Editorial, Opinion

Trans liberation requires multifaceted action

Transgender Day of Remembrance takes place every Nov. 20, and, while not officially acknowledged in Quebec, acts as a dedicated time to reflect on the lives of transgender, non-binary, and two-spirit individuals taken too soon. Trans individuals continually experience higher rates of violence than cisgender people, with racialized trans people disproportionately affected. While Transgender Day of Remembrance pays tribute to those lost, it also presents an opportunity to chart a path forward toward trans liberation. This struggle requires a layered approach on legislative, educational, and personal levels. In order to move toward change at McGill, there must be a long-term commitment at both the individual and institutional levels to dismantle societal norms that isolate queer communities.

This year has been a tumultuous one for the trans community in Quebec, bringing with it both victories and disappointments. In January, Superior Court Justice Gregory Moore invalidated several articles of the Civil Code, such as one prohibiting individuals from changing their sex on their birth certificate, citing their transphobic and discriminatory nature. His decision noted the acute risk of suicide when one is denied the ability to affirm their gender identity on legal documentation. In response, the Quebec government introduced Bill 2, which they wrongfully believed would benefit trans people by separating gender and sex on identifying documentation. However, the bill’s proposed changes, which were allegedly made in good faith, lacked proper consultation and resulted in major push-back from the 2SLGBTQIA+ community and their allies. The bill has now been tabled and awaits edits after the government agreed to engage in proper community consultation. Fundamentally, meaningful legislation pushes for change and is developed in a way that both respects and amplifies the voices of those most affected by the policy. 

Governmental bodies are not the only institutions in Quebec rife with transphobia. Take, for example, the healthcare field. Gender-affirming surgery is essential for many to alleviate body dysphoria. Yet, it is inaccessible to those who cannot pay out of pocket for operations deemed “non-essential, including”  breast augmentations and other feminizing surgeries. A body that is representative of one’s identity should not be a luxury, but a right. 

At McGill, the administration can make changes that could contribute to breaking down the gender binary. One such action might be increasing the number of gender-inclusive bathrooms on campus. Studies have shown that over 70 per cent of trans and gender nonconforming individuals experienced discomfort when using gender-specific bathrooms, which can be detrimental to one’s mental health. The very few gender-neutral bathrooms currently available at McGill are not enough, and their sporadic and specific placement might make trans and non-binary students feel outed.  

McGill also has a role to play when it comes to supporting and encouraging trans scholarship and representation. The first step to this commitment is creating a safe space for students and staff alike. McGill has the power to mandate professors to respect their students’ pronouns––this is not. a privilege, but a necessity. 

Similarly, these changes can occur at the individual level. Trans voices must be respected and uplifted as they lead the charge toward liberation––but allies must ultimately ensure the burden of education is not placed solely on trans individuals. Being an ally must go beyond posting about Bill 2 on Instagram; it involves an active commitment to intervening in ignorant, transphobic behaviour or jokes. While positive changes such as the new inclusion of the gender-neutral personal pronoun “iel”  in the major French dictionary Le Petit Robert are welcomed, it is important to remain vigilant against backlash from those who are transphobic.

Trans communities have long been politicized by politicians and excluded by many feminists and queer activists—many of whom follow movements that were kickstarted by trans women of colour, such as Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera. The fight for liberation is not over until it is a reality for all, so it is important to diffuse demands for change across the many institutions that all work together to isolate the trans community. Progress must be multifaceted if it is to be effective, from government and educational structures to interpersonal interactions. Transgender Day of Remembrance should double as a time for cisgender people to reflect on how to uplift trans voices, and support the push for a thriving future that supports all. 

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