HERstory Lesson Opinions

HERstory Lesson: Sir Lady Java

How she fought against the transphobic Rule Number 9

Sir Lady Java is an American transgender rights activist and performer. She performed in the Los Angeles area from the mid-1960s to 1970s.

Java was born in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1943 and transitioned at a young age with the support of her mother.

After singing and dancing in local clubs, she moved to Los Angeles to further her career and by 1965, performed in a nightclub owned by Comedian Redd Foxx that welcomed other great entertainers of the time like Sammy Davis Jr., Richard Pryor, Flip Wilson, Rudy Ray Moore, LaWanda Page, and Don Rickles.

In September 1967, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) ordered Redd Foxx’s club to cancel Java’s performances, but they didn’t comply. The LAPD then threatened to fine the club and arrest Foxx if they continued hosting her, using a city ordinance against cross-dressing.

Before today’s war on drag shows and the fight to ban them, there existed laws like Rule Number 9. The city ordinance in Los Angeles, California, stated, “No entertainment shall be conducted in which any performer impersonates by means of costume or dress a person of the opposite sex, unless by special permit issued by the Board of Police Commissioners.”

As part of the rule, performers had to wear a minimum of three “properly gendered” items on them.

Even though any form of public gender nonconformity had been outlawed in Los Angeles since 1898, the Board of Police Commissioners developed Rule Number 9 in 1940 to require bar owners to get special permission to host entertainment which included any sort of cross-dressing.

As a response to LAPD’s crackdown, Foxx’s club applied for a permit to host Lady Java in October 1967, but was refused.

On October 21, Java protested against the rule by picketing in front of Foxx’s club advocating for her right to work. With the help of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), she challenged Rule Number 9 as unconstitutional in court.

The court rejected her case, stating only club or bar owners could sue the police department. Java and the ACLU could not find any owner willing to join them in their fight.

In 1969, Rule Number 9 was ultimately struck down by the California Supreme Court in a separate case. Although Java’s case was not the one to dissipate the transphobic rule, she is recognized as a trailblazer for transgender performers and drag queens.

As stated on the ACLU’s website, police at the time were not just cracking down on a couple of drag queens — their fight against “deviant” activities actually targeted the whole LGBTQ+ community. 

“They were attacking drag performers in order to target bars and clubs that often served as the only public places where gays and lesbians could gather. The police made no real distinction between gay people and transgender folks,” reads the website.

With today’s political climate in the US directly targeting the drag community, it is important to remember Lady Java’s activism and fight against Rule Number 9.


What Nikita Dragun’s placement in a male jail unit can teach us about Canada’s trans inmates’ safety

Our institutions need to do better

Influencer Nikita Dragun was arrested at the beginning of the month at the Goodtime Hotel in Miami, Florida for felony battery on a police officer, and disorderly conduct.

According to hotel security guards, Dragun had allegedly been “causing a disturbance” and “walking around the pool area unclothed.” Afterwards, “Dragun flung an open water bottle toward the officers and the hotel staff, wetting one of the officers.”

When she appeared in a bond court video the following day, it was revealed that she had been kept in a men’s unit. In the video, Dragun asks judge Mindy Glazer, “Do I have to stay here in the men’s unit, still?”

It has obviously sparked a number of negative reactions on social media. However, what follows is even more shocking.

In the court video the judge seems to be writing something down, hearing but not really listening to Dragun’s request — or at least showing very little interest. Glazer then proceeds to say, “Yeah, I don’t make the rules up there but, they should make a proper accommodation for you.”

What does that mean? There shouldn’t be any accommodations, just put her in a women’s unit. The way it’s phrased also makes me furious. Is Dragun’s right to be in a jail that houses inmates of the same gender as her really an “accommodation?” Because we all know it would not be an accommodation if the inmate was cisgender. It would simply be their right.

According to Florida law, transgender inmates’ housing situations are evaluated on a case-by-case basis. A “transgender committee” made of medical and mental health professionals meet with the inmate to evaluate and make recommendations to the state as to where the person should be housed. These are however only recommendations, and it shows that transgender people’s rights are not fully protected in those cases.

Transgender inmates are over-represented as victims of many forms of abuse in prison. According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, they are ten times more likely to be sexually assaulted in prison.

