From seeking visibility to vengeance

Several hundred protesters marched through the gay village in criticism of the “committee of wisemen” on Trans Day of Visibility

At 2:00 p.m. on March 31, over 200 protesters gathered at 600 Rue Fullum, near Pied-du-Courant park. After half-an-hour, speakers gathered on a small hill to do a land acknowledgement, direct attendees to those with first aid training, and speak to the reasons the protest was organized before beginning the march.

March 31 is often celebrated as Trans Day of Visibility, and the protest was described as “Trans Day of Vengeance: for an end to state-sponsored anti-trans hate.” Last fall, the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) announced the creation of the comité des sages or the committee of wisemen, which is a group created with the aim to provide guidance on creating trans policy and legislation. In January, several trans organizations and activists came together to form ‘Nous ne serons pas sages,’ [We will not be wise] a coalition for the dissolution of the committee of wisemen.

The lack of trans people on a committee designed to make legislation decisions that directly affect trans people is a common criticism faced by the comité des sages

“I think the government is playing a very dangerous game,” said Zael, an activist involved with the coalition who wished to not give a last name.

“Our hope is that [the general population] will [see that] this is not acceptable; you cannot build political momentum on a marginalized community,” she said.

Clara, a queer student who wished to refrain from giving a last name, chimed in. “[The committee members] are getting people who have nothing to do with the community to make judgments about something they know nothing about,” she said.

Simon Etien, a father of two who was attending the protest with his family, also expressed dissatisfaction with the existence of the committee. “I don’t think it’s just for a government to impose boundaries on what kind of medical treatment or psychological treatment should be right for a child or teenager,” Etien said.

He also criticized the idea of “parents’ rights.” “As a parent, there are a lot of people who are talking about the ‘parents’ rights.’ As a parent, I don’t feel we have rights. We have the honour ‘de devoir,’ the obligations toward our child,” Etien said.

The group of protesters, now closer to 350 people, began marching southwest on Boulevard René-Levesque at 2:30 p.m. before stopping in front of the CBC-Radio Canada building. Numerous police officers were standing outside and police tape had been placed around entrances on both Papineau street and Boulevard René-Levesque. 

The group marched around the building before gathering on the corner of René Lévesque and Alexandre-DeSève street, where a few people spoke to the impact of anti-trans legislation. Protesters were then directed to continue marching along the boulevard, where they then turned north on Alexandre-DeSève before turning west onto St. Catharine street. The group then turned south on Berri, continuing before turning west on René-Levesque.

The march finished with a few final speeches at the Place des Festivals plaza at 4:45 p.m.
In addition to calling for the dissolution of the comité des sages, the protest was a celebration of the yearly day of visibility and an opportunity to combat rising anti-trans sentiments. “The trans agenda is an average life expectancy, merci beaucoup, thank you so much!” said activist Celeste Trianon, ending the final speech of the protest.


“Queers against the CAQ” protest held in Old Port

Several queer organizations in Montreal came together to protest against anti-trans actions by the current Quebec government.

At 4 p.m. on Jan. 15, about 50 people gathered in front of Montreal’s Palais de justice in the Old Port. Co-organized by Mubaadarat, Com (CUMSLUTS) UQÀM, Première Ligne, P!nk Bloc and Queer McGill, this protest comes as a response to recent decisions made by the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ). 

On Dec. 5, Quebec’s Minister of Families, Suzanne Roy, announced the creation of a “comité des sages” or “committee of wise people” to guide the province in legislation concerning trans people. Though one of the three goals of this committee was to “ease social tensions,” many trans and queer people have expressed concern about the implementation of the committee.

“[Their] job is essentially to debate ‘the trans question’ in a way that really is debating whether or not we are allowed to exist and how they presume how to let us integrate into society,” said protest coordinator Ki’ra, who preferred not to share their last name. “Conservative governments are generally not very queer-friendly, but this [government] particularly has taken several steps to alienate queer people in an attempt to garner more support.”

Much of these criticisms come from the absence of trans people or allies within the committee.

Celeste Trianon, one of the protest’s co-organizers, chimed in: “It’s a committee that’s going to make so many decisions about the future of queer and trans rights in Quebec, yet does not contain any trans people, concerned people such as parents of trans people, nor experts.”

Speeches began shortly after the crowd gathered, with various organizers speaking in English and French about the CAQ’s policies, why they were harmful, and what they hoped would be done moving forward. “This committee is François Legault’s response to [the anti-trans protest on] Sept. 20,” Ki’ra said. “If [the committee members] cared about trans people, they would resign from the committee and call for its dissolution.”

The implementation of the committee was not the only criticism made about the CAQ at the protest. “F*** the CAQ, everyone has a good reason to hate the CAQ,” said Ki’ra. “It’s been months that we’ve seen rotating strikes going on in the public sector. They don’t have any solutions for that, they don’t have any solutions for housing, they’ve recently put through a law that would allow landlords to refuse lease transfers without any reason.”

