A very fine line

There can be a very fine line between free speech and hate speech but there are times when it can be difficult for the audience to determine whether the speaker crosses that line. In some cases, the listener’s perception is shaped by their personal views on the topic being discussed.

Last week a woman named Megan Murphy spoke at a public library in Toronto, and then later in the week, spoke at a venue in Vancouver. Both events were met with protests by the LGBT community regarding the content of her speeches. From what I could find on the website for her magazine, it appears she is very anti-trans, if not anti-LGBT in general.

Full disclosure here: I’m a transwoman. According to Ms Murphy, I am therefore not a woman by any definition. From articles I’ve read, she persists upon misgendering transmen and transwomen. But what really upsets me about her attitudes and pronouncements is that she has stated that when Ottawa passed Bill C-16, which, in essence, made trans people equal, in all ways, to the rest of the population, it diluted the rights of ciswomen. I could find nothing on her site to support her claim.

I spoke with two women on this issue. One said that I now had the same rights as she, and it in no way weakened her legal protections. The other said the following: Giving trans women, or trans people in general, doesn’t take away my rights; in fact, it does the opposite, because by pushing for the rights of another group of people, I am pushing for the rights of ALL people.

There you have the views of two women, one an artist and one a chef. That I now enjoy the same legal protections – and by extension, the same responsibilities – as do they, makes no difference to their lives.

Members of the transgender community already face discrimination on a frequent, if not daily, basis. There is enough violence directed toward the LGBT community and we don’t need people like Megan Murphy stirring up more animosity toward us, which her views have the potential to incite.

I have always been a proponent of free speech. It is because of that right I’m able to write some of the things I do in these blogs. At the same time, I am aware that using that right can be a balancing act because, as I wrote above, the perception of the reader can determine whether or not my words are hateful, or just mean-spirited. In my opinion, if Ms Murphy wasn’t guilty of hate speech in her presentations in Toronto and Vancouver, she was certainly skating very, very close to that fine line between free speech and hate speech and needs to be taken to task for her words and actions.

Cat.

Echoes from the past

I just watched a documentary on PBS called “The Lavender Scare” which began during the Eisenhower era. Much like the House Un-American Committee led by Joseph McCarthy, which rooted out Communists in government (the “Red Scare”), this group was devoted to uncovering homosexuals in government positions. Thousands lost their jobs over perceived “deviant” (their word) behaviour. It wasn’t until 1995 that President Clinton signed an order banning the practice.

Based on current events I see echoes of this, beginning with the banning of trans people from the military. I don’t think it will end there, at lease not with the current administration. This is a pessimistic view I know, but has been shown in the past couple of years, there doesn’t appear to be any depth to which they will not sink.

While not on a governmental level, such discrimination does occur in Canada. In the sixties and seventies, I worked with two people at different times who were fired for being gay. In the late ‘90s, I lost a job for being trans. I wasn’t fired outright, the company just made it impossible for me to do the job. At the time, I worked in a position that required a government licence. After I came out to my employer, when the licence was due to be renewed, they declined to give me a new application and when I insisted, they did, but then refused to submit it to the appropriate government body. The Human Rights Tribunal had fun with that one.

So even though the “Lavender Scare” is officially over, it continues in a lighter shade.

Cat.

You need to worry about this

In late November 2018, I was asked by my doctor if I could be available for media interviews in late January. St Michael’s Hospital in Toronto had conducted a study of 120 trans people and found that, on average, trans people were 60% less likely to get screened for any form of cancer. The interviews with CTV network and Canadian Press were held this past Monday, January 21 and were related to the release of this study. The study itself was released on Wednesday January 23.

in my remarks, I stated that in my view, there were two main reasons for such a low screening rate. The first of these is a lack of training on the part of the medical profession. As I’m sure my trans readers are aware, many doctors and nurses have little or no training in trans health issues. Here in Ontario it is possible to change the gender marker on identification documents without having had any surgery. So, given that documents show one gender, and the appearance of the patient matches that identifier, the caregiver may not consider screening for certain types of cancer. For instance, if faced with what the documentation and appearance indicates “male”, the caregiver may not know the person in front of them was born female and consider screening for cervical cancer.

Again, if a transwoman is present, the idea of screening for prostrate cancer may not be considered.

