St. John's Pride Labour Forum
The Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) Solidarity and Pride Working Group kicked off three days of meetings in late September by inviting gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender union and community activists and allies to a public forum. Almost 100 people (including a good number of CAW members) attended the forum to discuss issues that concern the LGBT community in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Local 1520 Pride
Members of CAW Local 1520 celebrated pride season by handing out pamphlets and information on LGBT issues to their general membership on both shifts at the Ford plant in St. Thomas. Congratulations on your initiative!
Niagara Region Hallowe'en Dance
The CAW Golden Horseshoe Pride Caucus celebrated Hallowe'en with a community pride dance at CAW Local 199 Hall that attracted over 200 ghouls and goblins (and likely a few queens?), and raised over $2700 ($1000 to "Amnesty International Group 112", $1000 to "Transgendered of Niagara", $250 to the "Stephen Lewis Foundation", $250 to "Community Care", $100 to "Niagara Pride", $100 to "The Imperial Sovereign Court of St. Catharines and the Greater Niagara Region"). Congratulations on a fantastic event - three cheers for the Pride Caucus and special thanks to Local 199 executive, volunteers, kitchen staff and d.j's John & Jeff! Next dance will be April 2, 2005 - another Easter Bunny Hop.
CAW supports 519 Building Fund
The CAW Social Justice Fund has recently announced its support for the expansion of the 519, a centre for LGBT members, our friends, allies, and families. The 519 services the Toronto community but is also a major resource for LGBT people across the province, especially those from rural areas who lack the support systems in their home communities. The 519 runs programs for immigrant LGBT youth, for homeless LGBT youth, for transgender support services, for union LGBT forums, for LGBT families, for the children of same sex parents, and for elderly LGBT people.
If my gaydar's working, that's a lipstick lesbian!
The 2nd edition of the Canadian Oxford Dictionary has just been published and it includes a number of new definitions - not just for gaydar and lipstick lesbian, but also for marriage: "the legal or religious union of two people", for co-parenting, for hate crime, hate speech, pink triangle, transgender, pride, and more. According to the lexicographer, "Dictionaries just reflect what the actual reality is".
"We do, we do!"
It is now legal for same sex couples to marry in Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan, adding to previous court rulings made in Ontario, British Columbia, Quebec, Manitoba and the Yukon. The Newfoundland government has also stated that they will not challenge the equal marriage suit recently launched. That leaves PEI, the North West Territories, Nunavut, and . . .oh yes, Alberta.
"Why is it that, as a culture, we are more comfortable seeing two men holding guns than holding hands?"
Around the world
World AIDS Day
December 1st is World AIDS Day. World AIDS Day is now in its 17th year. Now, more than ever, we need to make a difference in the global fight against HIV and AIDS.
World AIDS Day is about people from different and diverse backgrounds pulling together, in the same direction, to inform and educate people of all ages about HIV and AIDS.
Union movements around the world are actively engaged in educating their memberships; Canadian unions need to rise to this challenge.
The American Election
On November 2, Lupe Valdez was elected as Dallas County Sheriff (Texas). Valdez is the first woman, the first lesbian, and the first Hispanic to be elected in the County.
|And, in other news, George Bush won the American election and 11 states passed laws banning same-sex marriage, thereby officially integrating discrimination into their constitutions. The far right's move to include these referendums as a way of getting out the vote in support of Bush only deepens our cynicism.|
It is with sorrow and outrage that we mourn the death of FannyAnn Eddy, 30 year-old leader of the Sierra Leone Lesbian and Gay Association. She was found raped and murdered in her office the last week of September. FannyAnn leaves a 9 year-old son. In a speech to the United Nations Human Rights Commission, FannyAnn detailed the difficulties of life for LGBT people in her home country, but ended by saying: "despite all of the difficulties we face, I have faith that the acknowledgement by the Commission of the inherent dignity and respect due to lesbian, gay people can lead to greater respect for our human rights. As evidenced by the liberation struggle in South Africa, where the constitution bars discrimination based on sexual orientation, respect for human rights can transform society. It can lead people to understand that in the end, we are all human and all entitled to respect and dignity."