After the speeches concluded around 4:45 p.m, the group of protesters, now closer to 100, began marching north towards the Palais des congrès and Place D’Armes metro station. They continued chants such as “Tout le monde déteste François Legault” [Everyone hates François Legault], “When trans rights are under attack what do we do? Stand up fight back,” and “Contre Legault et la CAQ, queers bash back” [“against Legault and the CAQ, queers bash back”].

“I want to be part of the protest, to be part of the change,” said protestor Coralie Chouqette. “What’s happening everywhere in the world is unacceptable, but we have to start somewhere.”

Protesters then arrived at the Palais des congrès, marching through the doors near the Place D’Armes metro station. Chanting “on avance, on avance, on recule pas” [“we move forward, we move forward, we don’t move back”], protesters marched through the convention center.

Though mall security tried to stop the protestors and redirect them through the first exit toward the parking lot, the protesters persisted. Refusing to divert from their planned course, there was a brief stand-off between some mall security officers and those at the front of the protest. The protesters continued down the center, chanting “hey hey, ho ho, François Legault has got to go.” The protesters then left the complex, marching down René-Lévesque Blvd. Chanting continued, with “dans la rue avec nous” [on the road with us]. 

After marching down René-Lévesque Blvd, police positioned their bikes in a diagonal line in an attempt to redirect protesters toward the other half of the road. The protesters persisted, chanting “get a real job” as they pushed through their attempted diversion, forcing police to further reroute traffic.

Throughout their march, organizers and coordinators offered informational flyers about why the queer community was marching against the CAQ to those they passed.

The group continued marching towards Place Victoria, arriving at the square around 5:30 p.m.. Shortly after, final remarks were made and the group of protestors disbanded.


Second nationwide counter-protests for trans rights breaks out following controversial legislations

The Canadian government’s new questionable policies regarding trans rights are fueling the 2SLGBTQ+ community to fight back.

One thousand pro-trans protesters gathered in front of the Ministry of Education in Montreal on Sunday to continue fighting for their rights. This is the second nationwide counter-protest for trans rights following the first protest one month ago. 

Now, defending trans rights is crucial after a controversial bill was passed in western Canada.

On Friday, Saskatchewan passed Bill 137, the Parental Bill of Rights, which uses a notwithstanding clause to prevent trans youth from changing their names or pronouns in schools. The bill suggests that if a trans youth under 16 wants to change their name, they must have parental consent. If they do not get consent and insist on having their name or pronoun changed, the bill excludes the possibility of suing the government.

New Brunswick also passed a similar law over the summer in July. 

Furthermore, Quebec Premier François Legault discussed creating a “comité des sages” (committee of wise people), regarding gender identity. The Minister of Families Suzanne Roy will be the committee’s chair. It is unclear who will sit on the committee, but it is set to be revealed during the holidays. 

Celeste Trianon, trans jurisist and activist, is horrified by these new legislations appearing all over the country. She expressed that the 2SLGBTQ+ community will not back down, warning opposing groups they will continue to defend their rights.

“Anti-trans legislation is an existential threat to Canadian democracy and everyone should be concerned,” Trianon said. “Even the very groups, especially most conservative groups, which depend on this very Canadian charter to defend its rights.”

Trans rights protesters and groups such as P!nk Bloc, Montréal Antifaciste, and Première Ligne rallied together for the fight. Trans flags gracefully blew in the wind alongside signs that read “Trans Rights = Human Rights,” “Education is not indoctrination” and “Protect Trans Youth.”

On the other side, anti-trans protesters arrived at the scene holding signs such as “Leave our Kids Alone” and “Hands Off our Kids.” Young children were also present; one of their signs read “Stop confusing me, I’m just a kid.”

A pro trans protester, whose identity will remain anonymous, finds these kids’ participation in the opposing movement sad and disheartening. They believe the group’s mission to “protect their children from the indoctrination of sexualisation and gender identity,” is causing more harm than it is trying to protect the kids.

“[The kids] have no idea what they’re really doing, you know, and it’s just their parents sort of teaching them this hate,” they said. “It makes me sad because if any of them are trans, they’re just taught from the beginning to hate themselves, and they don’t have any protection. They’re not being protected.”

The protester was not aware of Bill 137 passing and when they found out, they were devastated. However, they recognize that the beautiful 2SLGBTQ+ community and their peers are a beacon of love in their life. While their love makes the difficult journey a little bit easier to get through, doubt still creeps in. 

“There is this support in the [2SLGBTQ+] community that stands with me and that I can stand with that sort of gives me this hope for the future, but then it’s also like the government doesn’t care about me,” they said. 

