OTTAWA - Stephen Harper's Conservatives have declared themselves strong advocates for gay rights worldwide, but the prime minister's caucus is divided over a bill that would recognize some of those rights at home.
MPs are studying a private member's bill that would make it illegal to discriminate against transgendered Canadians and to disseminate hate on the basis of someone's gender identity or expression. Not all transgendered people are homosexual, but their issues are often represented within the gay and lesbian community.
Conservatives on the Commons committee handling the bill are split. At least two — Manitoba's Shelly Glover and B.C.'s Kerry-Lynne Findlay — have suggested they will vote in favour of the bill with some amendments.
With the support of the NDP and the Liberals, that means it will head back to the Commons, where it must pass two more key votes.
Glover, a former Winnipeg police officer, gave an emotional explanation Tuesday for why she wants explicit protection for the transgendered, describing how she saw cases of extreme brutality against some in the community.
"It is important that we embrace the notion that we invite other Canadians to feel that sense of belonging that this bill will give them," Glover said.
"When people say it's symbolic only, I disagree wholeheartedly. I want to see transgendered individuals feel they can go to a police service or a court, knowing that gender identity is in the Criminal Code and the human rights act."
The Canadian Human Rights Commission told the committee that the Canadian Human Rights Act should be expanded to include the prohibition of discrimination based on gender identity.
"This would promote acceptance and send the message that everyone in Canada should be treated with equality, dignity and respect," said Ian Fine, senior general counsel at the commission.
A bill that passed a minority Parliament in February 2011 did so without the support of most Conservatives. It died on the order paper when an election was called.
This time around it's gotten as far as the Commons committee, with the support of 15 Conservatives including Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, Labour Minister Lisa Raitt, Glover and Findlay. Nine other Tories abstained from a vote in June.
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird raises the rights of gays and lesbians repeatedly during his speeches, and has been an outspoken critic of discrimination. Immigration Minister Jason Kenney sent an email to some Canadians earlier this year explaining how his government was fighting for the rights of gay Iranian refugees. The subject line included the term "LGBT refugees," the 'T' standing for transsexual or transgendered.
But the transgender bill is for the first time testing the appetite of the Conservative caucus to support legislation directly involving the LGBT community. Because the proposed legislation is a private member's bill, MPs are able to vote on it as they wish, without having to toe any party line.
Some Conservatives have expressed concern that the bill might inadvertently shield pedophiles who lurk in bathrooms. Conservative MP Rob Anders posted a petition on his website warning against allowing transgendered men to use women's bathrooms.
Diane Watts, a spokeswoman for the socially conservative group REAL Women Canada, repeated the argument at committee Tuesday.
"This places females and children at a strong disadvantage and at risk since child predators can use the legislation as a pretence," said Watts.
Federal employers might be forced to pay the medical bills for hormone therapy and surgeries, and then have to reintegrate the employees into the workforce with some "social difficulty," she added.
NDP MP and bill sponsor Randall Garrison told Watts her comments were "offensive."
But even after she'd used up her allotted time, Conservative MP Robert Goguen asked Watts to continue reading a long description of how the bill could inadvertently extend protections for pedophiles.
Other Tories suggest the term "gender expression" is much too vague, something Garrison offered to delete from the bill. There are also MPs, such as committee member Brent Rathgeber, who argue that Canadian Human Rights Tribunal has already effectively extended protections to the transgendered under the provisions for gender and disability, making the bill redundant.
His caucus colleague Findlay disagreed, raising her experience as a former member of the tribunal.
"I know myself that just because a tribunal has already applied a case to a certain ground does not make it definitive," Findlay said.
The commission's Fine said it would still be important to clarify the issues under the law.
"The reality is that even though the courts have accepted that and we accept that, parties go before the tribunals and courts and raise arguments about whether they're included," Fine said.
"There are some Canadians who are not in agreement with that notion and are still fighting about it, and believe the protection is not explicit and shouldn't be covered by the other grounds."
Several members of the transgendered community attended Tuesday's Commons committee, and groaned or muttered quietly while Watts delivered her testimony.
Linda Slater, who was born as a man but spends two days a week dressed as a woman, said she's had the experience of being thrown out of a store because of the way she looks.
"After this I will have a recourse, and if it passes this will open the eyes of shopping centres and smaller stores that it's to their advantage not to make this an issue," she said.
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The Brazilian supermodel was discovered by Givenchy designer Riccardo Tisci when <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/lea-givenchys-transgender-star-brazilian-supermodel-undergoing-sex/story?id=11269995#.TsV9BGVPlcg" target="_hplink">he hired her as his personal assistant</a>. Soon after she became his muse and her modeling career began. She has been featured in high-profile fashion magazines like "Vogue Paris," "Hercules," "Interview," "Love," and "Cover."
