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Choose your victories: Trans rights legislation

March 21, 2013

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Conservative Minster of Foreign Affairs, John Baird, possibly lost in thought while contemplating the rights of trans people.

Canadian Parliament passed a transgender rights bill yesterday that is being hailed in many media outlets as a victory for trans people and progress for a nation, as a handful of Conservative Members of Parliament voted in favour. “18 Tories voted in support of bill” reads the CBC by-line, as if the passing of this bill had anything to do with the austerity measures and the war on the poor that the Conservative Party of Canada has been engaged in for its entire existence. While it might make for a warm and hopeful story to imagine Conservatives voting for trans rights, I again fail to celebrate the theatre of electoral politics granting me rights which I already have, and which I don’t need the state to declare. If any of the Conservatives or Liberals who voted for this bill truly concerned themselves with the lives of trans people they would take measures to eradicate poverty for all people. Trans women are especially impacted by poverty at rates absurdly high compared to those experienced by cis people, even more so when the trans woman is racialized. So while this bill might make things marginally better for some trans people (the sort of discrimination it addresses by its nature benefits those already with class and race privilege much more than those without it), it will only make it better within the system in which it has been enacted. That system is at its core about oppression and inequality, so any gestures it makes towards equality should be viewed with caution and an awareness of the history of capitalism.

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