The heart of the protest was that trans lives deserve to be here. Trianon encourages everyone to keep voicing their support for the 2SLGBTQ+ community no matter what the government is doing.  

“Things are not going to change unless the general population wakes up to this. Anti-democratic movements must face resistance from populations,” Trianon said. 

She explains that most civil rights have been acquired through protesting, striking, and acting against institutions in power. “That is how we got the minimum wage, how people now have humane working conditions. That is why we are here now,” Trianon said, adding that this is why the Canadian Charter, the Quebec Charter and other protections which haven’t codified in law for decades. “That is why women can now vote, why people can now live their best lives and that is why I can actually exist in this society.”

Photos by Lily Cowper / The Concordian

Counter-protesters defend trans rights amid outcry of opposing protest

Trans rights groups and anti-trans groups debate what is best for children’s education about gender identity

Five hundred counter-protesters took to the streets of Downtown Montreal on Sept. 20, fighting for trans people’s rights against the opposing protest “1 Million March 4 Children,” that seeks to advocate the “elimination of the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) curriculum, pronouns, gender ideology and mixed bathrooms in schools.”

Both protests took place nationwide, accompanied by 61 counter-protests. 

Anti-trans protesters chanted “Leave our children alone” and “Parents know best” in the direction of counter-protesters, who they believe are trying to “indoctrinate their children with sexualization” according to their website. 

Celeste Trianon is a trans jurist, organizer of the “No Space for Hate” protest and one of the two national coordinators of the same campaign. She has dedicated her life to standing up for trans rights and creating an environment where they feel safe and accepted.

“There is no space for hate across Canada, and we’ve historically been one of the safest countries for 2SLGBTQ+ people across the world and we want to make sure that continues,” Trianon said. 

“Remember, our Canadian Charter has protected us [the 2SLGBTQ+ community] since the 80s. Where have all those values gone? Let’s not dismantle our Charter and the very things that make us Canadian.”

Corey Kutner, a trans person studying at Concordia, attended the counter-protest. They do not agree with the way the trans community is being presented to children. 

“A lot of people are falsely equating being trans and educating children about what it means to be trans with really awful things like being a pedophile, a groomer. I just want to do my part of combating that misinformation and standing up for trans people everywhere,” Kutner said. 

Caroline Raraujo moved from Brazil to protect her and her sons rights to be a part of the LGBTQIA+, she shares that she thinks it’s ridiculous she still has to do this in Canada as well. Kaitlynn Rodney/ The Concordian

Trans rights protesters walked down Sainte-Catherine holding signs such as “Protect Trans Kids,” “We Were Always Proud,” and “Trans people have always existed,” while chanting “Trans Rights are Human Rights.” While there were 750 anti-trans protesters, they were drowned out by the trans rights protesters, who made sure their message of solidarity was clear. 

“I’m hoping that everyone will just be able to get a better idea of just how many people there are out here who want to fight for transliteration and that it is a loud minority that is in opposition,” Kutner said.

Caroline Raraujo, a mother from Brazil, came to support the fight on behalf of her son, who came out as trans at the age of 16. She was actively involved in the 2SLGBTQ+ fight in Brazil and moved to Canada for a better life for the two of them. 

“Since he came out as a trans boy, I’m acting like a shield and I’m going to protect him. I’m going to protect him wherever they try to remove his rights or attack him. And not just him, but all the trans community,” Raraujo said.

Trianon ended her interview by addressing the public:

“To our queer and trans teens, kids, adults, and elders: you are seen, you are welcome. You are welcome here in Canada, and for us, as long as we can continue making sure that you are safe here, we’re going to do everything we can in our power to make sure you are not just welcomed, but loved.”


Protesters at McGill cancel talk by law professor with ties to the LGB Alliance

The incident sparked debates between the balance of free speech and hate speech on University Campuses

On Tuesday Jan. 10, the Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism (CHRLP) from McGill University hosted a talk called “The Sex vs. Gender (Identity) Debate in the United Kingdom and the Divorce of LGB from T.” 

The event was disrupted by more than 100 protesters due to the presence of controversial guest speaker and McGill alumni Robert Wintemute. Wintemute is a Human Rights Law Professor at King’s College London and a trustee of the LGB Alliance — an advocacy group funded in the UK that opposes certain policies for transgender rights on the grounds that they undermine those of lesbians, bisexuals and gay men and cisgender women.

The protestors occupied the first floor of Chancellor Day Hall and interrupted the professor’s talk by unplugging the projector, which then led to him being escorted out by McGill staff. 

Celeste Trianon, a law student at Université de Montréal and trans rights activist, helped organize the campaign against Wintemute’s seminar.

According to Trianon and other queer advocacy groups, one of the LGB Alliance’s main goals is to oppose policies that aim at protecting and advancing trans rights. 

Trianon explained that the organization had, among other things, lobbied against the “legal recognition of gender identity in the British and Scottish contexts” and works “in collaboration with other anti-trans organizations in the United States.”

