How Jagmeet Singh’s Proactive LGBTQI2S+ Platform Will Have Huge Impact #ndpldr

Today, Jagmeet Singh released his LGBTQI2S+ platform. There is a lot to unpack. You can tell by the initiatives in the platform that, when he’s told people he immediately went to Randall Garrison to help and is speaking with people from multiple intersections of the community, it is exactly what was done.

The LGBTQI2S+ platform is comprehensive and proactive and lays out a necessary foundation from which to tackle a wide range of issues that face members of the community.

I know many people will not understand how these policies not only address issues but will eliminate systematic barriers that are at the very root of many of the issues faced by our community.

A lot of people don’t understand the difference between federal and provincial mandates and abilities. Or they see what the Liberal government has done and think that a lot of the initiatives proposed by Jagemeet are already happening, when they are not.

While I’d love to go through every point in the platform one-by-one, instead I’m going to focus on some specific pieces and expand on why these are major steps.

The LGBTQI2S+ Initiatives Introduction

There are a lot of good pieces in the introduction, but I want to focus on the following paragraph and explain why it is so important while addressing the limitation of the federal government:

That’s why as Leader of the NDP and Prime Minister, I will bring federal leadership to this issue by working with the provinces to ensure access to health care is based on physical needs rather than outdated gender stereotypes, especially concerning trans and intersex health care.

Simply put: While Jagmeet wants the community to receive the health care they need, he acknowledges that this requires getting provincial governments on board. Getting provincial governments on board is a very difficult task. They don’t like it when they are told how to spend health care dollars. They don’t even need to come to the table to negotiate. While we wish that the provinces would happily come on board on these initiatives, the reality is they won’t. Look at how long it took for the most resent health care agreement to be negotiated and finalized. Manitoba only came on-board a couple days ago and the funding provisions were all good things. But provinces hate to be told how to spend money.

Bringing federal leadership means doing advocacy work. It means leading by example. It means presenting data (more on that in the Health Canada section) and speaking to tangible impacts. It means educating and making sure provinces have the necessary information to make informed decisions. It means changing not only provincial governments attitudes on these issues but also public opinion so that Canadians don’t feel like their tax dollars are being spent on bad things.

Another important piece is the language about outdated gender stereotypes. It’s not centered on medical transition, which further perpetuates horrible misinformation about what transition means and is a very cisnormative approach to health care.

Today, an announcement was made about trans policies for federal employees and, once again, it’s centered on medical transition which is not the path most transgender people take.

Jagmeet’s policy recognizes that unique health care needs aren’t something specific to a “phase” but these are lifelong needs, like access to reproductive care for AFBAB trans people, prostate exams for AFMAB trans people, and the list goes on.  I’m still trying to find out if Ontario is also covering the abortion pill for trans masculine people who have legally transitioned. The literature tells me it’s not because it relies on a doctor’s prescription and F on the health card. The abortion pill is just one tiny example of how outdated gender stereotypes in health care harm trans people.

I was also shocked to learn that there are abortion clinics in Ontario that specialize in HIV patients that won’t provide abortions to HIV-positive trans men.

Our unique health care needs are lifelong. Transition can be as simple as stating one’s true gender. A lot of trans people only seek medical transition because of coercion from society. Health care shouldn’t be gendered.

LGBTQI2S+ Youth Housing Initiative

There is a lot of information in this piece. You can read the Youth Housing Initiative as its own piece here.

There is a really important reason why we should be focusing on Youth Housing and it’s the same reason we spend more money on childhood education instead of post-secondary education: Prevention.

People who experience homelessness in their youth are more likely to experience homelessness in their adult lives. Most homeless youth were in foster care.

Studies also show that LGBTQIS2+ youth who have a good support system, including family support which the foster system is supposed to provide, have decreased depression and suicidal ideation. They also perform better in school and have less dysphoria when they are accepted as who they are, instead of as a body that is gendered incorrectly.

It is very important to combat these issues while people are younger instead of reacting to the increased homelessness and poverty when they are older. It’s really no different than preventative healthcare.

As I said in my piece about what Love and Courage means to me, I undergo constant threats so that the people growing up today do not have to face the same things I have had to fight and have to continue to fight because I will never have the privilege of being read as cisgender. And my right to dignity should not be conditional upon looking like a cisgender person.

Educating people who will deal with the most vulnerable of youth and providing opt-in programs is a huge step towards making sure youth LGBTQI2S+ people do not have to grow up like I did.

Gender Equity in Federal ID Initiative

And another section with a lot of information. You can read the Federal ID Initiative as its own piece here.

One argument you may see is in regards to passports and how the federal government has already eliminated medical documentation. The reality is: They haven’t. And yes, there will soon be a third gender option, but it still doesn’t go far enough.

While you no longer need a letter stating you have had surgery, you do still need to have a birth certificate with your real gender. That means, you have to live in a province that allows you to self-identify. The problem with that: You need to find a doctor willing to sign the forms. And if you’re a minor, you need your guardian’s permission. Also, you need the money. My legal transition cost over $1000. For most trans people, that is prohibitive.

These changes don’t require an updated birth certificate. You just need to check the proper gender box. Not only that, fees are waived for updating already issued documentation.