Donations in FannyAnn's memory can be made to Behind the Mask to support her son and the ongoing work of the Sierra Leone Lesbian and Gay Association (for details contact: Daniel@mask.org.za)
|"This is a matter of ordinary justice. . . I could not have fought against the discrimination of apartheid and not also fight against the discrimination that homosexuals endure, even in our churches and faith groups."|
Archbishop of Cape Town, Desmond Tutu
New Zealand's first transgender Member of Parliament (in fact, the world's first transgender member of parliament!) was in Toronto in October meeting with aboriginal and LGBT activists. Maori-born Georgina Beyer spoke of her pride in helping push through legislation that decriminalizes prostitution in New Zealand - aimed at recognizing the health and safety rights and vulnerabilities of prostitution while curbing underage prostitution and trafficking. The inspirational film Georgie Girl details her life story from childhood to sex trade worker to small town mayor, to Member of Parliament.
Caucus & Committee Corner
CAW Pride Council Committee
The new Council Pride Committee will meet for the first time at December Council. Congratulations to all those delegates who will help lead the national union on LGBT issues! Reports from our meetings will regularly appear in Pride in Print. If you are an out LGBT CAW member and you get elected as a CAW Council delegate in the future, please let us know (email us at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Oshawa & Area CaucusCAW members in the Oshawa, Peterborough and Toronto East area can leave a message for the LGBT Caucus at Local 222, (905)723-1187 ext. 226 or e-mail: email@example.com
Western Region Pride CaucusOur Caucus meets monthly. Contact us by leaving a message at the CAW Regional Office in Vancouver at 1-800-665-3553 or by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Windsor & Area LGBT CaucusThe CAW Windsor Area LGBT Caucus meetings are held every 3rd Wednesday of the month at 8:00 pm at the CAW Regional Office, 2345 Central Ave.
Contact us at 519-944-5866 or
Golden Horseshoe Regional LGBT CaucusGreetings! Contact us at email@example.com or by calling (905) 714-7333.
London and Area Working With Pride CaucusFor more information call:
Stephanie Johnstone (519) 536-9023,
Laura Panther (519) 785-3108
e-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org
Halifax and Area Pride CaucusWe welcome new members!! Contact us through Local 4606 at (902) 422-0826
Ottawa & Area Pride CaucusWe're just getting started - please join us! Contact us through the CAW Ottawa Area Office (1-800-982-2601).
Manitoba Pride CaucusIf you're interested in helping start a Manitoba CAW Pride Caucus, leave a message at the Regional Office (204-487-2209) or email Ken at email@example.com
Quebec Council Pride CommitteeFor more info on how to get involved, contact us through the Quebec Regional Office at 1-800-561-5261.
CAW Local 1285 Pride Standing CommitteeContact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or (905) 451-8310 ext. 241.
CAW Local 199 Pride Standing CommitteeContact us at email@example.com or call (905) 714-7333.
CAW Local 27 Pride Standing CommitteeCall (519) 455-3430.
Anything to contribute?If you would like to contribute to Pride in Print, contact us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone, 1-800-268-5763, Human Rights Department.
To receive your copy of Pride in Print by mail, call or e-mail the Human Rights Department at 1-800-268-5763 / email@example.com and have your name added to our confidential mailing list.
|Occasionally we send out information to our Pride Activists by e-mail. If you are not receiving information in this format and would like to, please send your email address to firstname.lastname@example.org|
|This edition of pride in print is dedicated to raising awareness about the issues facing our transgender members|
Who are our trans members?
Transgender people come from all walks of life and are represented in every race, class, culture and sexual orientation. Our union represents workers in practically every workplace sector - and so we represent trans members who are autoworkers, transportation workers, hotel workers, and so on.
Some of our trans members 'pass' in their everyday lives -- nobody detects that their gender identity and presentation doesn't match their birth sex. Some of our trans members live most of their lives in their new gender, but still present themselves in the workplace as their birth sex - as devastatingly uncomfortable as that is - out of fear of rejection, ridicule, harassment, violence, termination. Others transition on the job - male-to-female (M-to-F), or female to male (F-to-M). Still others quit their jobs (well paying, unionized jobs with benefits) out of an all-too-real fear that management and co-workers would make the workplace too hostile to endure after they transition and begin living their life fully in the opposite gender.