She added that, in Canada, the LGB Alliance opposed the inclusion of transgender people in Bill C-4, which prohibited conversion therapy.

“Their whole idea is based on a far-right concept called ‘drop the T’ which is a strategy to divide the queer community by separating transgender people from the rest of the community,” said Trianon. “It is an organization that disguises itself as a pro-women’s rights and pro-gay and lesbian organization.”

Trianon is worried about the international scope that the Alliance is gaining, including in Canada. 

“This is reflected in the fact that all the hate I received after the demonstration came from all over the world and not only from Quebec,”

Said Trianon.

Trianon went on to elaborate on the hate messages and death threats she received via email and social media.

In an interview with The Concordian, Wintemute said that part of his talk was to argue that trans people’s rights, particularly those of trans women, sometimes infringe on cis women’s rights and that legislation against discrimination was “full of contradictions.” He asserted the belief that many cis women agreed with his position but were too afraid or intimidated to speak up against pro-trans rights policies.

“What I was doing was no hate speech at all. Freedom of expression covers even ideas that can offend or disturb. There’s a tendency today that says disagreement equals hatred, but it doesn’t,”

Said Wintemute.

Wintemute argued that the protestors had no right to disturb his talk, comparing the event to “a mini version of the US Congress in Jan. 2021 or the Brazilian capital in Jan. 2023.”

McGill University declined to comment on the incident. A spokesperson from the CHRLP sent out an email saying, “Every year, the CHRLP organizes a range of events on a variety of human rights issues […] They are not an endorsement of any speaker’s views. McGill recognizes and supports the rights of its students to peaceful protest on campus.”

“This defense of academic freedom as an absolute concept is used to defend hate speech,” said Trianon. “We really have to ask ourselves who was really violent? Was it the protesters or this speech that puts trans people in danger? How do we define violence?”


The trans community strongly responds to oppose Bill 2

Concordia University Television (CUTV) hosts trans-advocate Celeste Trianon to speak on Bill 2

The Quebec National Assembly tabled Bill 2 on Thursday, Oct. 21, which has been cited as one of the most regressive trans-rights bills in Quebec’s history. Bill 2 would see that only transgender people who undergo gender-affirming surgery can successfully request an official sex change on their birth certificate.

The inability to represent yourself legally as the gender with which you identify is extremely limiting for trans people. Simple tasks like preparing a CV or cashing a cheque with your preferred name become much harder.

Under the new bill gender reaffirming surgery will be required for anyone to change their sex on legal documents, a surgery that results in infertility. The policy effectively forces sterilization upon anyone who wants to be legally recognized by the gender with which they identify on their legal documents. It would also forcibly out trans people and strip them of safety.

The trans community and advocates throughout the province have responded en masse to the discriminatory policy proposed by Justice Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette.

Concordia University Television (CUTV) held a press conference in conjunction with the premiere of their new documentary on trans rights in Quebec, featuring trans-rights activist Celeste Trianon, an educator at the Centre for Gender Advocacy.

“Let’s just say this bill is an enormous regression and the most transphobic bill of not just Quebec but Canada as a whole. It is truly the most regressive bill in the entire country,” said Trianon.

The regressive nature of Bill 2 has led to many pointing out the province’s failure to address gender issues compared to other provinces, but this has not always been the case.

“Actually Quebec once upon a time was ahead, the ability for trans people to change their gender marker was first introduced in 1978, albeit with lots of requirements, of course. And trans people have been protected from discrimination on the basis of sex since 1998. So there have been lots of advances both at the legal and judicial levels a long time ago, but in recent years Quebec has really fallen behind,” said Trianon.

The Quebec government wants to make up for the loss of the ability for trans people to legally change their documents with the addition of a new gender identity marker.

“This gender identity marker is separate from the sex designation and will effectively serve as a way to separate trans people from their cisgender counterparts. By separating [them], this makes trans people extremely vulnerable, extremely seen,” said Trianon.

“Fighting for trans rights is broader trans inclusion in society which necessarily involves not being as visibly trans, but this trans identity marker will make them extremely visible.”

The response to Bill 2 has been “overwhelmingly and unanimously negative” from the trans community, according to Trianon. Protests have already taken place and a legally-binding petition was filed by Trianon on Oct. 26 in order to give Quebec citizens and residents a clear pathway to participate in the legal system in the fight against Bill 2. Efforts have been made to contact lawmakers by phone and email to make them aware of the transphobic nature of the bill. Quebec Solidaire works closely with the Centre for Gender Advocacy and has opposed the bill along with some Quebec liberals.

When it comes to other levels of government within Canada, Trianon said “There have been a lot of informal responses, but there hasn’t been anything official yet. But the trans community can only hope that there is official involvement.”

