Content warning: transphobia
On Jan. 29 of this year, a Quebec Superior Court ruling declared six provisions of the province’s Civil Code unconstitutional and discriminatory against the 2SLGBTQIA+ community. In response to an order by Quebec Superior Court judge Gregory Moore, Justice Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette proposed Bill 2 at the Quebec National Assembly on Oct. 21. Though the bill was intended to revise the Civil Code’s sections on 2SLGBTQIA+ issues in accordance with the Superior Court ruling, Bill 2 has been widely criticized for being regressive and has thus been tabled while awaiting public consultation.
Three McGill groups—the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU), Queer McGill, and the Union for Gender Empowerment (UGE)—have formed a coalition under the leadership of Queer McGill’s Trans Working Group to advocate against the bill.
The McGill Coalition Against Bill 2 opposes the distinction between sex and gender on legal documents that Bill 2 would implement, as it will automatically “out” individuals whose gender identity differs from their sex assigned at birth. The coalition also objects to the bill’s proposal to require surgery to change their sex on their birth certificate, because it creates pressures to undergo a sterilizing procedure and assumes that sex defines gender identity. The coalition also protests a section of the bill that would designate a male or female sex to intersex newborns, heightening the risk of surgical intervention on infants.
Arwyn Regimbal, U1 Social Work and a member of the coalition, feels that Bill 2 is a misguided response to the Superior Court ruling that provoked it.
“Reading the judgement and comparing it to the bill, you can see that there was some intention to negate rights,” Regimbal said in an interview with The McGill Tribune. “[Bill 2] interprets the judgement in such a narrow way that on the surface it technically complies with it but when it comes to the spirit of what is being done, it’s quite regressive and actively harmful.”
Cal Pease, U3 Science and resource coordinator for Queer McGill, explained that the coalition intends to fight Bill 2 through a three-pronged program that raises awareness, provides resources to those affected by it, and demands changes be made. The coalition has also been advocating for a wider condemnation of sections 23, 24, 26, 30, 33, 41, 42, 43, and 247 of the bill, including putting pressure on the McGill administration to issue a statement.
“We call on McGill to publicly denounce these sections of the bill and [to] take a more active stance against transphobia,” said Pease in an interview with the Tribune. “I think a lot of the advocacy on campus is coming from a grassroot perspective, which is wonderful, but it would be good to have that reflected in the administration as well and [to] have [their] support.”
Yara Coussa, U3 Arts and arts representative to SSMU, echoed Pease’s frustration with McGill’s silence. Coussa believes that McGill’s inaction demonstrates compliance with transphobia.
“No statement, no message of support,” Coussa said in an interview with the Tribune. “Even if [McGill] did not want to be overtly political, they could have sent out a message of support for trans people. That has not been done.”
Despite the absence of a comment on the bill or statement of support from McGill, the coalition is committed to providing resources for the transgender, intersex, non-binary, and other gender-diverse communities on campus.
“We have been coming up with various resources and putting them together on a website,” Pease said. “Arwyn made a flow chart about changing your name and sex in Quebec for people who are interested in doing that now, in case the bill takes effect. We are also trying to direct people to the resources that already exist on campus like Queer McGill and UGE.”
If you would benefit from support at this challenging time, please note that the following resources are available to assist you:
Trans Lifeline: 877-330-6366
Keep.meSafe (24/7 access to licensed counsellors available to all McGill students.)
More at McGill Students Against Bill2