Transgender rights advocates are fuming at a petition launched by Conservative MP Rob Anders that aims to stop transgendered people from using public washrooms that match their gender identity.
The petition targets Bill C-279, a private member’s bill to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code to add “gender identity” and “gender expression” to the list of prohibited grounds for discrimination.
The bill makes no mention of washrooms, but in a petition posted on Anders’ website, he dubs it the “bathroom bill” and says its “goal is to give transgendered men access to women’s public washroom facilities.”
“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,” the petition states.
But advocates say no such danger exists and Anders is instead invoking fear and stereotypes of transgendered people to stop the bill.
Randall Garrison, the NDP’s LGBT rights critic, introduced Bill C-279 last year. It passed second reading in June and is set to go to a standing committee.
Garrison said in an interview the bill’s goal is equal rights for transgendered people.
“What’s most offensive about his petition is that he equates transgendered people with sex offenders and pedophiles,” he said. “This petition is obviously based on ignorance, misinformation and fear, but that’s unfortunately what we’ve come to expect from Mr. Anders.”
Earlier this week, Anders apologized for saying NDP leader Thomas Mulcair hastened Jack Layton’s death by making it clear to him that if he couldn’t fight the federal election, he should step aside.
“It’s probably time for another retraction and apology,” Garrison said.
Helen Kennedy, executive director of national LGBT rights organization Egale, also condemned the petition.
“Does Rob Anders use the same washroom as his family at home?” she asked.
Kennedy also pointed out that Anders had his language wrong — a “transgendered man” indicates a female-to-male transgendered person.
“He obviously needs help. It’s so flawed even in how it’s presented,” she said. “Anders would do better to spend his time educating himself and talking to people in his constituency who are transgendered.”
Public washrooms are stressful places for many transgendered people, who don’t know how others will react, she said.
“Even going to the bathroom as a woman who presents in a masculine way, that can be problematic whether you’re trans or not.”
She applauded new guidelines introduced by the Toronto District School Board to allow students to use the public washroom that corresponds with their gender identity.
But she said the best solution would be gender-neutral washrooms, which schools in Newfoundland-Labrador have introduced.
Anders’s website does not indicate how many people have signed the petition.
Anders did not respond to the Star’s interview requests.