In the meantime, there is still hope for those who want to fight against Bill 2.

“There are so many things you can do. A few things that have happened already are grassroots activism. Protests have been planned as little as three or four days after the bill was introduced […] You can always join in with them. Additionally, you can always donate funds to organizations fighting for trans rights.”

Some popular organizations which take donations are Project 10, Gris Montreal and the Montreal LGBTQ+ community centre.

“You can sign the legally-binding petition as soon as it is made available. You can also call your lawmakers to tell them directly this bill is wrong, tell them we won’t accept transphobia and interphobia in modern 21st-century society,” said Trianon.

You can learn more about the fight against gender oppression at the Centre for Gender Advocacy’s web page, and watch CUTV’s documentary on the evolution of trans rights here.


Photograph by Evan Lindsay


NikkieTutorials and the art of labelling

On 13 Jan., Nikkie de Jager, known famously as NikkieTutorials, one of YouTube’s biggest makeup gurus, was trending all over the platform after uploading a video entitled “I’m Coming Out.”

I have been a casual fan of Nikki’s for a long time, mostly for her original makeup looks and her lively personality. I was never very invested in her personal life and would just get inspired by her videos for my own makeup looks.

However, when this video was trending, I was curious. I recalled vaguely that Nikkie was engaged to her long-time boyfriend Dylan. “Oh, she’s coming out as bi? Dope!,” was my first reaction as I clicked the link. I did not expect tears to roll down my cheeks once I was done watching this 17-minute-long video. But then again, I’ve been very emotional these days, it’s kind of embarrassing, but that doesn’t make this video any less important.

I watched as Nikkie breathed deeply, smiling uneasily at the camera, then chuckling nervously and saying: “I always wanted to tell you guys this. I just didn’t expect to do it now. When I was a child, I was born in the wrong body.”

The relief that coursed through her after coming out as transgender was inspiring, and frankly beautiful to watch. The uneasy smile turned into a hearty laugh as she repeatedly stated that it’s always great to finally be honest with her supporters.

Nonetheless, her coming out is not all rainbows and roses. (Get it?) 

The video starts and ends with the fact that the timing was not of her choosing—and that is because she was blackmailed into doing it.

Her voice cracking, with tears forming around her eyes, she made sure to state over and over that: “I am still me. I am still Nikkie. I am human.”

That stuck with me, because there is nothing worse than to be limited to one label that people force you to completely define yourself with. Whether you are LGBTQ+, a person of colour, or of a certain religion, people always deem it fit to keep you in a specific box in order for them to better place you in society. What the hell is that all about?

There is a big difference between minorities defining themselves as such, and society doing it for them. Because when minorities own this part of themselves, it’s normally to shine a light on their struggles and show tell others going through the same thing that they are not alone. But, when society chooses to slap a label on them, it is most likely not out of the goodness of their hearts, but as a sort of placement.

When NikkieTutorials said “before anything, I am me,” I never felt so connected to her. I by no means claim to know anything about her struggles, nor the struggles of transgender people in general. But I know what it’s like to be tokenized in order to fill a fantasy, boxed in order to fit a stereotype people refuse to let go of, or even limited to a single part of my identity.

So please, for the love of all that is good and pure in this universe, as a wise man (Harry Styles) once said, treat people with freakin’ kindness and quit forcing labels on them—it’s not cute. 



Graphic by Sasha Axenova


Are we doing Pride wrong?

Pride comes around each year as a way to recognize the LGBTQI+ community. It is celebrated in the month of June as a way to honor the 1969 Stonewall Uprising that took place in Manhattan, New York.

However, 2019 marks 50 years since members of the LGBTQI+ community fought back against police at the Stonewall Inn; and as a result, launching what is today known as the LGBTQ rights movement. Over the years, there has been a significant improvement in the legal and social protections that LGBTQ people have access to. This includes rights to same-sex marriage, employment security and the right to hold universal celebrations like Pride.

It’s important to note that Pride still remains pertinent well into the 21st century because there is still a lot of discrimination and injustice directed at LGBTQI+ people worldwide. On May 30, two women were the subject of a homophobic attack on a night bus in London. The pair was violently beaten by a group of teenagers, which goes to show that hate crimes still exist.

According to the BBC, attacks on the LGBTQ community have almost doubled since 2014 which means there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done regarding the safety of LGBTQI+ people.

As for the history of the LGBTQI+ rights movement, the Stonewall Uprising became a pivotal turning point for the Gay Liberation Movement that took place in the United States in ‘69. What initially started as a one-day celebration known as “Gay Pride Day,” which took place on the last Sunday in June, quickly developed into a month-long series of festivities.

Nowadays, Pride Month consists of parades, parties, concerts, you name it. Nevertheless, it is also a time to remember those who lost their lives to hate crimes or to HIV/AIDS. Overall, Pride Month leaves an impact on everyone, shining light on those who belong to the LGBTQI+ community and how they’ve influenced individuals on a historical, national, and international scale.

