Freethinking

Credit where credit is due: The Manitoba Government takes a positive step to support Trans people

The Manitoba Government has come under heavy criticism lately on a wide variety of fronts. On poverty, healthcare, taxes, education and resource management, not too many kind words have been said about the current administration.

While much of the criticism may be justified, it is also important to acknowledge when the government does something positive. The recent action by the government to ensure that transgender Manitobans no longer require sex change surgery to change the sex designation on their birth certificates is a positive step.

“It reflects that transgendered people exist in society and that having identification that doesn’t match who you are as a person creates challenges and barriers for people,” Mike Tuthill, from the Rainbow Resource Centre, shared on CJOB.

While the policy change may seem small to some, it sends a message that the government acknowledges and cares about the rights and dignity of trans people. This is a message that needs to be sent because trans people still face shockingly high levels of discrimination.

According to Every Class in Every School, Egale’s report on homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia in Canadian Schools, 78 per cent of trans students feel unsafe at school, 74 per cent have been verbally harassed because of their gender expression, 49 per cent have been sexually harassed in school within the past year and 37 per cent have been physically harassed or assaulted because of their gender expression.

This discrimination has a terrible and tragic toll. According to Trans PULSE, who surveyed trans-identified individuals in Ontario, 77 per cent of transgender Ontarians seriously considered suicide and 43 per cent attempted suicide.

Clearly, there is an immense amount of work to do before we can say that our society is open and accepting of trans people. That is why the government’s action on birth certificates is a good move.

This government also deserves credit for their presence at events in support of the trans community. For example, current Health Minister Sharon Blady attended the most recent Transgender day of Remembrance. Though it is important for governments to take action and bring forth policy changes, the simple act of showing up is a way of expressing solidarity and sending the message that a government is seeking to serve all of the citizens it represents.

As mentioned at the outset, this government faces significant criticism and significant challenges. But in this instance - when it comes to supporting trans people - the Manitoba Government has done something positive. For that, it deserves credit.

Spencer Fernando is the Comments Editor for The Uniter. Would you like to write for the Comments section? Email volunteer@uniter.ca to learn more!

Published in Volume 69, Number 19 of The Uniter (February 4, 2015)

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