Rob Anders is on a mission. Hot on the heels of having to halfway apologize for alleging that NDP leader Thomas Mulcair drove former NDP leader Jack Layton to his grave, Anders is now sending at least one church (possibly more) a letter asking them to petition MPs to oppose Bill C-279, which would (in its current form) extend human rights protections to transsexual and transgender people. You'd almost think he needs an easy deflection, and trans people are the punching bag du jour.
It must be important, too. For a Member of Parliament who has gained a reputation for falling asleep during Question Period in the House of Commons, allegedly napping through presentations about homeless veterans, and about whom fellow MPs have stated that "It’s a regular occurrence... I sit across from him when we meet in Ottawa and I’ve seen his neighbours poke him awake sometimes," this must be pretty urgent, attention-getting stuff. After all, he's staying focused on this one.
In his original letter, he raises the alarm:
"That Bill C-279, also known as the "Bathroom Bill", is a Private Members Bill sponsored by B.C. NDP MP Randall Garrison and its goal is to give transgendered men access to women’s public washroom facilities.
"And that it is the duty of the House of Commons to protect and safeguard our children from any exposure and harm that will come from giving a man access to women’s public washroom facilities."
Ah, he wants to protect women. Hence his vote in support of M-312, which hoped to make government an arbiter of what reproductive health decisions women are allowed to make. How chivalrous.
The Calgary West MP has stirred up controversy before, sending Canadian troops a Christmas message which read, "when in doubt, pull the trigger." He also made international news when he called Nelson Mandela a terrorist. In 2010, 19 members of Anders' riding association quit citing interference from the Conservative Party, with another 5 of the 32-member board following in the days afterward.
I've written before about washroom panic, and the historic use of this non-existent epidemic (considering that we've used public restrooms for as long as we've existed, and not seen any statistically notable number of instances of predation) to oppose all basic human rights inclusion for trans people, and have to admit that Anders' comments pale in comparison (probably only because of brevity) to the rant that Niagara West-Glanbrook MP Dean Allison delivered right on the floor of the House of Commons this past April:
"I find this potentially legitimized access for men in girls' bathrooms to be very disconcerting. As sexual predators are statistically almost always men, imagine the trauma that a young girl would face, going into a washroom or a change room at a public pool and finding a man there. It is unconscionable for any legislator, purposefully or just neglectfully, to place her in such a compromising position."
Still, Anders is careful to make his talking points look original, although they are really not that different from Allison's, the panic letters previously sent from LifeSiteNews, rants by Charles McVety, or the letter sent by MP Maurice Vellacott to his fellow MPs when the predecessor of this bill, Bill C-389, trekked through the previous session of Parliament, forwarding comments from a "constituent" who turned out to be Jim Hughes of the Campaign Life Coalition. Or the editorial written by MP Blake Richards in the Rocky View Weekly as C-389 proceeded to Third Reading. That bill passed, but died awaiting ratification by the Senate, when the election was called.
Rise and shine, SunTV
Anders' comments also come as Sun News Network commentators Michael Coren and Faith Goldy are reacting negatively to the Toronto District School Board's introduction of a policy that will allow trans students to use washrooms that are appropriate to their gender identity -- even the Toronto Sun implies that trans identity is whim by phrasing it as using "whichever washroom they wish." The TDSB ruling is in response to a 2011 ruling by the Ontario Human Rights Commission, and addresses accommodating trans kids (something badly needed), but like Anders, Coren and Goldy fixate on potty panic. Transcribed by the Huffington Post:
"Goldy was quick to make the issue personal. 'I cannot but help but bring this story back to my 5-year-old god-daughter and the fact that when she goes to the bathroom by herself who knows what kind of creepo is now fully permitted, he has the right now, to be standing in that bathroom and doing God knows what,' the reporter said."
"Who knows what" is probably peeing, and trans people value their privacy during that as much as any other Canadian, thank you very much.
Goldy, like Anders, deliberately misgenders female-identified trans people. We know that Anders isn't referring to anyone else when he is petitioning about "transgendered [sic] men" because the trans men I know would generally not be wanting to use the womens' room anyway. Granted, womens' restrooms tend to be cleaner, but those beards might raise questions.
I've seen that kind of deliberate misgendering a lot, and typically the objective is to portray trans people as being deluded at best or else outright fraudulent. But when this kind of intentional disrespect comes from politicians and media figures, it especially needs to be challenged.
"I'm petitioning you to petition me..."
Although Anders' comments are obviously not new, it signals a growing trend when Conservative MPs start actively lobbying their constituents to lobby them for petition signatures. This is reminiscent of Jason Kenney's recent letter to congratulate himself on his efforts as a champion of LGBT human rights, and his previous petition to petition his constituents to petition him to thank him for petitioning them to thank him (or something) on his valiant initiative to deny health care to immigrants. With Anders, Vellacott, Allison et al actively stirring up fears of an imaginary transsexual bogeymonster in order to defeat human rights legislation, it signals a disturbing trend among legislators -- in these cases, Conservatives -- by attempting to manipulate the public conversation and skew public input in a way that would appear to support their personal agendas.
Which brings me back to a point I've made before, and made often:
Human rights protections are necessary exactly because this irrational fear persists. It’s necessary exactly because trans people still get conflated with sex predators and child predators, or labeled as “sick,” “perverse,” and “freaks.” It’s necessary exactly because people become so clouded with assumptions and myths that they argue for our deliberate exclusion from human rights under the pretext that granting them would be “dangerous” or “scary.” It’s necessary exactly because this bias is so entrenched that people think nothing about broadcasting it openly as though fact. It’s necessary exactly because this “ick factor” response is seen as justification for not allowing an entire group of people to share the same space, to terminate their employment or to evict them. It’s necessary exactly because it is so pervasive that discrimination becomes not only likely but inevitable -- especially if there is no explicit direction in law to the contrary on the matter.
And especially if that irrational meme is so prevalent that it's being loudly and embarrassingly parroted by legislators.
The sponsor of Bill C-279, Randall Garrison, has responded to Anders' petition, saying that “what’s most offensive about his petition is that he equates transgendered people with sex offenders and pedophiles. This petition is obviously based on ignorance, misinformation and fear, but that’s unfortunately what we’ve come to expect from Mr. Anders.”
Rob Anders, however, has been not responding to requests for comment. Maybe he's nodding off, after all.
Crossposted to DentedBlueMercedes.
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