Despite the fact that Pride appeals to all audiences, it is important to remember that it was not born out of the desire to celebrate, but rather to demonstrate for the equality and inclusion of LGBTQI+ people. The movement stemmed from a demand for equal rights, which has evolved into a festival celebrated globally in the past 50 years.

People mustn’t forget that this battle for acceptance isn’t over. Individuals from the LGBTQI+ community face challenges when it comes to living openly in society – especially Transgender people. Their emotional, physical, and professional well-being is in a constant state of jeopardy. But with more and more LGBTQI+ people showing the courage to live as openly as they wish, we will soon see a true step forward in accepting who others are. Their bravery sets an example to all.

Not too long ago, there was controversy surrounding the fact that certain straight people questioned the need for Pride even wondering why there aren’t any “Straight Pride” parades/celebrations. This goes to demonstrate that some people may not fully comprehend the history surrounding Pride and that it didn’t start out as sunshine and rainbows.

Furthermore, when straight people question the need for Pride, it indicates a lack of recognition towards a minority group that continues to face a multitude of challenges. This was seen in the violent murders of transgender women, among other examples.

The bottom line is that the LGBTQI+ community has shown so much resilience and progress in spite of these hardships – which is something that needs to be celebrated. Pride is an incredible opportunity for everyone to come together in solidarity, and reflect on the history of the LGBTQI+ movement.


Graphic by Victoria Blair

Student Life

Steps towards trans-affirmative health care

Concordia and McGill groups address the need for LGBTQ+ patient-physician allyship

Universal health care is a core value and a major source of pride amongst Canadians. Canada’s medical institutions are expected to meet the needs of a diverse population, yet the conversation around understanding and delivering quality care to meet trans-specific health needs is full of holes, if not entirely absent.

At the end of February, a panel of experts convened at McGill to discuss the ways public health systems perpetuate outdated practices and institutionalized discrimination against LGBTQ+ people. Healthy McGill and the Nursing Peer Mentorship Program facilitated this safe space and invited audience members to bring the potentially offensive, random, or menial questions they might otherwise be afraid to ask about queer and trans health.

Simple things like asking a patient’s pronouns and prefacing potentially sensitive questions can make a huge and lasting difference, said Wong. The willingness of health care workers to learn and use LGBTQ+ friendly language signifies allyship, which is crucial in building the trust needed to give and receive quality care.

For many of the future health care providers in the room, it was their first opportunity to address health care in an LGBTQ+ context with experts working in the field. For others, it was a chance to gain a better understanding of the barriers trans people face when seeking health care in Montreal and beyond.

In A (Not So) Short Introduction to LGBTQIA2S+ Language, bioethicist and trans activist Florence Ashley defines transgender, often shortened to “trans” as, “a person whose gender identity differs from the gender they were assigned at birth.” They point out, “being trans is independent of one’s choice to take hormones or undergo surgeries.” It is not a sexual orientation, nor is it premised on anatomical criteria.

“For health care providers there’s often the confusion between sex (assigned at birth) and gender,” said panelist Kimberly Wong, a youth sexual health educator at AIDS Community Care Montreal. “When we’re talking about sex, we’re really talking about anatomy. Gender is really a self-feeling kind of thing.”

Health care providers often conflate the two, resulting in the frustrating experience of being repeatedly misgendered, interrogated about one’s transition, or forced to bear the burden of educating the physician about transgender realities in general. A strained patient-physician relationship can inhibit one’s willingness to disclose pertinent medical information, or lead to broad assumptions premised on misinformation. “As soon as you start assuming, things go wrong really quickly. So many people end up with substandard care,” said Ashley.

Simple things like asking a patient’s pronouns and prefacing potentially sensitive questions can make a huge and lasting difference, said Wong. The willingness of health care workers to learn and use LGBTQ+ friendly language signifies allyship, which is crucial in building the trust needed to give and receive quality care.

The process of unlearning outdated terms and practices written into medical literature is still in its early stages, and in the meantime trans people have had to seek out resources and services elsewhere. “Trans people are often very good advocates for themselves because they have to be,” said Eve Finley, an equity facilitator at McGill. “That often translates into these very interesting networks of knowledge sharing that happen online and in person.”

The Centre for Gender Advocacy (CGA), based out of Concordia, is one such network for trans people in Montreal. “A lot of people reach out to us or to other trans organizations and we provide them with such important information,” said D.T., trans advocate and public educator at the CGA. “The role of the center is to provide guidance and resources to people, whether Concordia students or not.”

“Change comes from people advocating for their rights to exist,” said  D.T. “That advocacy creates the pressure that cannot be repressed, and it leads to change in policy.”

