Monday • 2012.06.11
The True Nature of Opposition to Toby’s Act (Christin Milloy’s Committee Deputation on Bill 33)
What follows is the written version of the oral deputation I delivered this afternoon (Monday, June 11th) to the Ontario Legislature’s Standing Committee on Social Policy, at Queen’s Park in Toronto. The committee met today for one afternoon to discuss Toby’s Act (Bill 33) in advance of its third reading (and anticipated passing) this Wednesday June 13th.
Good afternoon, my name is Christin Milloy, and I have come to speak in support of Bill 33, Toby’s Act.
Thus far, two primary arguments have been made in support of this bill.
- First, that the Human Rights Code exists with the stated purpose of protecting disadvantaged groups from discrimination on the basis of grounds which define those groups.
- Second, that trans and gender variant Ontarians collectively represent such a disadvantaged group, one which continues to be harmed by the omission of Gender Identity and Gender Expression as protected grounds in the Code. This is an inequality, and Toby’s Act is portrayed as a method of settings things right.
In and of themselves, these arguments constitute sufficient justification for passing this bill. These points have been well made, and so I need not belabour them. Instead, I wish to take this opportunity to explore the nature of opposition to Toby’s Act in greater detail.
In our culture, the notion of gender is tied inextricably with notions of sex, and of power. Humans are obsessed with sex and power, and humans often use sex and power as tools of coercion and control. Those who presently enjoy a greater degree of power within an existing system have a vested interest in maintaining that system.
It has become impossible to deny that trans and gender variant identities are a reality of the human experience. Even in the mainstream media, we have witnessed the widespread realization of this fact dawn on our cultural awareness. Jerry Springer style marginalization and ridicule has given way to positive media coverage of our inclusion in reality television series, politics, and beauty contests, as well as mostly positive fictional portrayals in mainstream television series.
Too often, our trans and gender variant identities are made the primary focus of this media coverage, but that is understandable. Our culture has found a new concept, a new toy to play with, and wishes to thoroughly explore its novelty by examining it from every conceivable angle.
The introduction of trans and gender variant identities into one’s world view complicates earlier, simplistic notions of male and female. Scientists, once certain that light consisted of either particles or waves but not both, now work to construct a unified theory to explain empirical evidence contradicting that earlier, simplistic view of the universe. It’s clear that trans and gender variant identities are at the bleeding edge of an analogous cultural phenomenon, where empirical evidence has emerged that causes conceptual barriers delineating male and female to blur dramatically. We are living to witness the de-construction of the gender binary.
Detractors and opponents to this phenomenon threaten a bleak unpleasant future world, where boring homogeneous humans go about their lives with inexpressive uniform hairstyles, in featureless jumpsuits, speaking in monotone to one another. They also often speak passionately about the destruction of traditional values, and of course, won’t someone please think of the children.
Of course, we’re not talking about the destruction of gender, but merely the dissolution of artificial limitations traditionally imposed on gender identity and expression based on sex. The future is not a world with only one haircut, one outfit, one manner of speech. It is rather a world where any person can choose of their own free will that haircut, outfit, and method of self-expression which one finds truest to one’s self.
Growth and change are critical to survival, and each goes hand in hand. Rather than the wholesale destruction of tradition, we will witness instead a gradual expansion of tradition, necessary to incorporate these new identities which, again, one cannot deny are a part of the reality in which we live.
Who stands to gain by resisting the recognition of these identities?
Those who resist learning about and accepting trans and gender variant identities behave much like children who do not wish to do their homework, and they make many of the same arguments. “It’s too hard. I already know enough to get along. I will never use this in my real life.”
We are all aware there is an analogue bill to Toby’s Act making its way through Federal Parliament right now. In both legislatures, some have argued that explicit recognition of these grounds is not necessary, “because they are already implicitly covered.” If this is the primary argument, it is easily refuted: if the grounds are indeed sufficiently covered implicitly, what would be the harm, then, in adding the grounds explicitly to eliminate the confusion? Those making the argument are consistently unable or unwilling to furnish a response.
It stands, then, to reason that the purported lack of necessity is merely a smoke screen excuse for a lack of support which is truly motivated by other factors.
As traditional definitions of Man and Woman become less clear over time, it grows increasingly difficult for members of one group to continue to maintain power over the other. Because legislative protections against discrimination based on sex are already well entrenched in Canada, those who would openly endorse patriarchal oppression have all but lost their tenuous grasp on their ability to discriminate overtly. I consider this a great cultural victory for all people, and a point of pride as a Canadian.
The proposed dissolution of gender barriers imposed based on sex, and the inevitable continuation of the trend against the traditional gender binary, threatens to complicate even implicit forms of gender based discrimination; and some people don’t like that very much.
Entities opposing the passing of bills like Toby’s Act should acknowledge their true motivations. To oppose this change is to preserve a system of power that oppresses. Resistance to this change would preserve tradition purely for tradition’s sake, at the pain and expense of many.
In the context of our planet’s ecosystem, diversity within a species is universally recognized by scientists as being key to the survival of that species. And yet somehow culturally, we tolerate forces that combat diversity, and seek to maintain existing power structures by preventing change. We are the only species that seeks to legislatively limit our own continued evolution.
With bills to the effect of Toby’s Act and C-279 currently under consideration in multiple jurisdictions in Canada, we have reached a crossroads. The long persistent history of both bills, as well as the notable existence of similar laws and protections popping up all over the free world, should serve as a strong indication that this sentiment is not going away–the turning of the cultural tide cannot be suppressed, and it should not be oppressed.
The archetypical cultural identity that best fits my personality, my emotional values, and my inner sense of being, is “female.” You cannot deny that I am a woman simply because peg A fits slot B. That is simply foolishness.
The structure of our society places the burden of deciding this issue on the legislators, into whom the electoral system, and to a lesser degree the voting members of the public, have invested the awesome authority and power of law. On Wednesday, each Member of Provincial Parliament must decide whether or not to support this bill with a vote.
To all those legislators who are already planning on voting “Yea” on Wednesday, please accept my profound gratitude, and congratulations on participating in this historic moment for Ontario.
To those legislators who privately support Gender Identity rights, but who may have political obligations to socially conservative constituents, please take note. Doing the right thing when it is not politically convenient, fulfilling one’s higher duty as a legislator, is the bravest act a politician can undertake.
And finally, to those legislators whose personal motivations may leave them finding Toby’s Act viscerally upsetting, please recognize and rise above your own learned prejudice, in deference to the rising tide of cultural awareness. Consider how history might remember this event, and choose the side of liberator rather than oppressor.
Note: I also attached copies of a previous piece to this written submission, The Economic Case To Support Ontario’s Bill-33 (Toby’s Act).