Discrimination in employment is one of the biggest factors facing trans people -- no doubt we would have more transgender members if employers didn't discriminate and shut trans people out of the workplace.
|"It is abnormal. It is unnatural. And, it is an act against God the almighty."|
These words were spoken to challenge women's right to vote. Today, when we hear these words, we assume that the reference is to gays, lesbians, bisexuals or transgender people.
Discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people is rooted in sexism and gender stereotyping. GLBT people do not fit the "norm". Gays and lesbians do not fit the "norm" because they are not attracted to members of the opposite sex. Transgender people do not fit the "norm" because their personal gender identity is not the same as their biological sex.
While "sexual orientation" refers to whether a person is attracted to men, women or both, gender identity concerns a person's internal sense of being male or female. A transgender person is not comfortable with or rejects their biologically and socially assigned gender identity. A transgender person may be gay, lesbian, bisexual or heterosexual; there is no direct connection between gender identity and sexual orientation.
CLC Discussion Paper
What does it mean to tell people you are transgender?
It means accepting who you are and having the courage to present your true self to the world. Unfortunately it comes at a very, very high price.
What issues do transgender people face?
Transgender people experience daily acts of discrimination in the community and at work. Derogatory comments, refusal of medical care, denial of services, verbal and physical harassment, violent assault - are all examples of the kinds of direct and indirect discrimination encountered by trans people.
Why are trans issues union issues?
Thanks to some of our 'out' CAW trans members, our union leadership is becoming increasingly educated on trans issues in the workplace and the community.
As trade unionists we have core principles. We believe in everyone's right to dignity on the job. We believe in everyone's right to a safe and healthy workplace. We believe in workplaces free from harassment and discrimination. We believe in negotiating wages and benefits for all of our members. We believe our employers should not have access to, or dictate, our private lives. We believe in using our power to strengthen minority rights. We believe that an injury to one is an injury to all.
Sure, the issues around transgender and transsexuality are challenging for most of us (certainly they're challenging for trans people themselves). But as we struggle to come to terms with challenges to traditionally established notions of gender, we still know what's right from wrong.
We know it's wrong for employers to fire people based on personal characteristics. We know it's wrong when one of our members is afraid to come to work for fear of co-worker harassment and violence. We know it's wrong when employers deny one of our members access to benefits while providing it to others. We know it's wrong when any member faces ridicule on the job. We know it's wrong when employers leak private information about us. We know it's wrong when one of our members is afraid to turn to the union for help, for fear of being rejected. We know it's wrong when the majority stands silently by and watches a member suffer.
- Unions have a legal and moral responsibility to defend all members.
- Unions have a demonstrated history of defending and bargaining for minority workers.
- Transgender workers are workers, trade unionists and part of our movement.
- Unions have the social weight to help embattled minorities win legal protections.
- Are legally responsible for providing a harassment-free workplace. Too often supervisors and co-workers taunt, isolate, verbally and physically abuse transgender individuals; supervisors and co-workers refuse to refer to trans people by the name and in the gender of their choice. This is harassment.
- Are not permitted to discriminate on the basis of gender in hiring, training or promoting trans workers
- Cannot fire trans employees when they transition or come out (i.e. let people know that they're transgender).
- Have a legal duty to accommodate workers - employees who are in transition need access to time off work for medical procedures
- Trans workers must be given access to appropriate washrooms, uniforms, dress code, etc. during and after transition
- Need to respect privacy and confidentiality
- Need to cooperate and change records for pension coverage, medical and health plans, EI, CPP etc., to reflect trans workers' new gender identity
- Should provide medical coverage for all de-listed health services, including transition costs and transition-related expenses
- Should not deny access to private health care benefits to trans workers that are available to other members with other medical needs.
What can the union movement do?
Our unions have a responsibility to defend all members on the job. The collective agreement is one critical tool. Enforcing the collective agreement and defending trans workers makes the tool effective. Educating our members - and our employers - is another task we can take on.
- Make it visible: add the words "gender identity" and "gender status" to our non-discrimination policies and harassment policies.
- Ensure that all information collected on employees is held in confidence. This is especially important for transgender workers who do not want to be out at work.
- Negotiate benefit coverage for the medical treatments required for transition. Trans people are not only being denied public health care for transition related expenses, but they are sometimes denied access to private health care benefits that are available to other members.
- Negotiate anti-harassment training that includes harassment based on gender identity and homophobia.
