600 reasons why Canada needs to pass transgender rights laws

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      It’s 2011, and transgender people still aren’t explicitly protected under Canada’s human-rights laws. The Transrespect Versus Transphobia Worldwide project has compiled more than 600 reasons why this needs to change—now.

      On May 17—the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia—the Transgender Europe-backed research project announced that it’s documented 604 murders of transgender people reported since January 2008. The project has put data about many of these homicides—such as the shooting death of New Jersey’s Victoria Carmen White in September 2010—on an interactive map on its website.

      Brazil registers the largest number of killings of transgender people, at 247. The United States claims the second largest total, with 42 murders. Mexico and Venezuela each have 32 homicides. Many other countries on all continents, save for Antarctica, are home to reported killings.

      The TVT project notes on its site: “Yet, we know, even these high numbers are only a fraction of the real figures; the truth is much worse. While in several Middle and South American countries forms of reporting and monitoring exist, in most African countries this is not the case, making it extremely difficult to gain knowledge of murdered trans people.”

      It’s true—no reported murders of transgender people in Canada were documented by the project during this period. But that doesn’t mean transgender Canadians don’t need to be formally protected under our country’s human-rights laws.

      These murders around the world only hint at the discrimination faced in Canada by many transgender people, who are often at risk of being wrongfully dismissed from their jobs, evicted from their homes, and run out of businesses by scared, hateful, and sometimes-violent transphobic people.

      In the last Parliament, Bill Siksay, the now-retired NDP MP for Burnaby-Douglas, introduced legislation that would have added “gender identity” and “gender expression” to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination in the Canadian Human Rights Act. Bill C-389 passed third reading in the House of Commons by a vote of 143-135, but died in the Senate when the federal election was called.

      On May 26, Spencer Chandra Herbert, the NDP MLA for Vancouver-West End, introduced Bill M 207, which seeks to amend B.C.’s Human Rights Code in order to ensure protection from discrimination on the basis of gender identity and gender expression.

      Legislation like this is one step toward a society that embraces gender in all its diverse forms. Regrettably, there are politicians out there—including Prime Minister Stephen Harper—inclined to oppose transgender rights and equality whenever they get the opportunity.

      These politicians would do well to consider the root causes of many of these over 600 murders before casting their votes. And whether they really want to see Canada’s statistic become more than a zero.

      You can follow Stephen Hui on Twitter at twitter.com/stephenhui.



      Dana S.

      May 31, 2011 at 8:55pm

      Thanks for saying what needs to be said!

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      Heather Scott

      Jun 1, 2011 at 6:44am

      This does not count the number of suicides caused by desperation. Trans people are 25 times more likely to die of suicide because of the misinformation and mistreatment perpitrated by people who make a moral judgement out of a medical condition.


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      Jun 1, 2011 at 10:51am

      1st off - Yes! absolutley Canada needs to pass transgender protection laws. But 2nd...the logic of this article sucks. 600 transgendered people murdered is, i'm failry sure, a drop in the bucket compared to the millions upon millions of non-transgendered people killed. The article does not destinguish between the motivation for murders. Brazil records the most transgender murders. Well Brazil is a dangerous place. Also likely has a relatively high percentage of trangendered people. When lots of people get murdered, and lots of people are transgendered, likely a few of those murdered will be transgendered. It may be that there are a lot of murders motivated by the victim being transgendered, but these facts do nothing to prove that. Let's look a little deeper shall we.

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      Jun 1, 2011 at 12:17pm

      The article completely failed to explain the relevance of these murders. So 600 transgendered people were murdered, BIG DEAL. How is this even a story without context? How many heterosexual people got murdered since 2008, 500,000?

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      Jun 1, 2011 at 12:30pm

      There is no logic in this article at all. It is already quite illegal to murder someone in Canada, trans-gender or not, so how does a " trans-gender rights' bill decrease the murder toll? Trans-gender people and their supporters are not doing there cause any favours by rolling out weak and fuzzy arguments. Division of genders in public bathrooms and locker rooms exist for good reason.

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      Jun 1, 2011 at 1:06pm

      I did some quick math that puts the global murder rate for transgenders at about half of Canada's murder rate, meaning - VERY LOW.

      The article and website, with such specious, pointless data, prove that this is a non issue.

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      Victoria Stuart

      Jun 1, 2011 at 3:06pm

      Mike_davies et al.: your "quick math" (hmmph!) be damned. ... I agree, though, that proper reporting of these (or any crime) statistics requires factual information (e.g. the "denominators" from which the statistics are drawn), as well as context. The facts clearly are that statistics - properly surveyed - regarding transpersons are alarming, including prevalence of suicide / suicidal ideation, discrimination, and hate crimes including assault (verbal and physical), including murder. Regarding the latter, the most reasonable estimate (USA) is that 1 in 1,000 homicides involve transpersons - nearly 10-fold higher than the cis-gender population. I maintain a fairly comprehensive web page of transgender-related statistics from factual sources (all cited), at http://victoriasjourney.com/docs/Transgender_Statistics.htm, that includes Preface section which clearly indicates the need for explicit, legislated transgender (gender) identity protections.


      Victoria Stuart, Vancouver, B.C.

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      Mike Puttonen

      Jun 1, 2011 at 11:54pm

      Pass the laws--federal and provincial! It's a g.d. shame we haven't done so already.

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      Jun 2, 2011 at 11:50am

      I believe what the article failed to explain was these 604 murders were perpetrated simply BECAUSE the victim was transgender and for no other reason. Yes, 604 is a small number in comparison to the amount of cisgendered people murdered all over the world, but how many of those cisgendered people were murdered because their genitalia matched the identity people associated with their outward appearance? My guess would be 0.

      That is why it's crucial to have these specific laws in place.

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      R U Kiddingme

      Jun 5, 2011 at 10:29pm

      I don't like using stats to settle this argument because then you might wind up having to notice how many trans murders occurred in a sex work context, and then is the issue transphobia or the harrowing work conditions of street hookers?

      Rather than using the stats I would like to think that the argument should be about civil treatment for people who are civil. Game theory tells us that the best strategy for life is to be positive to everyone and be negative only if treated negatively. I think we can all agree more or less that how a person dresses is not grounds to assault them. I can be annoyed at how someone is dressed or confounded about their facial hair or bemused by their haircut, and vice versa, but we don't attack each other over this stuff. That's it.

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