually a scary thought!!

    • Nana
      May 18, 2013 - 12:36

      It sounds like someone is feeling a little threatened.

    • Gg
      May 18, 2013 - 15:50

      Re that the best you have to say!

    • Tim Jamison
      May 19, 2013 - 08:12

      Not having a job is an extremely threatening prospect

    • Don
      May 19, 2013 - 11:35

      And politicians are not permitted to address two different problems at the same time? Does support of human rights for all citizens conflict with the management of our economy? Sorry you feel threatened by gender issues - but it is impossible to read your comment without dismissing it as an example of simple-minded bigotry.

    • Jimmy
      May 20, 2013 - 01:42

      Imagine not being able to get a job, or protest the grounds of your dismissal because you're not protected under the human rights act. Bet that would suck, eh?