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.
This is an interesting article from the CBC news website today. And while I find the circumstances upsetting I find myself unable to get too worked up over it. In Ontario, where I live, trans people are now protected by law from the kind of discrimination displayed by this shopkeeper. I can’t say whether the laws of Saskatchewan offer similar protections. I would suspect that even if not specifically spelled out, the Human Rights Commission of Saskatchewan would cover the situation. There is also a bill up for third reading in the House of Commons that would grant that protection federally.
My ambivalence in this is that while this lady does have the right not to be discriminated against, as guaranteed in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the shopkeeper also has the right to determine who she will and will not serve. Keep in mind this took place in a private establishment, not a public space. Of course, since the incident has now received national, if not international coverage, the possibility exists she will lose business from the adverse publicity.
The reason I don’t feel I can comment further than I did above is that since I first began to transition in 1996, I have never faced this kind of discrimination. In fact, I can’t think of a single incident of being refused service for being trans. Whether that I live in smaller communities rather than in a city like Toronto has any bearing on it I can’t say. Logically one would think I would have experienced less discrimination in a cosmopolitan area. Perhaps just my size – 5’11” without the heels – had a dampening effect on any potential problems. Or it could be that I was just careful about the establishments I’d frequent. Even when driving a cab nights, the only problems I ever had were two occasions when male passengers got too friendly with their hands. Both of them got left at the side of the road.
The shopkeeper was within her rights when she refused service to this lady, but the reason behind that refusal was not only wrong, but illegal.
Enjoy your day and remember to hug an artist – we need love (and freedom from discrimination) too.