Metro/Jessica Smith Joanne Law poses for a photo in Confederation Park in Ottawa.

A bill aimed at giving transgender and transsexual people human rights protections has been demeaned as “the bathroom bill” before, but now a socially conservative group is telling Parliament it will give “recognition and acceptance” to pedophiles.

A researcher with the social conservative group REAL Women of Canada is scheduled to speak to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights Tuesday in opposition of Bill C-279. The bill seeks to give trans people specific protection by including “gender identity” and “gender expression” as prohibited grounds of discrimination in the Human Rights Code and as criteria for hate crimes.

The group has prepared a written submission ahead of time. One section lists groups it calls “rights-seeking activists dealing with gender identity and gender expression,” which it claims includes pedophiles.

“Beyond special rights, many demand ‘recognition and acceptance,’” the paper says. “These (groups) and further categories would fall under the umbrella of ‘gender identity’ and ‘gender expression’ and this includes pedophilia, as pedophilia activists are already agitating for recognition, demanding that their sexual orientation be legally and socially accepted.”

The REAL Women of Canada group is no stranger to controversy, but also apparently has some political power. It was recently chosen as a “partner organization” to help the government award the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medals.

No one from REAL Women of Canada was available to comment on Monday.

Trans Canadians respond to group’s claims

Hershel Russell, a transgendered man and psychotherapist from Toronto, said the group’s claim is not only completely inaccurate, it’s “ugly, straightforward discrimination.”

“We’re pretty clear at this point that being lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans has nothing whatsoever to do with pedophilia. The overwhelming majority of pedophiles are typically-gendered, heterosexual men,” he said. “There’s really no question about that and it’s a really, very ugly, nasty slur.”

“If the only people who are going to oppose the bill are people who are this much in favour of discrimination, I think it says something about how clearly we need to pass this bill,” he said.

Russell also took issue with the group’s other claims, especially that transgender people should receive treatment for “emotional and psychological problems,” rather than medical care and support for their transition and human rights. He points out that the Canadian Medical Association, the American Medical Association, and all major physiological and psychiatric associations disagree with the REAL Women’s findings.

In fact, Russell said a recent Ontario-based study found that trans people’s rates of attempted suicide are high—something the REAL Women included in their paper—but the rates only stay high for trans people who have not received proper treatment for their transition, at which point they fall to approximately the same rate as the general population.

Susan Gapka, a transgendered woman, activist and public policy expert, said it’s very difficult to listen to the group’s claims about pedophilia, but the argument is so bad it makes her “laugh mechanism” kick in.

“It’s fiction,” she said. “It’s an example of story-telling, mythmaking and fear mongering.”

The REAL women also claim that allowing trans people to use the washrooms of their choice puts women and at risk of sexual assault, which, Gapka says, makes little sense considering that there are no laws and no guards to stop any people from entering a woman’s washroom today.

“When people hear that these are the opposition arguments to giving us the rights in the bill, they will see just how ridiculous these claims are,” she said. “This type of submission from REAL Women or other groups who use that sort of tactic indicates why explicit, clear, human rights protection for transsexual and transgendered people is indeed necessary and long overdue.”

Even though Gapka laughs at the claims for being shallow, not researched and ludicrous, she said it hurts trans people to hear them.

“This is very harmful. Some community members find this very harmful and very hateful,” she said.

Ivy Black, a 17-year-old Toronto student who came out as transgendered a little over a year ago, said she thinks the REAL Women of Canada’s paper shows they don’t know anything about being transgendered and likely don’t know any trans people.

“As a trans person, as a woman, I just want to be accepted and understood as a person equal to everyone else in Canada,” she said.

Black said the REAL Women of Canada approach the issue of trans rights by wishing for a world they believe once existed, and worked well without trans people in it, where they believe being transgendered is a sickness, not a legitimate, acceptable part of their personhood.

“I can kind of see where they’re coming from in upholding traditional family values and gender roles in the sense of ‘if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it,’—except that it is broken for many different individuals, and it’s becoming increasingly irrelevant to society,” she said. “We need to get beyond these labels, politically, have equal individual rights.”

She pointed out that the bill is unlikely to affect any of the “REAL Women,” but will ultimately improve the lives of real trans people.

Reading the section of the REAL Women of Canada’s paper about pedophilia made her “pretty mad.”

“Just because you’re giving individual rights to trans people, to protect them from harassment, that doesn’t lead to allowing people to do clearly unethical things to children,” she said.

“The Canadian government recognizes marriage as a relationship between two consenting adults and I don’t think that’s going to change and that’s not the issue at hand. It’s just something they’re using to demonize the trans community and the bill itself.”

Joanne Law, a trans woman and activist from Ottawa, will be attending the REAL Women’s presentation to the committee Tuesday.

In a way, she’s not surprised to hear the REAL Women’s claims.

“Not anymore,” she said. “I’m surprised they will say it in the House of Commons.”

Law said she’s well aware of the group and how accomplished they are at getting their message to the government.

“They can abuse us, and they can abuse us inside the House of Commons and we can’t do a damn thing about it,” she said.

If she had a chance, Law would love to say to them, “Just shut up and listen.”

The trans community is still fighting and many members have made their own submissions to MPs, but, because of the rules of the committee, those who attend the committee meeting Tuesday will have to be silent as the REAL Women deliver their message to the government, she said.

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