In collaboration with Concordia Health Services, the CGA reached out to experts in trans health care and organized the opportunity for health services staff to receive training in trans-affirmative care. Concordia is the only university in Quebec to have done so, said D.T, “and they also use the latest approaches to transitioning, namely the informed consent model, where we accompany the person (throughout the process) and validate and affirm their decisions regarding their own body and self.”

Despite the progress made at Concordia, the public system in Montreal is still rife with hostile spaces and ill-informed doctors unable or unwilling to provide trans-competent care. “Outside Concordia, it’s hit or miss.” said D.T. “If you don’t know who the trans-friendly doctors are, you might end up in the wrong place with someone who will not help you affirm your gender and would rather discourage you from being who you are, which is sad in 2019.” To help avoid these pitfalls, the CGA provides an interactive map of health care providers who have denied services to patients on the basis of their trans identities.

“It’s really difficult to find non-judgemental health providers,” said Wong. “There are so many situations where people will not talk to their doctors or seek care because they fear judgement.” When they do, the reported medical problems are often minimized, dismissed, or blamed on unrelated factors. D.T. called it “trans broken arm syndrome,” which refers to the tendency of health care professionals to blame medical problems that someone might have on their trans status. “It still happens a lot, and many trans people choose not to go to the hospital,” said D.T.

The syndrome is not an isolated phenomena, and it’s one with significant repercussions. A 2012 study of trans people’s medical experiences in Ontario found that over half of respondents had negative experiences in clinical settings, and 21 per cent opted not to seek emergency care due to fear of being mistreated. The Twitter hashtag #transhealthfail is an online repository for first-person accounts of such encounters, offering a glimpse at incidents ranging from careless misgendering to outright denials of service from health care providers.

With so few capable physicians in the Montreal area, even those who do manage to seek them out end up waiting weeks or months for an appointment. “We know from research and from people’s personal experiences [that] that time between discovering, affirming to yourself that you are trans and starting transitioning is the time when people go through the most distress,” added D.T. “The longer they wait, the longer they experience dysphoria.”

While the gains made at Concordia signify positive change, D.T said there is still a long way to go to reach a trans-affirmative standard of care in Montreal and beyond. “We know very well that the trans health care field evolves very quickly. There are new needs, new approaches, and so the trainings [Concordia Health Services] did should be ongoing.”

A belief in universal health care is a belief in offering accessible care to meet the unique health needs of all Canadians, and trans-affirmative care is no exception. Of all the things that can be done to improve the quality of services for trans people on a local level, D.T. said it starts with education and advocacy. “Change comes from people advocating for their rights to exist. That advocacy creates the pressure that cannot be repressed, and it leads to change in policy.”

Feature graphic by Mackenzie Lad

Article updated on Jan. 31. 2024 – One of the sources of this article has come forth and requested to be anonymous.


Trial for trans rights begins

“If given the choice, I would choose ‘parent,’” said Sarah Blumel, in her testimony to the court when asked which title she would prefer to have on her son’s birth certificate that isn’t ‘mother’ or ‘father.’

Concordia University’s Centre for Gender Advocacy’s (CGA) trial began on Jan. 15, at the Superior Court of Québec, and is expected to end in late February. The CGA has been preparing the lawsuit against the Quebec government since 2014. They are seeking to invalidate 11 articles from the Civil Code of Québec, arguing that they violate the Quebec and Canadian Charters of Rights and Freedoms.

The laws being challenged affect trans parents, trans youth, nonbinary people and trans migrants. The CGA has gathered 17 witnesses and experts to testify during the trial.

On the first day of the trial last Tuesday, a law professor at Thompson Rivers University, Samuel Singer, and his partner, Blumel, travelled from British Columbia to testify. In the morning, Singer spoke of his experience as a trans person. In the afternoon, Blumel testified about the many ways in which her partner faced discrimination and couldn’t exercise his right to privacy.

In an unexpected turn of events, the Attorney General of Quebec announced on behalf of the Directeur de l’état civil, that a person in Quebec can now ask to have their gender marker removed from their birth certificate and other identification cards upon request.

The defendants also announced that children whose parents have transitioned will have the changes reflected on their birth certificates as well. Plaintiff Lawyer Audrey Boctor explained that “if someone changes from male to female, they will go from being the father to being the mother,” on the birth certificate of their child. However, these are not legislative modifications.

Blumel was interrogated by Plaintiff Lawyer François Goyer in front of the defence attorneys and Hon. Judge Gregory Moore about witnessing Singer’s struggles in his everyday life. Blumel spoke about how long it took for Singer to change his name—he had to prove the legitimacy of such a request. Even changing bank cards with old names on them or doing a police record check meant that Singer had to explain his situation to strangers, according to Blumel.

