Campaign declares time for transgender rights is now

Justin
Justin Crann
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More than a dozen members of the Moose Jaw community came out to support the Time 4 Rights movement Friday following an interview with one of its organizers, Joe Wickenhauser. The movement is pushing for the explicit support of gender expression and gender identity within the Saskatchewan Human Rights Code.

Group pushes to educate, engage Sask residents

Lise fears the consequences that could befall her if she came out as a transgender person living in Moose Jaw.

"Knowing Moose Jaw and how conservative this city still is, I know it's not the safest thing to come out," she explained. "I've seen issues with other people in my life who have lost their jobs from coming out, even just as gay or lesbian.

"I also have to worry about my kids' safety. What will their friends and parents think because I don't conform to the gender binaries they expect?"

There are many different kinds of transgender individuals, which according to the Gender Equality Society of Saskatchewan, are united in one sense: that their "biological sex assigned at birth does not match their gender identity."

Lise identifies as a two-spirit person, meaning her gender identity — or the sex she wants to express in appearance and identifies with — is in flux because she has "both a male and female spirit" in her body.

"It has taken me almost 10 years before I could accept myself," Lise told the Times-Herald. "If I was to let it be known that I want a more female appearance, I would face ridicule from some people in the city, as well as possible job loss.

"It's challenging, not feeling comfortable expressing whichever gender I feel I need to express at that time," she added.

Lise is an active supporter of the Time 4 Rights movement, a campaign that seeks to educate and inform individuals about transgender issues while also advocating for changes to the Saskatchewan Human Rights Code to formally recognize gender equality and gender identity.

According to one of the movement's organizers, Joe Wickenhauser, the group isn't seeking more rights for transgender people, simply a clarification of the law as it exists and an update if it is required.

"Trans people have certainly not had equal rights in the province in the past," he said. "The law is just not clear. … (and) there are ambiguities in terms of how people interpret the law because new situations are arising in the 21st Century.

"But that is the purpose of our government: to make laws that reflect these new realities," added Wickenhauser. "The current realities are changing in our society, and we need laws that reflect this."

The campaign is active on social media — especially Facebook, where the Time 4 Rights page has nearly 500 likes and its posts have reached upwards of 20,000 people.

The group asks people to pose for photograph with the Time 4 Rights sign and state why they support transgender rights in the province.

Wickenhauser said most people, when they are educated about the issue and come to understand that it is about human rights, are "supportive."

"They say, 'That's human rights, and I support everyone's rights,'" he said.

And as the movement gathers steam, Wickenhauser hopes it will help politicians come to realize that "Saskatchewan is ready for (them) to make the stand (for transgender rights)."

If Saskatchewan were to recognize gender identity and equality in its Human Rights Code, it would join Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Ontario, Manitoba and the Northwest Territories in offering explicit protection to transgender people.

"We need our politicians to stand up and say, 'It's time,' and show there is no place for discrimination in our society," said Wickenhauser. "It's not a matter of if, but when, and the longer or government waits, the more embarrassing it will be for Saskatchewan."

Lise's legal name has been withheld to protect her from discrimination. The Times-Herald has used her female name with consent.

You can follow Justin Crann on Twitter or like him on Facebook.

Organizations: Time 4 Rights, The Times-Herald, Gender Equality Society of Saskatchewan

Geographic location: Saskatchewan, Moose Jaw, Prince Edward Island Nova Scotia Newfoundland Ontario Manitoba Northwest Territories

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  • Amy
    February 10, 2014 - 16:05

    The term "two-spirit" has often been misappropriated by white gay men and white transgenders to promote their own interests, even though "two-spirit" is part of religious and social traditions within certain (but not all) First Nations of North America. If "Lise" is an enroled member of a recognised First Nation tribe that practises the two-spirit tradition, fine; but my suspicion is that "Lise" is not. I wished the Times to a bit of digging if someone speaks to a reporter claiming to be a "two-spirit." For one thing, I'd love to know what First Nations in Saskatchewan are on this.

  • Rita OLink
    February 10, 2014 - 11:02

    It is well past time for rights actually. If I may share my Ontario experience. That day .... June 12, 2012.... Legal recognition! ... oh the feeling!!! ...indescribable! That day was the day I knew I belonged just like everyone else... If I can help or speak on the difference it has made where I live I am here to help. The newspaper is welcome to share my email address with the organizers. Keep pushing ... we are worth it!!! Our families need it too... Rita