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.

The gov’t giveth – sort of

Back in mid-April, the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal issued an order to the Ministry of Government Services, specifically the Office of the Registrar General, to find some other criterion for changing the gender on one’s birth certificate.  The Ministry was given 180 days to do this.  Until now, the only way was for the trans person to have gender re-assignment surgery and provide a certificate from the surgeon.  Someone who couldn’t have the surgery felt this was discriminatory and took the Ministry to the Human Rights Tribunal.   The Tribunal agreed and the result was the “you’ve got 180 days to come up with something else” ruling.

As it worked out, the 180 day period expired on Monday October 8, which was a holiday (Thanksgiving Monday) in Ontario.  Without any fanfare or announcement, the Ministry of Government Services quietly made the forms available on the government website on Friday, October 5. I learned of this through a friend’s posting last Saturday.  So, as I wrote (with abbreviation) in the title “the government giveth”.

Now, the “sort of”.  The requirements are extremely restrictive.

The applicant must be 18 years old and born in Ontario.

A letter from a “practising physician or psychologist” authorized to practice in Canada, and on the doctor’s letterhead. This letter must state the following:
 – the doctor is a member in good standing with the appropriate governing body.
 – the doctor has treated the applicant.
– the doctor must confirm the gender identity does not accord with the sex designation on  the birth registration.
– the doctor is of the opinion the change of sex designation is appropriate.

Now, some people don’t have a regular doctor who could affirm these requirements, so they wouldn’t qualify.  And if the person is a minor or not born in Ontario, they too would be shut out.  Oh yes – the doctor will have my letter ready next Tuesday.

The fee for this is $97.  That’s for processing the application, plus copies of the short form (wallet size) birth certificate and a certified copy of the birth registration.  Many trans people are either in low-paying jobs, or not working at all, so this fee is in itself another barrier to  them making use of this ruling.  And there is a Statutory Declaration to be completed stating that I’m the person named and I want to do this.  Naturally there is also a fee for having this Declaration sworn, so the total could be as high as $120, which may be beyond the means of many trans people.

So while the Ontario government did indeed obey the ruling of the Human Rights Tribunal, there is a sense of “I’ll do it, but I won’t like it” about the whole thing.  This is from the same government that, last spring, also passed a Bill guaranteeing trans people the same rights and privileges as the rest of the citizens of Ontario. Their actions on this would seem to belie that Bill.

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

Cat