Friday, May 22, 2015

RE: Gender Diversity & Health

Dear Victor Boudreau, New Brunswick Minister of Health,
CC: UBU NB - Transgender Action & Support Community

I am still waiting for a response to my last communication with you regarding the inadequate provisions of STI testing services in the province. While I anxiously await your action on that critical file, I raise another concern that has been brought to my attention. I have learned that New Brunswick Transgender Health Network is soon scheduled to have an in-person meeting with you, and I wish to add my voice to this conversation. I hope that you heed my recommendations as a New Brunswicker with a Master of Arts in Gender Studies who openly identifies as non-binary.

I have studied and argued public intersections with gender, sex, and sexuality extensively in personal and academic contexts. Through rigorous research and reflection, I have accepted that Canadian provincial governments do not have a legal duty to fund sex-reassignment surgeries (SRS). Arguments to the contrary conflate sex (a physiological designation) and gender (a social identity/expression) and invoke a trans-essentialist logic that asserts that there are only men and women, and citizens have the right to be either, regardless of the bodies they were born into. This logic is reductive and problematic; it erases the possibility of non-binary and indigenous gender identities and subjects healthy intersex babies to unnecessary and risky surgeries.

(Map of indigenous gender diversity around the world)

Canadian human rights laws infer the right to gender self-determination by prohibiting discrimination on the grounds of gender identity and gender expression, but this inference does not prescribe that SRS provision become a mandatory component of Canadian public healthcare. Rather, these protections articulate the legal administration of two acceptable gendered existences is an injustice.

Gender justice is much more complicated than the incorporation of SRS into our public health provisions. Gender confirming healthcare should be offered to all citizens, administered as non-interference and support of gender self-determination throughout health services and administration. Gender can be administered as religion is. Religion is a personal decision; you may choose one or more or none. You can can change your Religion at any point, needing no permission from the state, and data on religion is collected via fill-in-the-blank, not a check box.

The province is not bound by duty to provide SRS funding, but your administration should be compelled to act by morality. The financial inaccessibility of SRS creates too many negative mental health implications for a responsible government do nothing. I reiterate that it is the duty of your administration to facilitate the right to gender self-determination across departments and create a social reality that makes experiences of gender non-conformity legitimate, rather than heretical.

I am asking for three concrete actions from your administration to enact gender justice. First, I propose that your administration to create a public fund available to low-income New Brunswickers diagnosed with gender dysphoria for the purpose of funding SRS procedures and medications. Second, I demand a provincial law banning 'gender corrective' surgery on intersex babies. Last, I implore the initiation of sweeping policy review across departments to examine administrative and linguistic barriers to gender self-determination.

New Brunswickers of all genders, sexes, and sexualities deserve equal enjoyment of this beautiful province, and you are in a position to facilitate a meaningful shift toward equality. I hope my recommendations resonate with you and that action is taken quickly.



Sunday, May 10, 2015

I'm a Mother's Day Killjoy

This opinion should surprise no one who knows me or reads this blog. I'm all for replacing Mother's/Father's Days with one Parent's Day, and I'm about to tell you why!

1) Binary gender ideals are a lie. Even if it miffs you, please realize that an inclusive society needs to divorce itself from rewarding some gender identities over others. If religion and state should be separate, so should gender and state. I acknowledge Mother's Day is a private affair, not a public one, but democratic public institutions are where a Parent's Day would be created/legitimated.

2) It takes a village. I have a step-Mom who played a huge role in my life, and I have seen first hand how Mother's Day can be a little awkward. Think about the children with even more complex parental arrangements in communitarian settings, foster care, and multi-generational homes. 

3) Social expectations of motherhood shame childless women. Motherhood is put on a pedestal as the epitome of femininity and selflessness. It's not. Mother Theresa, Tyra Banks, and Oprah chose not to have children. Further, mothers are expected not only to love their children but to love motherhood. If women's autonomy is to actually be respected, we need to be able to talk about women who regret motherhood without stigmatizing their legitimate feelings and experiences.

4) Mother's Day is a Hallmark holiday. Consumer holidays don't improve relationships. Time is better than stuff, and mainstream media will berate you with suggestions to the contrary. I teased out my full thoughts on this matter in a December post on Post-Materialist Gifting.

Absolutely no shade to the matriarchs in my family and yours, but I would much rather celebrate a Parent's Day that celebrates all of the valuable influences children have growing up, without the baggage of gendered politics and consumerism.