If this is what happens to a popular figure in the US, imagine what can happen to any other trans person in our own country.

In January 2017, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised trans inmates that they would be housed based on their gender identity, stating that “trans rights are human rights.”

Up until then, Correctional Service Canada (CSC), which governs the federal penitentiary system, had a clear policy regarding the placement of inmates according to their gender assigned at birth.

According to a report on trans prisoners’ safety, “the CSC policy dictated that trans prisoners be assigned to either men’s or women’s penitentiaries based on their pre-operative sex. Consequently, trans women who had not undergone gender affirmation surgery were forced to live in men’s prisons instead of with the gender they identify with. This CSC policy has led to extreme difficulties for these women, who are often subjected to sexual harassment and assault.”

The day following Trudeau’s speech, the CSC stated that they would “consider” inmate placement based around gender identity and expression rather than gender assigned at birth.

Adopted in June of that same year, Bill C-16, An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code, protects transgender individuals against gender discrimination. The Bill amended section 3(1) of the Canadian Human Rights Act and added “gender identity” and “gender expression” to the prohibited grounds of discrimination.

The Bill also amended the Criminal Code “to extend the protection against hate propaganda set out in that Act to any section of the public that is distinguished by gender identity or expression.” The amendment prevents the federal government from discriminating on the basis of gender, including in its prisons.

Then, in December 2017, the CSC adopted an interim policy to “accommodate based on gender identity or expression, regardless of the person’s anatomy (i.e. sex) or the gender marker on identification documents.” Included in the policy is the right of the inmate to be addressed by staff with the correct pronouns and, if a strip search were to be performed on them, the right to choose whether it be conducted by a male or female staff member.

This sounds really good and progressive in theory. But I have a hard time imagining an institution like the prison — that is founded on militarism, punishment, humiliation, racism and discrimination — to completely change its course of operating because they truly believe that trans lives matter.

My research proved me right on that point. In the 2019 case of Boulachanis v. Canada (Attorney General), the applicant had requested to be transferred from a male institution to a female institution after identifying as a woman. The CSC refused her request on the basis that the inmate would “pose too great a risk, in particular a risk of escape, to be placed in a women’s institution.” Although Justice Grammond of the Federal Court granted her the transfer and recognized that “keeping her in a men’s institution is discriminatory,” violating the interim policy, it is important to highlight how he got to that conclusion.

After clearly stating that Boulachanis is legally a woman, Justice Grammond then questioned whether she should be treated as one: “Stripped to its essentials, the issue is to determine whether Ms. Boulachanis should be treated as a man or as a woman.”

Blatant heteronormativity aside — if Boulachanis is a woman, why are we questioning her right to not only be seen as one, but also be treated as one by the law?

Probably for the same reason that Nikita Dragun was put in a male unit in Florida. It doesn’t matter what Bills, promises or policies they establish on paper, our institutions, governments and society still fail to protect transgender people.

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.


Trans rights will not be erased

People in past years probably envisioned 2018 as a time where people fly spaceships, could teleport or, at the very least, print food—all of which could be considered as quite progressive. But we at The Concordian are sad to remind our readers that our current society is seemingly becoming more regressive than progressive. Just last week, our editorial challenged the CAQ’s religious symbol ban––a ban that prohibits freedom of religion, a basic human right under the Canadian and the Quebec Charters of Rights and Freedoms.

This week, we were stunned to learn that the Trump administration is restricting and stripping away the rights of transgender and nonbinary people. According to a report by The New York Times, Trump’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is considering major changes to Title IX, “the federal civil rights law that bans gender discrimination in education programs that receive government financial assistance.” These major changes include defining gender as determined “on a biological basis that is clear, grounded in science, objective and administrable,” according to the same article.

The Obama administration took concrete steps in extending the rights and protections granted to transgender and nonbinary people in terms of education and health care, by allowing them to serve in the military and recognizing that gender is an individual’s choice rather than something strictly assigned at birth. The HHS’s policy wants to completely destroy this. It aims to define gender as binary, something that is unchangeable and assigned by the genitals one is born with. We at The Concordian believe these policies are transphobic and aim to erase the existence of transgender and nonbinary people in the U.S. This could have a catastrophic impact not only on those living in the U.S., but also others around the world.