Silveira is the lead singer of the band The Cliks. The Cliks made history as <a href="http://www.phinli.com/Talent/Profile/lucas-silveira" target="_hplink">the first band with an openly trans male leader</a> signed by a major record label, Tommy Boy Entertainment's imprint Silver Label. In 2009 he made history again as the f<a href="http://www.chartattack.com/news/78485/avril-lavigne-lights-tegan-and-sara-cliks-franz-ferdinand-sloan-win-in-15th-annual-year-e" target="_hplink">irst transman to be voted Canada's Sexiest Man</a> by readers of Canadian music magazine <em>Chart Attack</em>.
The son of Cher and Sonny Bono, Chaz publicly revealed <a href="http://www.tvguide.com/News/Chastity-Bono-Gender-1006849.aspx" target="_hplink">he was transitioning in 2009</a> and since then has been one of the most visible members of the trans community. In May he published his memoir, "Transition: The Story Of How I Became A Man," and this fall he was a contestant on "Dancing With The Stars" and was named one of <em>Out</em> magazine's <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/08/chaz-bono-shows-off-his-stubble-in-out_n_1082303.html" target="_hplink">100 LGBT people of the year.</a>
Richards is an ophthalmologist, author, and former professional tennis player. After transitioning in 1975, she <a href="http://www.tennispanorama.com/archives/9472" target="_hplink">was banned from playing in the U.S. Open</a> by the United States Tennis Association (USTA) because only biological women were allowed to participate in the tournament. Richards fought the ban and a 1977 New York Supreme Court decision ruled in her favor. She continued to play until 1981. This fall <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/27/renee-richards-film_n_854578.html" target="_hplink">a documentary about Richards's life</a>, "Renée," was released.
King was the first (and, thus far, only) <a href="https://www.facebook.com/isisking" target="_hplink">trans model to be featured</a> on the reality fashion competition "America's Next Top Model." She was seen on both the 11th and 17th "cycles" of the show.
In 2008 Thomas Beatie became famous when he revealed that he was pregnant with his first child. Soon after Beatie and his wife, Nancy, made headlines and he became known as "the pregnant man." The couple now has three children, all carried by Thomas, and he recently revealed that he is <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/31/pregnant-man-thomas-beati_n_1067326.html" target="_hplink">considering undergoing a hysterectomy.</a>
Marci Bowers, M.D.
Dr. Marci Bowers is a <a href="http://marcibowers.com/" target="_hplink">pioneer in the field of transgender transitional surgery</a> and is the first known trans woman to perform these types of procedures.. After practicing in Trinidad, Colo., which is known as the "sex change capital of the world" due to the high number of surgeries performed there, she moved her practice to San Mateo, California, in December 2010.
Cayne made history when she accepted a role on "Dirty Sexy Money" and became the first transgender actress to play a recurring transgender character in prime time. She's also appeared on "Nip/Tuck," "RuPaul's Drag Race," and "Necessary Roughness."
Kim Coco Iwamoto
In 2006 Iwamoto was <a href="http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,229937,00.html#ixzz1eCixXAuI" target="_hplink">elected to a position on Hawaii's state Board of Education</a> and became (at the time) the highest-elected transgender official in the United States. She <a href="http://hawaii.gov/elections/results/2010/general/files/histatewide.pdf" target="_hplink">ran for re-election in 2010</a> and won.
Kye Allums is the <a href="http://www.lgbtqnation.com/2011/10/lgbt-history-month-kye-allums-first-openly-transgender-athlete/" target="_hplink">first openly transgender athlete to play NCAA Division I</a> college basketball. He was a shooting guard on the George Washington University women's basketball team until this year when he decided to no longer play. Allums is now busy speaking about his life around the country.
Sylvia Rivera (1951 - 2002)
A veteran of the 1969 Stonewall uprising (some claim she threw the first heel), Rivera fought for the rights of all queer people, not just those who fit into more homonormative molds. Described by Riki Wilchins as "<a href="http://www.villagevoice.com/2002-02-26/news/a-woman-for-her-time/" target="_hplink">the Rosa Parks of the modern transgender movement</a>," Rivera founded Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries, or STAR, "a radical group that did everything from marching to setting up crash pads as an alternative to the streets," among other activist roles. Today <a href="http://srlp.org/" target="_hplink">The Sylvia Rivera Law Project,</a> which works to guarantee that all people are free to self-determine gender identity and expression regardless of income or race, and <a href="https://www.facebook.com/pages/SYLVIAS-PLACE/156906310002" target="_hplink">Sylvia's Place</a>, a NYC emergency homeless shelter for LGBT youth, both exist to honor Rivera's life and work.