Blumel was reminded “of the reality of discretionary power.” Singer regularly had to take extra steps that invaded his privacy, which caused discomfort, according to his partner. Addressing the judge, she spoke of the continuous concern and worry that comes with not having a third option on IDs. Blumel said Singer regularly had “to explain a situation that doesn’t match.”

Graphic by Alexa Hawksworth

This was of concern, especially when accessing medical care. Blumel expressed that even at the optometrist, her partner would have to explain why his IDs don’t match, having to ask to be called Mr. when the doctor was ready, only to hear “madame” when the time came.

The comfort and relief that would come with having a third option on IDs is incredible, Blumel said. “It makes me so angry, because it’s not a hospitable place for trans people right now.”

In 2010, Blumel and Singer had a child. When the time came to fill out the birth certificate, Singer had the option of checking one of two boxes: ‘mother’ or ‘father.’ Singer chose ‘father.’ However, when the birth certificate came back in the mail, Singer was checked as the mother because the title had to match the sex on his own birth certificate, which says female.

“I find that this is a cause that touched me personally because I’m trans and I have a child,” said Gabriel Lanthier, who attended the trial. Like Singer, Lanthier could not be listed on a birth certificate as the child’s father by law. Having the option to check “parent” on the birth certificate would be the best option, said Lanthier. “Why genderize a position?” asked Lanthier.

When Goyer asked Blumel how she felt after the birth certificate came back in the mail, she said “I felt sad and frustrated.” Throughout her testimony, she had been standing with her hands behind her back, until that moment. She let go, took a sip of water and took off her glasses. “Take your time,” Goyer said, as Blumel took a deep breath and wiped tears from her eyes.

“I want to be respectful to the court and the court’s time,” Blumel said. “These are tears of anger and frustration. Excuse me.” She added, “I’m here because I spend a lot of my time working with and loving queer and trans people, but I think it’s common sense […] it is not going to impact anyone else.”

After a short break the trial will restart on Jan. 23, in the Palais de justice, with academics, activists and doctors testifying. The government’s experts will begin to testify in February.

Graphic by @spooky_soda.


Petitioning for a transgender Victoria’s Secret Angel

Victoria’s Secret is known for its extravagant annual fashion show, its skimpy underwear and its ability to skyrocket a model’s career, thrusting the likes of Heidi Klum, Tyra Banks and Gisele Bündchen to supermodel status. Could an online petition make a transgender woman the famous lingerie brand’s next breakout star?

Graphic by Jennifer Kwan

Earlier this month, a petition was created on urging Victoria’s Secret to hire transgender model and performer Carmen Carrera as its first ever transgender Angel. The petition states: “By asking Carmen to be a model, Victoria’s Secret would show the entire community that they embrace trans patrons.” The petition has gained an outpouring of support after being featured everywhere from Cosmopolitan to CNN.

Carmen Carrera, born Christopher Roman, rose to fame in 2011 after appearing on the popular show RuPaul’s Drag Race. In 2012, fans followed her through her transition from Christopher to Carmen, when she began pursuing the body she felt was the right one.

She has been featured in fashion spreads in W Magazine, walked in runway shows, and appeared on several television programs. After discovering the online petition, Carrera took to her Facebook page to express her gratitude.

“I just want to take a moment to say WOW,” she wrote. “In less than a day the signature count has gone from a few hundred to almost 10,000! I’m amazed! And just to make it clear, this petition is not to force [Victoria’s Secret] to do anything. It’s to prove that the world is ready for change and possibilities are endless!”

The petition has since received nearly 41,000 signatures. The company has yet to make a statement—but will it embrace the idea?

After all, Carrera is no amateur, she recently strutted her stuff on the runway for Marco Marco’s show at Los Angeles Fashion Week. She’s not one to shy away from nudity either. She regularly shares candid revealing pictures on her Instagram page and wears nearly nothing during her stage shows. She’s also the star of a new short-film by famed fashion photographer Steven Meisel entitled Showgirl.

However, not everyone is as supportive of the idea. Some people have a hard time accepting the idea of a trans women, many believe that if she was born a male, then she’s a man. A Montreal Gazette blogger also argued that “[Carrera] should be given the same consideration for Victoria’s Secret other women might get. She should not get special treatment because she transitioned.” There’s bound to be negative repercussions surrounding such a controversial issue but any publicity is good publicity, right?

If Victoria’s Secret fashion show producers were smart, they would at least consider hiring Carrera. Not only would it attract huge publicity for this year’s fashion show, scheduled to air on Dec. 10, but it would also pave the way for the rest of the fashion industry.

Having a transgender model and LGBT activist like Carrera featured in its show may just be the perfect thing to keep the brand fresh and exciting, something the company surely strives for year after year.

A transgender model being cast in a Victoria’s Secret fashion show would not only be a huge statement, but would also send a message to other trans people who feel like they are underrepresented in the media.

So why not, Victoria’s Secret? Pave the way and make a change.


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