The HHS’s policy also stated that anyone with disputes about their gender must use genetic testing to clarify any misconceptions. Using science, a field that has always been progressive and innovative, as a way to reinforce a backwards policy is ironic in its entirety. The memo detailing the policy also states that a person’s sex as listed on their original birth certificate is the one they must identify with, “unless rebutted by reliable genetic evidence.”

Almost 1.4 million Americans identify as transgender––these new policies would undo the rights they have been granted through the Obama administration, and would be another step towards erasing trans and nonbinary voices. The Human Rights Campaign—which is the U.S.’s largest civil rights organization advocating for LGBTQ+ equality—has demanded that the Trump administration not go forward with the proposal, as it will harm transgender people and put them in serious danger. It is integral to recognize trans and nonbinary people as those who deserve basic civil rights, equality and protection.

As we’ve seen throughout history, when an entire group of people are not given equal rights or are stripped of what little rights they do have, unrest ensues. We at The Concordian hope that everyone is as outraged at the Trump administration’s attempt to suppress transgender and nonbinary people as we are. We must remain vigilant in calling out the administration’s blatant disrespect for human rights.

In the past, the U.S. might’ve been seen as a progressive nation that boasted innovative leaders and creative thinkers. But the country’s recent actions prove this is not true; in fact, they go vehemently against the concept of progressiveness by creating policies that aim to disregard and oppress an entire group of people. While we may marvel at how far technology has come over the years and how innovative the Western world may seem, we cannot celebrate progression until our social policies also mirror this way of thinking.

Archive graphic by Alexa Hawksworth


We need to redefine the word ‘woman’ in order to reflect reality

One student’s response to Barbara Kay’s misogynistic piece in the National Post

Gender politics has been a hot topic for quite some time now. With the rise of controversial figures such as Jordan Peterson and Ben Shapiro, people from the right-wing of the political spectrum have entertained their ideas, calling their comments “free speech” when they are clearly insulting someone’s identity. Barbara Kay, a columnist and former Concordia English literature professor, shares similar beliefs to these men.

In an article published in the National Post on Sept. 13, Kay used biological reality as a weapon to blatantly discriminate against transgender activists. In the article, titled “Diluting the meaning of ‘woman,’ to appease transgender activists, is misogyny,” she argues that radical trans activists “are guilty of the worst form of misogyny in their ruthless campaign to erase from our thoughts the human female body as a unique life form.”

Kay’s perspective disrespects trans women who tenaciously fight for their right to be recognized as equal to cisgender women. Kay’s idea of misogyny ignores the same misogyny that many trans women face on a daily basis just to operate as women in our society. Trans activist and actress Cassandra James shared her struggles with misogyny in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter saying, “I remember complaining to a co-worker of mine, who was a cis woman, about some of the [misogyny] I was experiencing, and she said, ‘Welcome. Welcome to what it means to be a woman.’” James’s experience is only a fragment of what thousands of trans women face including sexual assault, hostility, and cat-calling both in public and in the workplace.

In my opinion, Kay played selective feminism, as she willingly chose to ignore the complex misogyny that trans women face. She only took into account the misogyny faced by cisgender women.

There is a fine line between free speech and offensive speech. In Kay’s article, she criminalizes transgender individuals by presenting the anecdote of Karen White, a trans woman who sexually assaulted four women in a women’s prison after being sentenced to 18 months for the sexual abuse of a child. Kay reinforced the belief that trans women are men who pretend to be women in order to sexually assault women and minors. She misled people to believe that we must be afraid of trans women because they are ‘wrongdoers.’ Promoting these types of ideas further marginalizes transgender individuals while creating further stigma and prejudice. We must not hold an entire group accountable for the actions of one individual, because it conveys to the public that transgender individuals are the same as child molesters.

Many individuals firmly disagree and call it “politicizing language” to consider trans women “real” women. They also argue that trans women are biologically male and, therefore, cannot be women. I believe language should be used to reflect reality. The word ‘woman’ was initially created to encompass only women who were born biologically female. Now that many trans women have disclosed their identity, it is important to redefine ‘woman’ to include trans women, and essentially, to better reflect reality. Since trans women identify and have always felt themselves to be women, I believe it is our duty to include them in that definition. This is important, not only for social inclusion, but also to reflect a subjective reality that both cisgender women and transgender women experience.

