Yukon government passes on enshrining transgender rights

The Yukon government has no plans to explicitly protect transgendered people from discrimination under its Human Rights Act.

The Yukon government has no plans to explicitly protect transgendered people from discrimination under its Human Rights Act.

That’s disappointing news for Chase Blodgett, who helped write and collect signatures for a petition to make the legislative change.

Blodgett is a transgendered man, which means he was assigned the female gender at birth but identifies with the male gender and lives his life as a man.

The government’s lack of action is just another example of how our society erases the experiences of trans people, he said.

“A lot of trans people choose to stay invisible exactly for this reason. It’s almost considered an act of revolution to exist openly and visibly as a trans person because we live in a world that tries to make it so we don’t exist. You go into places and it’s male or female, and nothing else.”

The government formally responded to Blodgett’s petition last week.

Justice Minister Brad Cathers said that, based on legal precedents set in other jurisdictions, gender identity is already covered under the human rights legislation, under the umbrella of “sex” and “sexual orientation.”

He said for that reason the Yukon government does not see it necessary to include explicit protection, although it may consider doing so the next time the act is up for review.

A spokesperson with Justice confirmed there is currently schedule for a future review of the Human Rights Act.

Seven Canadian provinces and territories currently have explicit protection against discrimination based on gender identity.

Although the Yukon Human Rights Commission currently accepts complaints based on gender identity, it is important to make this protection explicit, said Al Hubley, the commission’s chair, in a statement.

“The experiences of individuals who identify as transgender are unique,” he wrote. “A lack of change rooms at public recreational facilities is but one example of a barrier transgender individuals may experience in participating in activities in our community.

“Trans people are one of the most disadvantaged groups in society. They regularly experience discrimination, harassment, hatred and even violence. People who are in the process of transitioning are particularly vulnerable. Many of the issues they experience go to the core of human dignity and should be explicitly protected in our act.”

Despite the government’s lack of action, Blodgett says his experience transitioning in the Yukon has been overwhelmingly positive.

“I’ve been totally amazed by the support I’ve received on every level. I’ve hardly had – have I had any? No, I really haven’t had any negative experiences.

“I know that that is not typical of transgendered people, but I think it’s really reflective of the Yukon and the quality of people who choose to make this their home.”

He received a standing ovation from members of the Yukon Legislative Assembly when the NDP introduced him and the petition last year.

“Lois Moorcroft did just a beautiful introduction.”

Liberal leader Sandy Silver led the standing ovation, and Wade Istchenko was the first on his feet on the Yukon Party side, Blodgett said.

“It was really overwhelming. I left pretty quick after that, because I was choking back tears.”

Still, if you listen to Blodgett’s struggles navigating bureaucratic systems as a transgendered person, you may feel his positivity has more to do with his sunny outlook on life than his lived experience.

He was once marched out of a hospital by a security guard when he came in with a complaint related to a menstrual cycle.

“If I were travelling, or even if I was in a rural community up here and I got an infection in my uterus, I have to try and find somebody that I can explain why I’m a man with a uterus too. And that’s not necessarily easy conversations to have.”

To apply for a job as a teacher, he had to first get his credentials re-issued in his legal name.

That involved an online application system that would allow him to update all of his personal information with the sole exception of his first name – the only detail he actually needed to change.

“There’s so many ways that you face barriers that people may not think about, and so many people that you have to talk to, like my car mechanic, Aeroplan, credit card companies, your bank, electric bill, rental. As soon as you start transitioning, you have a million people to inform, and you don’t know what their belief systems are, what their backgrounds are. And when you are in a community like ours right now where there is no explicit protection, it leaves you in a very vulnerable position.

“It’s incredibly exhausting, at best. That would be my best descriptor of that experience.”

Having explicit protection under the act would make navigating those systems feel a little bit safer, said Blodgett.

“It’s about access to services and the ability to not get buried in a bunch of case law, and dragging things out when you’re trying to access those services, and you’re trying to be included in the community.”

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at

jronson@yukon-news.com

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