(At York University, the CUPE local representing teaching assistants and part-time faculty recently negotiated ground-breaking language on Transsexual Transition Leave.)
Defend transgender workers:
- Let the employer know that the union will defend any attempts to discriminate against trans workers.
- Include transgender issues with other human rights issues the union supports.
- Enforce the duty to accommodate
- Include trans workers in union committees, including the human rights committee.
- Publicize the union's support of the rights of trans workers among the membership.
- Provide human rights training - including issues facing trans workers - for executive members and stewards.
(The British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal found that a union discriminated against a transsexual member by failing to properly represent her. The Tribunal ordered the union to pay the individual $5,000 for injury to dignity, plus $1,000 in lost wages. Our union has a legal duty to fairly represent all members and to not discriminate.)
|As transgender activist Courtney Sharp says,|
"Employers who want to find solutions have found solutions. Those who do not want to find solutions tend to use the issue as an excuse to terminate the employee." "Sure, [people] worry about the bathroom question." But we told them, "listen, everyone has to go to the bathroom. . .but if you're worried about what's between someone's legs - you're the one who is being inappropriate." In the end, transgender workers must have access to safe and dignified bathroom facilities.
- Include transgender workers issues in steward training, collective bargaining, human rights courses etc. at the local level and throughout the union.
- Provide educational sessions for members and union reps.
- Invite representatives of the trans community to speak at union meetings.
- Report on the political battles for equality rights in the union newsletter.
- Publish the union's anti-discriminatory positions and news about the actions the union takes to fight discrimination.
Work in the community:
Transgender people are regularly denied access to housing and services and/or are subject to ridicule by service providers and other clients.
Medical issues include denial of medical treatment - even for non-transgender related illnesses, ridicule and mistreatment by providers, inability to obtain ongoing, routine medical care, exclusion of medical procedures required for transitioning. Trans people face legal issues where legal status as a man or a woman is at stake: in marriage and divorce, adoption and child custody, inheritance, wills and trusts, security clearance, immigration and so on.
It is illegal to discriminate against transgender people in Canada, but our human rights laws should be specific. Unions can join the push to have gender identity and gender status written into legislation.
Unions play a very important role in helping to shape public opinion, in lobbying governments and in working with social justice groups. We are in the leadership of the women's movement, the movements to defend health care and social services, the fight for equality for lesbian and gay citizens among others. Our movement can use the skills and knowledge we have developed in these campaigns to help further the struggle of transgender people for equality and dignity.
Sex Reassignment Surgery Postcard Campaign
On October 1, 2004 the CAW participated in Egale Canada's launch of a campaign to publicize, educate, and show support for government funding for sex reassignment surgery in Ontario. One of Mike Harris' first acts of office was to de-list SRS - saving Ontario taxpayers a whopping $110,000 a year (out of a multi-billion dollar health care budget) and putting trans people in limbo - many partway through SRS that they cannot now afford to complete. This mean-spirited attack has not been corrected by the McGuinty government, despite indications that they had intended to re-list SRS.
As a union movement we are calling for the re-listing of all de-listed services, including the re-listing of SRS.
To obtain copies of the postcard for distribution in your community, please contact www.egale.ca/srs.
Transgender Day of Remembrance
On November 20th, 2004, transgender communities and supporters solemnly observed the sixth annual Transgender Day of Remembrance. Remembered at events internationally are those who have lost their lives to anti-transgender violence.
Transgender people are the subject of violent hate crimes around the world. In the US, "...although anti-transgender violence accounted for only about 2-4% of all reported incidents, those incidents accounted for approximately 20% of all reported anti-LGBT murders, and approximately 40% of the total incidents of police-initiated violence" (National Gay and Lesbian Task Force). Anti-trans violence is prevalent and vicious.
The Remembering Our Dead Project has documented over two-hundred-ninety-seven transgender individuals killed from anti-transgender bias and violence since the project began recording the homicides; twenty-one names were added to the list in the past twelve months.