There is clear scientific evidence that shows transgender individuals’ feelings of being born as the wrong biological sex. In an article titled “Biological origins of sexual orientation and gender identity: Impact on health” published by PubMed, researchers confirm that “multiple layers of evidence confirm that sexual orientation and gender identity are as biological, innate and immutable as the other traits conferred during [the first half of pregnancy].”

I believe the definition of ‘woman’ is a socially-driven term that refers to one’s gender identity, gender expression and gendered role in society. The idea that gender is intrinsically connected to one’s biological sex is a false claim; many transgender, intersex or individuals with chromosomal abnormalities live as a different gender from their biological sex. Furthermore, there are many cisgender women who are infertile or born with conditions where the vagina and uterus are either underdeveloped or absent. Aren’t they women? Sorry Barbara, but women come in all shapes and sizes.

Graphic by @spooky_soda



Blatant transphobic discrimination in Dubai

Why trans YouTuber Gigi Gorgeous was denied entry into the United Arab

On August 10, Canadian YouTuber and model Gigi Gorgeous was detained at Dubai International Airport and denied entry into the United Arab Emirates simply because she’s transgender.

Soon after, she posted in detail about the incident on her social media platforms. Gigi Loren Lazzarato described the experience as “one of the scariest moments of [her] entire life,” on her YouTube channel, and chronicled how she was detained for several hours before being deported.

According to The Advocate, laws in the United Arab Emirates dictate that the ‘imitation of women by men’ is strictly prohibited. Therefore, anyone who is transgender risks arrest, deportation or even imprisonment if they set foot in the country. According to TMZ, an immigration officer at the airport in Dubai recognized the internet personality and reportedly said, “I was told you are transgender. You cannot come into the country.”

After being denied entry to the Middle Eastern metropolis, Gigi flew to Sweden with her girlfriend to get away. As the news broke, I felt completely upset and confused as to why this happened.

In her YouTube video describing the situation, she said she had recently legally updated her passport to her female name and gender. I couldn’t believe that the airport officials would have an issue even after a transgender individual had legally decided to change their documents.

Being transgender is not a disease or simply a phase, and should not be treated as such. Education is part of the process, and being born in the wrong body should not be a crime. There is no justification for discriminating against an innocent person based on the fact that they’re trans.

It also aggravates me that trans people would be considered “imitations.” They are a person living their true identity, and I am a strong supporter of that. Should we allow discrimination and bigotry to persist and go unquestioned as a mere cultural difference? No. It is completely wrong to deny an individual into a country just because they are transgender.

Being transgender is not a crime, and people should not be punished for it. Even though cultures differ, it doesn’t make it right to treat a person in this manner. It boggles my mind that we still allow some countries around the world to disrespect certain people for simply being who they are.

Are we going to start denying people entry to Canada simply because they have blue eyes or a dark complexion?

Although Gigi was affected by this discrimination, as a social media personality, she can broadcast her experience and shed light on such an important issue. She has the power to potentially push for change, which I hope will happen over the next few years.

Hopefully, one day we will live in a world where we can be whoever we want without laws denying our existence. The United Arab Emirates needs to change their laws and should be more inclusive and respectful towards all members of the LGBTQ+ communities.

In the words of Christina Aguilera: “Who you love or the color of your skin […] shouldn’t decide how you will be treated.” It is 2016 and this discrimination needs to stop.

Student Life

Playing dress up: gender and performance

Dr. Emer O’Toole and Panti Bliss discuss subverting gender norms

“I love being the least-interesting or least out-there person in the room,” said Emer O’Toole, an assistant professor at Concordia’s School of Canadian Irish Studies, referring to the full-to-the-brim auditorium packed with people emblematic of Montreal’s liberal, artsy, vegan-granola-queer-fringey sensibilities.


O’Toole, who holds a PhD from Royal Holloway University of London, sat down with Ireland’s Person of the Year, gay rights activist and drag queen performer, Panti Bliss, to strip down the notions of performance and gender as part of The Globe and Mail “Thinking out Loud” series Feb. 16.