The second problem lies within the trans population itself. I know that we are under pressure, often self-imposed, to blend in, or “pass” as our correct gender. The one place that can be a detriment is in our health care. First, let me state I’m fortunate in that my caregiver at St Mike’s is well-versed in trans medicine. Others may not have that luxury. If, as happens, you changed doctors after you transitioned, unless you’ve had a full physical exam with this new doctor, they may not be aware you were not born as you now present. And they won’t know this unless you tell them. I know that advice is probably not want you want to hear, but we’re talking about something that may save your life so maybe – just this once – you could break down that barrier you’ve erected between now and the past.

This is something you really do need to worry about.

Cat.

I’ve had trouble in the past posting links on WordPress, so if you want the links to both the televised interview and the print interview, just ask and I’ll provide them in a response to a comment.

C.

Don’t call me that

I did not set out intending to become a spokeswoman for anything or anyone. But over the past couple of months I’ve been involved in two separate events in which I’ve been called an advocate.

In both cases, my doctor asked me to take part in these events, and I agreed, so I knew what was coming. The first of these was a “health equity boot camp” put on by St Michael’s Hospital in Toronto. My doctor thought I’d be perfect for this one since I am both a senior and trans. As usual at these things, everyone wears a name tag. Mine also contained the notation “patient advocate”. The second, again through St Mike’s, was a study on cancer detection in trans people. I met with them and was once again identified as an advocate.

Here’s the thing: I don’t consider myself an advocate of any kind. In each case I made it clear at the outset that I spoke only for myself and did not represent any group or organisation. I’m in my mid-seventies, trans as I said above, and have strong opinions which I don’t mind sharing, usually in my blogs. But how can one person speaking strictly from a personal perspective be considered an advocate?

Here’s the definition of “advocate” from the Oxford University Press dictionary: advocate >noun 1 a person who publicly supports or recommends a particular cause or policy. 2 a person who pleads a case on someone else’s behalf. 3 Scottish term for barrister. Obviously that third definition is not me. As for the other two, I suppose if you squint really, really hard, you could fit my participation in those two events into one or both of those definitions. Even if you could, you’d have a hard time convincing me.

I’m reasonably intelligent and keep up with events in general and especially those that affect the trans community for they could, and often do, affect me. But the only policy I support or recommend is one that will make my life easier (I know, that sounds selfish of me.). Did I plead on behalf of someone else? Not intentionally, but if something I said in either of these events can benefit someone else, great.

Perhaps I’m being wilfully blind, but I fail to see how speaking up for myself can be considered being an advocate. Yes, my doctor recommended me for these two events because, to use her words, I hold strong opinions and I’m well-spoken. And yes, my best friend tells me I’m an advocate because I’m not afraid to speak out and she wishes I’d do it more often.

If my actions make me an advocate, well that’s your opinion.   But please, please, don’t call me that. I’ll probably laugh at you.

Enjoy your day and remember to hug an artist – we need love too.

Cat.

Submissions wanted from LGBT and HIV communities

I’m a transwoman and my co-writer, a positive woman, are working on a project detailing how society treats members of the LGBT and HIV/AIDS communities at the various stages of our journeys. A few years ago, I spoke with a psychologist at CAMH in Toronto who thought such a book would be a great benefit to them in their work.

We have our own experiences to draw on, but would like to hear other people’s experiences. No names will be used in this and any submissions will be checked to remove any clues that might give away your location. For example, if a submission from Toronto refers to “streetcars”, that would be replaced with the term “public transit” and any route names or number removed. Additionally, specific cities will be removed and replaced with either the name of your province or state, or a more generic term such as “midwest” will be substituted. We will do everything we can to protect your identity.

We both have friends in the LGBT and HIV/AIDS communities, so can call upon them for information, but that would be quite localized in scope. We need to hear from others, not just in Canada, but from anywhere. We especially would like to hear from transmen, for their experiences would no doubt be much different from my own. If you have generally found acceptance, great! Please tell us for that may give those just starting their new lives hope that things will get better. If you’ve experienced discrimination, or worse, please share that as well. Others need to know what pitfalls and danger may await them. Either way, we would like to share your story.

If you are willing to share your journey, you can send it to us at the following email address: 1outcastsofsociety@gmail.com Please remember the “1″ at the start of the address as the address without the numeral is taken.

Thank you,
Cat.