This is eliminating a HUGE barrier to the fundamental right to self-identify. Having at least one piece of photo ID with a correct gender is more monumental than cis people seem to understand because they’ve always had it. The right to self-identify without barriers is another example of tackling the very root of these issues.

There is also a great thing about the Census piece. It’s not just adding a category for people to identify as intersex, trans man, trans woman, and non-binary, but adding questions specific to help identify and fund more programs to tackle LGBTQI2S+ issues.

We also need to know exactly how many of us are in the population. Before changes to the DSM, trans men were denied their identity and the proportion of trans women to trans men was very much out of whack. Now, these numbers are equalizing. Not because more people are trans men, but because we are no longer being erased by the medical field. It’s not at all dissimilar to what you see with autism diagnosis after changing the criteria to better match the reality.

Of course, eliminating the need for gender on ID for domestic travel is important. Especially when there are a number of human rights cases in B.C. about eliminating gender on ID. If these cases are won, then it would preclude trans people from domestic travel without the federal government first taking these steps.

Finally, advocating for the same changes on an international level is hugely important, as is taking the lead and modelling to provincial governments how ID should be handled.

Health Canada

This part is really big. It may be only a few lines but it will have huge impact. Again, it’s proactive and not reactive.

Everything is funded as the result of data. When we don’t fund things based on data, those initiatives usually fail. While it would be nice to say things like, “We will put X dollars into Y,” it’s not realistic. Before we can fund anything, we need to properly identify what those needs are. Otherwise, we will be playing whack-a-mole.

There is no data about the true health care needs are. There is a study for Trans Pulse that concludes that trans people with female on their original birth certificate have the least amount of access to health care. Not only that, but trans people with female on their original birth certificates are better educated but earn less money than trans people with male on their original birth certificates. However, they can’t point to a cause because other data does not exist. They way they had to find a good sample of trans people was a difficult process that took years because, while they could easily get the data about the cis population from Census and Stats Canada data, it doesn’t exists for trans people.

There is also another study about violence and AFBAB trans people that states:

Finally, we present data on history of transphobic harassment and violence. An estimated 16.9% of Ontario’s GB-MSM trans guys have experienced physical or sexual assault that they attribute to being trans. Many trans guys also reported experiencing assault, but were unsure as to whether it was a transphobic attack. An additional 36.1% experienced harassment or threats, but not assault. This indicates an extremely high level of violence that trans guys are subjected to, in addition to other types of violence they may have experienced in their lives.

In a study out of the US, these are the figures on lifetime sexual assault, and not just limited to sexual assault after revealing true gender:

Experiences also varied across gender, with transgender men (51%) and non-binary people with female on their original birth certificate (58%) being more likely to have been sexually assaulted, in contrast to transgender women (37%) and nonbinary people with male on their original birth certificate (41%) (Figure 15.16). Among transgender men and non-binary people with female on their original birth certificates, rates of sexual assault were higher among people of color, particularly American Indian, Middle Eastern, and multiracial people.

I’m focus on AFBAB trans people because I’m a gay trans man and this is my lane.

The bottom line is that a lot of these issues are not part of societal discussions when it comes to trans health care, part of which includes experiences with violence. We spend a lot of time talking about AMBAB trans people and that is great! But to make sure all trans people get the care they need in all aspects of health care, we need studies with firm numbers, that provinces can easily access and don’t have to persuade tax payers to foot the bill.

I would love if there could be a policy that says, “X dollars for Y,” but the truth is, we don’t even know what the Y is. So we must tackle that piece first.

And very importantly, the piece about intersex babies. This is a huge crisis that no-one talks about. Addressing it is long overdue. Some studies put the rates of intersex children at 1 in 200, but the reality is, just like the population of trans people, we don’t know what the real numbers are. Society should be outraged at the number of unnecessary genital surgeries that are performed on babies when they are unable to consent, just to make cis parents’ lives easier.

I’ve not yet seen any policy, on a federal or provincial level, that address the basic needs of intersex people. It is extremely important that the federal government also advocates on this issue in order to bring these issues to light and be a catalyst and example for change.

Repeal the Blood Ban

This policy piece is something that is part and parcel of being a member of the NDP. It would be shocking to not see it included. The blood ban is incredible gay and trans antagonist. One of the most ridiculous things about it is: Trans men who are gay or bisexual (which, according to one Ontario study, is 63.3% of trans men) seem to share some HIV acquisition risk factors with their cisgender counterparts.

This is not me saying “Ban gay trans men, too.” What I’m saying is that because of reasons like the above, this issue should be based on individual risk assessment and not bad science, which the current ban is based upon.

Jagmeet Singh’s LGBTQI2S+ policy contains many necessary first steps to combat the root causes of systematic barriers and isn’t jumping the queue. Many of these policies will have an immediate and positive impact on the lives in our communities. And it’s just the beginning. A very necessary beginning if we are ever going to tackle other issues. As Maria Von Trapp once sang, “Let’s start at the very beginning. It’s a very good place to start.”

By setting the standard on a federal level and showing leadership, I am confident we will get to many more steps once this policy becomes reality.

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