Photo by Sara Baron-Goodman.


Last year, O’Toole invited Bliss to Concordia to speak about the now-infamous “Pantigate” scenario, wherein Bliss became an “accidental activist” by publicly calling out Irish journalists for being homophobic, and spurring an international conversation about gay rights in Ireland. This year, their dialogue turned towards what it means to be a gender nonconformist in today’s Western society.


“There are repercussions to acting outside the role of our assigned gender,” said O’Toole, stretching out one of her 100 per cent naturally hairy legs.


O’Toole has been playing with traditional gender norms for years, and earned a moment in the International spotlight for masquerading her unshaven armpits on T.V. Tonight, she is “pioneering stilettos and hairy legs.”


For O’Toole, rejecting the traditional female archetype was about making a firm choice to subvert expected gender norms. That choice isn’t about rejecting femininity, but rather creating her own definition of what it is to be a woman. “I’m not saying that free choice isn’t a possibility [for girls and women who do employ traditional gender norms], but in a coercive capitalist society, it’s not a given.”


“It’s almost impossible to divorce yourself from the society around you,” said Bliss, asserting that more than just being “intellectual masturbation,” these sorts of discussions about the perception of gender nonconformity are inherent to one’s safety in society.


For Bliss, the label of drag queen and a caricaturesque costume have been a security blanket against harassment. The persona of Panti Bliss, bouffant blonde hair, false eyelashes, stilettos et al., is a performance, and is read by society as such. It is much easier, much safer for him to walk around like a giant cartoon woman, than it is for somebody who is for example, transgender to walk around in gender-bending garb. The difference being that one is read as performative, comical, or theatrical, while the other is seen as nonconforming and “otherized.”


Yet, for Rory O’Neill, dressing up as Panti isn’t “playing a character. This is who I am, I’m just expressing it slightly differently. Certain aspects of me are magnified by the makeup but it’s the same person, the same essence, but the power of that presentation is so much that people accuse you of being two different people.”


“People feel much more comfortable when they can pigeonhole you,” said O’Toole, citing examples of labels like “butch lesbian” or “drag queen.”


“If, though, you dress femme and have one or two masculine aspects, then people are nervous.” This rings true for her, as it does for anybody who chooses to step outside their prescribed gender norm, she explains. In general, society doesn’t know where to put you and they assign you the freak label.


“You don’t have to fit into the patriarchal norm of beauty to be beautiful,” said O’Toole.


According to both O’Toole and Bliss, everybody should make conscious efforts to challenge traditional gender norms.


“There are many more than just two or even three genders,” said Bliss, saying that while it’s great for you if you do fit into one of these traditional archetypes, its “so much more fun and interesting” to fall somewhere else on that rainbow spectrum.


So how can straight-edge men tap into their feminine sides? “All the men should go home and bottom really hard,” Bliss recommends. Or, at minimum, everybody should crossdress—no holds barred—at least once in their lives, just to see how the other side feels. It’s a slightly more ambitious take on the old “walk a mile in somebody else’s shoes” adage.


O’Toole’s recommendation requires a slightly less invasive approach. For her, stepping outside your preconceived notions of gender could be as simple as “wearing your towel differently.”


She councils everyone to go home and after their shower, to wrap their towel the way they wouldn’t normally; for women, wrap it around your waist and set the ta-tas free to air dry, and for men, try making that towel dress. She says you’d be surprised at how even such a small adjustment can make you evaluate your gendered habits a little differently.


For more insights into gender-bending and performance, be sure to check out Rory O’Neill’s best-selling book on how he became Panti Bliss, Woman in the Making, and keep an eye out for Emer O’Toole’s book, Girls Will be Girls: Dressing Up, Playing Parts and Daring to Act Differently which will be released at the end of this month.


