A year ago, a friend shared a video on Facebook that showed a white man holding up a sign that read “I’m transphobic, I’m a racist, I hate women.”
I’d been following the controversy over trans women and women of color in general.
And it was, for me, an example of a transphobia that I could see in action, but also in the ways that it affected other people, especially people who were trans and who were living in Canada.
For instance, the woman in the video, who had been assigned female at birth and has lived as a woman for 25 years, told me that she’d heard about “the white trans woman in Canada who was in the hospital, and it was really triggering to me because it reminded me of what’s going on in my own life,” she said.
And then, of course, there was the case of another trans woman, a black woman in Toronto, who was killed in a hate crime in February.
“I think that it’s important for trans people and all marginalized communities to be visible, and to be part of the conversation,” said the Rev. Annette McGlashan, a Toronto-based minister who is transgender and has been a member of the Canadian Centre for Justice and Peace for decades.
“Because as a community we’re still being invisible.
We still have a long way to go.”
The woman in my friend’s video had been waiting for a doctor’s appointment, when she noticed a sign on the wall that said “Trans Health Centre.”
“I felt so scared,” she told me.
“How can you tell me what to do?”
“Trans health centre” refers to a gender-affirming, or gender-diverse, facility in Toronto.
Its website says its mission is to “provide accurate, accurate, respectful and culturally competent care, to ensure our members are well-informed and empowered to participate fully in our society.”
But its staff, who were trained in gender-neutral pronouns and referred to themselves as “gender non-conforming,” said that when they asked questions about the trans person’s gender, they were often met with confusion, and with “unnecessary, non-consensual, or non-valid” questions.
In a letter to the provincial government, the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) said the signs were placed on “a small number of locations” in the province.
They also said that they would look into how the signs are being used in the context of “the transgender community’s lived experience of discrimination, violence, harassment, and exclusion.”
The OHRC said that because there are “limited opportunities for trans health centres to operate in the LGBTQ community,” it would be “necessary” to consult the Ontario Transgender Health Network.
The OHCRC said it had “serious concerns” about the signs and that “we will continue to monitor and assess this situation as a matter of urgency.”
It also said the OHRC would ask the ministry to conduct a review of the signs.
The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care did not respond to questions from The Globe and Mail about the ministry’s response to the transgender community.
“Transgender people of colour have suffered from discrimination and violence at the hands of our government for decades,” said Karina Vos, the executive director of the Toronto Trans Collective, a local LGBTQ-focused organization.
“As trans people of color, we need to be able to speak up when we see transphobes using transphobe signs.
We need to know that the ministry is listening to us.”
For those of us who are living with gender dysphoria, the impact of being in a space where one’s identity is constantly threatened can be particularly devastating.
But for those who are transgender, the fear of being attacked is particularly severe.
“The trans community has a very specific experience of racism, and they are living in a society that treats us differently than everyone else,” said Debi Harkness, an LGBTQ-identified woman from Mississauga, Ont.
“They’re experiencing the worst kind of discrimination at the most critical moment.”
In April, Harknesses and her partner were beaten in front of their children by three men, who allegedly said, “You f—ing piece of s—.”
In a video posted to YouTube, Harkses said, “[They] told us, ‘You f–ing piece [of] s—, you piece of piece of f—.’
We were in shock.”
The attack, which Harkesses says lasted about 20 minutes, left her with broken ribs, broken teeth and bruises, and a fractured lip, as well as a black eye.
Harkings’ partner also had broken ribs and bruises and was taken to hospital for treatment.
Harksons said the attackers were yelling at her while they beat her.
“We’re just trying to protect our children, our kids are going to be hurt.
We’re just hoping