Category Archives: advocacy

A trans guy on the cover of Men’s Health Magazine

Aydian Dowling stands to be voted the ultimate guy.

if it sticks he is expected to be featured on the cover of an upcoming Men’s Health magazine upon winning this novel popularity contest as the best example of The Good Man.

That a transgender man would be featured as the perfect guy on the cover of a magazine that showcases All Things Man is good for everyone – transgender or not.. The more inclusivity our society’s voices reflect through media, the better for all of us.

However, let us not ignore that there is valid criticism that aesthetically pleasing transgender persons fare better in life than those of us who are not. Beauty and handsomeness help disproportionately when faced with difficulties of identity and perception and those who do not benefit from matching aesthetic expectations have a more difficult time. This can be too hard for people and is oft cited by persons who give up on their transition. Hence, there is definitely a double edge to this sword. On the one hand it furthers the cause of transgender persons but on the other hand, it is doing so by showcasing conformity in a shallow and skin-deep contest.

This criticism is not heard often enough and even less often addressed. And the issue need to be talked about because it is not helpful to tell people that we love trans people who “pass” and that the rest of us simply do not belong. And having a beautiful sensitive beefcake guy who happens to be transgender does little to address the issues faced by non-passing trans folks.

Sadly, though, this requires the approach of doing nothing for anyone until you can do something for everyone. That particular approach, while ideologically more pure, sadly tends to get very little done. And what Mr Dowling is doing is still really very good for us all.

Society is still in a place where transgender persons struggle for acceptance in mainstream society, outside of our safe queer bubbles, and one key barrier to broad acceptance eminates from well-meaning people who accidentally do the terrible things they do to our community member simply by not understanding what this is actually all about and protecting themselves using the wrong means from their own unfounded fears.

For this reason, having a transgender man on the front cover of a men’s health magazine is good for the transgender community. It assists cis-gender (non-transgender) people to understand that gender identity applies to both men and women and that there may be transgender people around them that they never thought about.

His participation in this contest is also very good because it redefines the concept of masculinity. A trans man is just as masculine as a non-trans man and trans men’s existence needs to be considered and welcomed in the mindset of all things for men – in the same way that trans women need to be welcome in the mindset of all things for women. This particular guy, on this particular magazine cover, reinforces in peoples minds the idea that transgender men are men and transgender women are women. And it needs to happen more.

This also helps us because it offers a positive message where not so long ago we had only cautionary tales. The transgender and gender-variant community has suffered for a long time by being represented in media via negative portrayals. Seeing role models in places trans person were previously excluded from, such as gender-focused magazines like men’s health magazine or Elle Canada, can only help.

From the advocacy point of view, it is also good to see tangible examples which debunk the damaging preconception that transgender persons are only trans women, when in fact there are as many trans men as trans women, and even more persons who identify as being of non-binary gender. In other words, Showing that there are transgender men highlights that transgender rights are not about the social conservative bogeyman of “allowing men into women’s bathrooms” but instead of letting people live full lives without fear of discrimination through the inclusion in society of all types of women and all types of men and all types of people in between. Every time I am able to point to tangible examples of transgender, gender-variant, intersex, and non-binary-gender persons in the mainstream during a moment of advocacy, I am able to point to real living examples that people can associate with. This saves me a great deal of hand-waving and esoteric thought exercises and lets me focus on the core message that we are all people, all fear for our children, all share the same dreams and aspirations, all buy groceries and pay the same taxes, and all hope that our kids will fare better than we did. And this is a message that has a very difficult time being heard in socially conservative spaces.

For example, in Canada, in the bathroom debates centering around proposed bill C-279 and a proposed amendment that relegates transgender persons to the gender-specific spaces and services of the sex which they were assigned at birth, the narrative presented by social conservative lobbyists and lawmakers is asking for trans men be compelled to used spaces reserved for women in spite of a chorus of opposition by lawmakers, legal experts, and human-rights organizations. Having solid examples of the failures of this mindset helps everyone reflect on the wisdom of that narrative.

Putting a human face on a message of love and tolerance goes very far.

And this will give us a chance to bring up the rest of the sexual-orientation and gender-identity minorities.

Are the amendment to C-279 as widely supported as claimed by Senator Plett

Senator Plett wants to protect women from transgender women – at any cost. Read here for a detailed explanation of what he is proposing.

Central to Mr Plett’s argument in justifying rolling back existing implicit and explicit protection that transgender persons currently enjoy in Canada is his strong belief that Canada must create a law which “…will no longer allow biological males to self-identify as female and gain unrestricted access to sex-specific facilities“. it is important that under current law, what he is trying to do is currently implicitly human rights violation under federal law and all provincial and territorial law in Canada  and an explicit violation of human rights under the law of  Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Nova Scotia, Price Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, and the Northwest Territories.

In addition, the Canadian Bar Association (CBA) wrote a letter to the Senate in response to the amendments which were passed in in this sitting of the committee, urging the Senate to “Reject Amendment to Bill C-279“.

As part of their position, the CBA noted that  the amendment:

  • “undermines the Bill’s intent” (is a deliberate poison pill injected by a government attempting to ignore the will of the people),

  • “threatens the human rights of all people using sex or gender specific services, spaces and institutions in federal jurisdiction” (risks being abused in all kinds of terrible ways against us all),

  • “appears to rest primarily on a misapprehension of existing human rights law and criminal provisions” ( opponents fear mongering and do not seem to understand)

…Yet Senator Plett claims in a letter to the editors of the Montreal Gazette chiding them for criticizing his position and claiming that he is in fact NOT excluding transgender persons from gendered space:

“As for the amendment that I assume Ms. Page is referring to when she mistakenly writes about a bathroom “ban”. This misunderstood amendment deals with section 15.1 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, which speaks to exceptions (or where “it is not a discriminatory practice”). This amendment addressed the widespread concern that this bill would have, in fact, allowed any individual to self-identify as the opposite sex and gain unrestricted access to sex-specific facilities on federal jurisdiction (Abused women’s shelters, change rooms, shower rooms, etc.).”

This is in stark contrast with the response that TAS recieved when we asked leading womens organziations for their opinion on the subject:

Trans Alliance Society Chair Morgane oger asked Canadian Women’s Foundation, a prominent Canadian charity working to end violence against women to clarify their position on transgender women in women-only shelters and the answer was affirming and supportive of transgender women:

This exchange is in stark contrast to Senator Plett’s claims that women’s shelters are demanding protection from the apparent deluge of transgender women.

A similar conversation with YWCA Canada, after a wonderful meeting with YWCA Metro Vancouver CEO Janet Austin also provided clear affirmation of the desire by service providers serving women to continue to support transgender women..

Senator Plett has found one witness who actually works in gender-specific support services to support his position.

Is this really enough to represent women?

Certainly not.