“I love being the least interesting or least out-there person in the room” – Emer on Mtl

“From the second that youre beorn and the doctor shouts ‘its a girl’”… that starts to define you and limit you – OToole


“when it comes to gender everybody thinks they know women, and they think they understand the fundamental natural elements o fwhat it is to be a woman. Everybody has a gender so everybody thinks theyre an expert on gender”- OToole


“Nobody in their right mind is going to confuse me for a natural born woman, I’m not impersonating women, I am trying to parody the tools that society has attributed to femininity” Bliss


*quotes at roughly 9mins on gender peacocking


*Emer 13:30 roughly

“see that girl over there, shes very attractive but i fear she’d cut my balls off” “thats my sister” OToole


“When we act outside the boundaries set for us by our bio sex people think theres something wrong with us” OToole


“Ive modified this cartoon to appear more serious to you” Bliss


“Tonight ive chosen to pioneer stilettos and hairy legs” OToole

“Im not saying that free choice is not a possibility, but in a coercive capitalist society, its not a given” on “choosing” to apply normative gender norms as a young girl


It’s almost impossible to divorce yourself from the society around you”

more than “intellectual masturbation” these ideas and inherent to your safety in society as a gender bender or non conformist – Bliss


Emer OToole quote 29 mins


people are more comfortable when they can pigeonhole you.. “if you dress femme and have one or two masculine aspects people are nervous” OToole, they don’t know where to put you and they assign you the freak label.


Judith Butler theories on performance


Quebec law proposal 33:30mins


“there are repurcussions to acting outside the role of our assigned gender” OToole


“you dont hve to fit into the patricarchal norm of beauty to be beautiful” OToole


“im actually quite a dull person as a boy” Bliss


A lot o fpeople in this room can relat eto that experience of feeling nervous walking past a car or something because you fear the people inside might harass you, because youve been harassed in that situation before


“Im not playing a character, this is who I am, I’m just expressing it slightly differently. Certain aspects f me are magnified by the makeup but it’s the asme person, the same essense, but the power of that presentation is so much that people accuse you of being two different people”


46:30 feminist and raising little girls


:im so glamorous im constantly in pain” Bliss


on how evrybody should challenge gender norms “the men should go home and bottom really hard” Bliss



55 mins “wear your towel differently” OToole


The right to change

After an amendment to Concordia University’s policies, 12 transgender students have benefitted from the opportunity to register their preferred names on non-official documents such as identification cards and class lists.

Ben Boudreau, a third-year undergraduate science student, approached administration about modifying his information during his first year at Concordia. The university told Boudreau that it could not be done unless he legally changed his name.

Since Boudreau simply wished for professors to address him by his name so that he would not be outed in class, he worked with the 2110 Centre for Gender Advocacy so that he could go by the name he identified with.

Since the summer, students at Concordia have been able to fill out a form from the registrar’s office that allows them to go by their preferred names on non-official university documents such as attendance lists, student identification cards, their MyConcordia portal and in online courses offered by eConcordia.

Gabrielle Bouchard, the trans advocacy and peer support co-ordinator at the 2110 Centre, confirmed that the administration’s new policy had already helped 12 students wanting to go by the name they identify with. During a transgender issues workshop Thursday, Bouchard emphasized how facing difficulties in class regarding name preference can make “students strategize around these situations.”

Boudreau, who legally changed his name as the policy adjustment was in its final stages, was relieved to know that other transgender students have the option of going by their chosen name. Prior to his legal name change, Boudreau was sometimes ostracized in his courses and had to contact professors before the semester started in order to explain his situation.

“When you’re so afraid to go to class everyday in fear of being outed, it’s scary,” said Boudreau. “But at least stuff like this at school is great for a number of reasons, and I mean, if my administration will let me identify myself as I want to then maybe it will be easier down the road.”

What the policy does not apply to, however, is official transcripts or diplomas students receive from Concordia. Official university documents maintain students’ birth names unless they have had it legally changed.

Terry Too, the project director of the Student Information System at the university, explained that this is due to the provincial government’s necessity for the legal name to be on official documents. Furthermore, it’s to ensure that there are no bureaucratic issues with future employers or post-secondary institutions by having a different name than the one currently filed with the government.

Too told The Concordian that he worried that some students may abuse the system that has already helped a dozen transgender students. The administration wanted to limit access just to transgender students so that other students do not misuse the service but didn’t want to put rules in place either.

“It’s a delicate balancing act to provide good services to transgender students,” said Too. “We’re trying to reach out and help students but we don’t want to put bureaucratic rules.”

