On June 13 Bill 33, a private members bill in the Ontario legislature that would add “gender expression” and “gender identity” to the Ontario Human Rights Code and give special legal protection to people who self-identify as transgender and transsexual, passed with all-party support in an unrecorded vote.
Opponents of Bill 33 and similar bills at the federal level have called the amendments to human rights legislation the “Bathroom Bill” because among other consequences it would allow men access to female public washrooms. Concerned Women for America has documented that attacks on women and girls in public washrooms have risen in recent years and fears that men would claim being transgendered or transsexual to gain access to washrooms or prohibit them from being removed from them.
In May, Jack Fonseca, project manager with Campaign Life Coalition, called Bill 33 “lunacy” in an interview with LifeSiteNews.com and pointed out that it would most likely create a legal right for a man who calls himself transgendered to use a public bathroom intended for women. “This legal right will arise because the right to ‘gender expression’ will be interpreted by the courts as giving men the right to ‘express their gender’ by using a girl’s washroom, change room or shower,” he warned. “Men who plan to assault women in the bathroom, or even a common ‘peeping tom’ hoping to watch girls undress or videotape them, could escape prosecution by pretending to be a cross-dresser.”
A version of the bill was introduced several times in previous years by NDP MPP Cheri di Novo (Parkdale-High Park), but this if the first time it has made second reading. It passed second reading in May and with support from all three parties, it was expedited through committee and passed third reading before the summer recess. Bill 33 was co-sponsored by Yasir Naqvi (Lib., Ottawa Centre) and Christine Elliott (PC, Oshawa-Whitby), wife of federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, who voted for a similar measure at second reading in the House of Commons.
Campaign Life Coalition national president Jim Hughes condemned the agreement by the three party leaders to not have a recorded vote on the bill. Hughes told The Interim that “this collusion on the part of the political parties to hide from Ontario voters the list of MPPs who supported this legislation is truly odious.”
Naqvi called the passing of Bill 33 “a historic day because we are about to recognize, enshrine, and codify the rights of trans Ontarians into our Human Rights Code.” He said that the passing of the law is only the first step to further social change in Ontario: “We’re getting the legal recognition today, but we need to do the educating.”
Naqvi noted that the provisions of Bill 33, would apply to the workplace. Lou Iacobelli, who blogs at Everyday for Life, said that Bill 33 will do for the workplace what Bill 13 will do for the schools, noting that the human rights code applies to “services, accommodation, contracting, employment and membership in a trade union or a self-governing profession.”
Rod Jackson, a Progressive Conservative MPP from Barrie, also supported the bill but said more had to be done in support of transgender and transsexual people: “This isn’t the end; this is probably just the beginning,”
Openly gay Liberal MPP Glen Murray (Toronto Centre), the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, agreed that the law was only the first step to more fundamental changes. He said that when sexual orientation was added to the human right legislation, “the world changed… because it started to affect the way people talked… because people felt that they had the support of the courts and the law.”
Di Novo also hit upon the social change note, congratulating herself and her colleagues for ushering in revolutionary legislation: “We will be at the threshold of a new Ontario, a new Canada, because they’re all following suit after us, and actually a new North America, because I know it’s going to change south of the border as well, state by state by state.”
Similar legislation has passed second reading in the House of Commons and is being considered in Manitoba. The Northwest Territories is the only other Canadian government to have enacted special human rights protection for people who consider themselves transgender or transsexual.
LifeSiteNews.com reported that Walt Heyer, a former transgender person who regretted his sex change operation, speaks out against “gender reassignment surgery” and says most people who identify as transgendered suffer from “diagnosable disorders.” He criticized using the law to encourage people in their disorders. Heyer pointed to a 2011 Swedish study that found “persons with transsexualism, after sex reassignment, have considerably higher risks for mortality, suicidal behaviour, and psychiatric morbidity than the general population.” Heyer said, “it is so appalling to me, as a former trans person, that lawmakers today, who are motivated by sexual activists, are willing to legislate that society accept people who need psychiatric care.” He added that law protecting self-identified transgendered individuals could prevent treating people who need psychiatric assistance.
Dr. Paul McHugh, professor of psychology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and psychiatrist-in-chief at Johns Hopkins Hospital, famously banned sex change operation at the hospital, saying that carrying out such surgeries “was fundamentally cooperating with a mental illness.”
Gender Identity Disorder is still listed in American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.