Bring him to justice – comment response

The following is a comment on “Bring him to justice – one step closer”:

Any word on this reprobate? This monster needs to be brought back to face justice. I understand the concern for his victims, but is it okay for him to get away with what he did and not have to pay in anyway? Does he have the right to live a free man in Jamaica while his victims have to live with what he did to them? Shouldn’t he pay for his crimes? If he gets away with what he has done, it sends the wrong message to others who may be infected with HIV and think they have the right to privacy. I think he needs to pay so it sends a loud and clear message to others.

Rather than respond directly to the writer, I felt it would be better to respond this way, for there is much to say on this.

This monster needs to be brought back to face justice. First, there is no further news on his return. I’ve been told through sources that his lawyer has filed suit against the Jamaican Minister of Justice claiming Flowers’s rights were violated by some action of the Minister. Until that case is heard, no further action on the extradition can happen. I know, I know. It doesn’t make me happy either.

I understand the concern for his victims, but is it okay for him to get away with what he did and not have to pay in anyway? No, it certainly isn’t okay for him to get away with what he did. But, look at it from the victim’s point of view. After their encounters with Flowers, many of these women were ostracised by their friends and in some cases, family. Some of the fortunate ones were able to either rebuild their lives or re-invent themselves with a new circle of friends who know nothing of the past. When (or if) this goes before a Canadian court, whoever Flowers retains to represent him will rip these carefully constructed lives to shreds, once again making these women victims.

Does he have the right to live a free man in Jamaica while his victims have to live with what he did to them? Shouldn’t he pay for his crimes? Well, he isn’t living as a “free man”. He is in a Kingston jail and as I understand it, he is in segregation so no, he doesn’t have the right. In the (extremely unlikely) case the Jamaican courts see fit to overturn the extradition order and release him, he will find his troubles have only started. Jamaica consistently ranks among the top of lists of the world’s most homophobic countries. Gays and trans people are frequently beaten and killed just for being who they are. If word gets out that Flowers, walking the streets of Kingston or any other Jamaican area, is HIV positive, or has AIDS, his taste of freedom may be brief indeed. And as this case has been covered in the Jamaican media he would find it difficult to conceal his identity.

If he gets away with what he has done, it sends the wrong message to others who may be infected with HIV and think they have the right to privacy. Back to what I wrote earlier, if he does face Canadian justice, and his lawyer does succeed in destroying the lives of the witnesses, what kind of message does it send then? Perhaps it would have the effect of keeping others from coming forward to authorities from fear of exposure in the media.

Cat.

We’re all stressed

Last night I watched a programme about the fatal collision Bruce/Caitlyn was involved in back in 2015. I can’t say when this actually aired, for I recorded it for one of those “I can’t sleep so let’s see what I’ve recorded” nights.

At one point, they had a segment with a psychotherapist – actually they had many segments with her discussing the situation – during which she said that part of the reason B/C hit the vehicles in front was that he was distracted by transitioning in view of the public. This comment caused me to exhaust my abusive vocabulary.

Granted, being part of the Kardashian circus places extra scrutiny on B/C during the transition (and that horrendous “I am Cait” didn’t help), but c’mon now – we all transition in public. We don’t go around having collisions with whatever vehicle we’re driving and some other object. Well, not unless we’re perhaps under the influence of some intoxicating liquid we don’t. Many if not most of us can’t afford to hide away in our dwelling place, only venturing out at night for bread and milk or, heavily disguised, to visit doctors, until we think we have transitioned enough to feel comfortable in daylight.

If the psychotherapist’s comment was intended to elicit sympathy for B/C, it may have worked with people not familiar with the reality, but for those of us actually going through it, it gave us a chance to exercise our command of gutter English. Does this psychotherapist not think that any person transitioning feels stress and strain? Does she not think that for some of us, doing what we do in public can be tantamount to an invitation to violence? Does she think that for people who aren’t celebrities it’s all sunshine and rainbows? Or is she only concerned with finding an excuse for why B/C was driving too fast for the conditions and consequently hit one vehicle and pushed it into oncoming traffic, then hit a second vehicle?

Listen, sweetheart, every person on this planet is under stress and strain of some kind. For many of those people the reason may not be obvious but for trans people, the reason can be highly visible. So please don’t use the fact B/C claims to be transgender to excuse his/her involvement in a fatal traffic collision.

Cat.