Michael Dillon (1915 - 1962)
Dillon was the first person known to have transitioned both hormonally and surgically from female to male. A British writer, physician, philosopher, and Buddhist, Dillon penned several books including, "Self: A Study in Ethics and Endocrinology" (1946), "Growing Up into Buddhism" (1960), "The Life of Milarepa" (1962), "Imji Getsul" (1962), and numerous articles. He was in love with another famous transgender person, Roberta Cowell, but she did not share his feelings. He died in India -- where he had moved to study, meditate, and wrote under the name Lobzang Jivaka -- just days after sending his memoir, "Out Of The Ordinary," to his literary agent.
Cowell is the first British trans woman to undergo sex-reassignment surgery. She transitioned in 1951. Prior to that, she was a Spitfire pilot during World War II and a race car driver. Cowell, who was friends with transgender man Michael Dillon, transitioned a year before celebrated American trans woman <a href="http://www.transgenderzone.com/features/ChristineJorgensen.htm" target="_hplink">Christine Jorgenson</a> underwent surgery in Denmark. You can <a href="http://www.changelingaspects.com/Life Stories/Roberta Cowells Story.htm" target="_hplink">read Cowell's autobiography here</a>.
Sanchez worked tirelessly in the LGBT community before he became the <a href="http://www.examiner.com/transgender-transsexual-issues-in-national/diego-sanchez-trans-man-on-capitol-hill-works-for-passage-of-inclusive-enda" target="_hplink">first trans person to hold a senior congressional staff position</a> on Capitol Hill. In December 2008 he began working for Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) tracking LGBT, healthcare, veterans, and labor issues.
The <a href="http://katebornstein.typepad.com/" target="_hplink">writer, playwright, and performance artist</a> is the author of several seminal tomes on gender theory including 1994's "Gender Outlaw: On Men, Women, and the Rest of Us" and in 2006 she wrote "Hello Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks and Other Outlaws." She is currently at work on a memoir.
The world's first female-to-male porn star, Angel also works as an advocate, educator, lecturer and writer. In 2007 <a href="http://buckangel.com/bio.html" target="_hplink">Angel won the Adult Video News Transsexual Performer of the Year</a> award and was written into Armistead Maupin's "Michael Tolliver Lives," one of the novels in the "Tales Of The City" series. He has spoken around country, including an appearance at Yale University in 2010.
In 2011 Grodzka became Poland's <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/11/anna-grodzka-transgender-politician_n_1004840.html" target="_hplink">first openly transgender parliamentarian</a>. She is the third transgender MP in world history after the transsexual New Zealand MP Georgina Beyer, and the transgender Italian MP, Vladimir Luxuria, who has not had a legal sex change. Grodzka, who transitioned last year, secured a place in the Sejm, the nation's lower house of parliament. "Today, Poland is changing. I am the proof..." Grodzka said.
Billy Tipton (1914 - 1989)
Tipton was a saxophone and piano player and bandleader popular during the 1940's and '50s. He eventually settled down in Spokane, Washington, got married, and adopted three sons. It wasn't until after his death from a <a href="http://news.stanford.edu/stanfordtoday/ed/9705/9705fea601.shtml" target="_hplink">hemorrhaging ulcer</a> that Tipton's birth gender was revealed to his sons and the rest of the world.
Rasmussen became the <a href="http://www.sturasmussen.com/realityCheck.htm" target="_hplink">first transgender mayor in the United States</a> when he was elected to the office in Silverton, Oregon, in November 2008. He writes on <a href="http://www.sturasmussen.com/realityCheck.htm" target="_hplink">his website</a>: <blockquote>"I just happen to be transgendered -- something I didn't even know the word for until I discovered it on the Internet. I've been a crossdresser or transvestite my whole life, only 'coming out' recently and thereby discovering that life goes on very nicely."</blockquote>
Louis Gradon Sullivan (1955 - 1991)
In 1976 <a href="http://www.lousullivansociety.org/about-lou-sullivan.html" target="_hplink">Lou G. Sullivan began applying for</a> sex-reassignment surgery, but was rejected because he identified as gay. At the time, "female-to-gay male transsexuality was not recognized by the medical/psychotherapeutic establishment as a legitimate form of gender dysphoria at that time." After mounting a successful campaign to get homosexuality removed from a list of objections which served to keep interested candidates from undergoing surgery, Sullivan finally obtained genital reconstruction surgery in 1986. That same year <a href="http://www.lousullivansociety.org/about-lou-sullivan.html" target="_hplink">he organized FTM</a>, "the first peer-support group devoted entirely to female-to-male [transsexual and transvestite] individuals."