Transgender (or trans) has become an "umbrella" term that is used to describe a wide range of identities and experiences, including but not limited to: pre-operative, post-operative, and non-operative transsexual people; male and female cross-dressers (sometimes referred to as "transvestites," "drag queens" or "drag kings"); intersex individuals; and men and women, regardless of sexual orientation, whose appearance or characteristics are perceived to be gender atypical.
|"It should be noted that each of these groups has distinct issues in relation to discrimination in society. . . The term 'transgender' is, in effect, a form of shorthand that refers to a wide range of people and experiences. However, it is important not to allow the use of a single term to imply that their needs are identical or that their human rights issues are all the same. "|
Ontario Human Rights Commission "Toward a Commission Policy on Gender Identity, Discussion Paper, October 1999
Other current synonyms for transgender include "gender variant," "gender different," and "gender non-conforming". While there are no accurate statistics, it is estimated that 1 in 11,900 males and 1 in 30,400 females are transgender. These stats likely under-represent the number of individuals who are transgender, since so many keep their transgender identities secret.
Transition is the process of changing sex, including hormones, cross living, and surgery. A practical minimum duration for this process is about two years but it is not unusual for it to take longer.
Transphobia is the unrealistic or irrational fear and hatred of cross-dressers, transsexuals and transgender people. Like all prejudices, it is based on negative stereotypes and misconceptions that are then used to justify and support hatred, discrimination, harassment and violence toward people who are transgender.
Sex reassignment surgery refers to medical procedures by which an individual is surgically altered to create the physical appearance of the opposite sex. Approximately 1 in 30,000 adult men and 1 in 100,000 adult women seek sex reassignment surgery. Not all trans people seek surgery.
Intersex means being born with partial or full sex organs (genitalia and reproductive organs) of both genders, or with underdeveloped or ambiguous sex organs. One in 2000 babies are considered intersex. This word replaces the inappropriate term 'hermaphrodite'.
What you can do:
- Educate yourself, and listen: Transgender people can tell you what kind of support is most useful.
- Work on increasing trans rights in your workplace and community (see above)
- Talk with your bargaining committee about how we can better represent our trans members
- Learn more - read through some of the articles in the Resource Section or check out some websites
- Get a group of people together and rent "Georgie Girl" about Georgina Beyer, the world's first Transsexual Member of Parliament from New Zealand's Labour Party
- Contact EGALE and help distribute the Health Services for Trans postcards (call 1-888-204-7777 or www.egale.ca)
- Support a trans member in your workplace
- Stop the harassment - don't be a bystander when offensive jokes, innuendos, or harassment take place
|Like the first black student in a white school 30 years ago, the transgender youth today faces a population that finds them strange and frightening. Perhaps even you find them strange and frightening.|
If so, try putting your discomfort on hold for a while, and see if it doesn't dissipate over time. They're just people. Different in some ways, but then so are you and everyone else.
Transgender Resources & Organizations
Trans/Action c/o 620-1033 Davie Street, Vancouver, BC V6E 1M7 www.barbarafindlay.com
Egale Canada, www.egale.ca
Center for Gender Sanity,
PO Box 451427, Westchester CA 90045
FTM International, 5337 College Avenue #142, Oakland CA 94618 www.ftm.intl.org
The International Foundation for Gender Education,
P.O. Box 540229, Waltham, MA 02454-0229
Intersex Society of North America (ISNA), PO Box 31791, San Francisco, CA 94131
TransBiography Project, Stories from the Lives of Eleven Trans People in BC, is meant to educate the broader community about the experiences, needs and situations of trans people. Copies can be obtained by contacting the Trans Alliance Society at email@example.com A $10 donation is suggested.
Finding Our Place: Transgendered Law Reform Project, sponsored by The Law Foundation of British Columbia; prepared for High Risk Project Society, 449 East Hastings Street, Vancouver BC V6A 1P5.
Systems Failure: A Report on the Experiences of Sexual Minorities in Ontario's Health Care and Social Services Systems, Coalition for Lesbian and Gay Rights in Ontario, Box 822, Station A, Toronto M4W 1G3
Transgender Equality, A Handbook for Activists and Policymakers, The Policy Institute of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, USA (121 West 27th Street, Suite 501, New York, NY 10001 www.ngltf.org
- Different for Girls
- Better than Chocolate
- Boys Don't Cry
- Southern Comfort
Stay tuned for our CAW Leadership Support Kit for Working on Trans Issues. This document will be invaluable to all those who are working with trans union members. The kit will be posted on our website.
|"My right to be me is tied with a thousand threads to your right to be you"|
-trans activist Leslie Feinberg