Boudreau hopes that the adjustments at Concordia will provide a stepping stone to changes in the provincial system in order to facilitate the process of transgender individuals legally changing their names. For Boudreau, it took approximately a year to have his application approved after he provided documents from psychologists and doctors to explain the change, and cost him close to $500.

Furthermore, Boudeau hopes that other post-secondary institutions make similar adjustments to their policies so that transgender students feel welcomed.

“I have friends that won’t go to school because for whatever reason they cannot get their names or gender changed,” Boudreau said. “And it’s just so much humiliation everyday.”

According to Boudreau, the issues that transgender individuals face are far from over though. “The demographic is small but it really counts,” he said.

Photo by Madelayne Hajek


What makes the man a woman?

Concordia has, over the past couple of years, been slowly adapting their policies to the needs of the transgender community. While the university has misunderstood the problems transgender students face at Concordia and has occasionally appeared insensitive, effort is, by and large, present. Confusion about pronouns and salutations is common for those without a trans friend or colleague. Even the most cautious of inquirers can be apprehensive about asking questions, lest they be inane or offensive. While the basics aren’t difficult to explain, it’s often a mystery to those without the fortune of knowing a trans person. If you’re curious, the two films at Cinema Politica next week will answer your questions.
You could call Monday’s offering a diptych: the two films—Switch: A Community in Transition and Orchids: My Intersex Adventure—both present tensions between sex and gender. The autobiographical documentaries deal with the same broad issue, but the source of tension comes from fundamentally different places. In Switch, Brooks Nelson—the film’s director, who also serves as its protagonist—is undergoing a transition from female to male. The film’s opening scene is perhaps its most poignant. Brooks’ girlfriend asks her four-year-old nephew whether Brooks is a man or a woman, and the child’s response illuminates the contrived nature of gender better than any textbook could: Brooks is a man “because he has short hair and wears boy clothes.” Obviously there’s more to gender than this, but when a child is ignorant of socially constructed gender, he or she assumes it is based on choice. Switch looks at the community in which Nelson lives, and how its members handle Brooks’ transition. It’s a hopeful film, as we see a wide spectrum of people understand, at different rates, the importance of a person being comfortable with their identity. Perhaps most encouraging is the church congregation that seems almost uninterested in the transition; as far as they are concerned, the clothes Nelson wears or the shape of his body have nothing to do with his character. While this may miss the deeper lessons of how society treats genders and the LGBTQ community, it shows the willingness of regular people to ignore appearances. If nothing else, it’s a strong foundation to teach on. But those closest to Nelson have their own issues they need to work through about his transition, and these may not be so obvious. For a friend who takes great comfort in having a fellow butch lesbian to identify with, Brooks’ transition feels somewhat like a betrayal. For Nelson’s mother-in-law, the doubling back of her daughter from having a girlfriend to having a boyfriend is confusing. But neither takes long to clarify that their issues are short-term and paltry.
Orchids presents a similar issue, but somewhat more complicated. Phoebe Hart, the subject and filmmaker, tells us about the rare condition she has called androgen insensitivity syndrome, which makes her intersex; she has both male and female reproductive tissue. She developed testes in the womb—and was born with them—but her body was resistant to androgen and so it never developed into the male form. She has no uterus, but otherwise is physically a woman.
Hart’s issues focus largely on how her parents have treated the issue, which was to hide it and encourage their daughters—Hart’s younger sister also has the condition—to do the same. They don’t seem embarrassed by their daughters, but they do seem sheepish about their condition. This is understandably painful for the younger Harts, and they set off on a road trip to reconcile their doubts and reaffirm their identities.
When it is boiled down, the subjects in both films face the same marginalization: name-calling and insensitive confusion about their sexual orientation. While Hart doesn’t get the sideways looks Brooks does, the reaction to her condition, when explained, tends to be stronger.
In the end, both subjects come to the same conclusion: their identity pushes people to a choice, and those who abandon ship weren’t worth it in the first place. In a lot of ways, “transitioning” describes their friends and families as well as it describes them, or perhaps more so: Brooks and Phoebe know who they are, despite what their bodies look like and now its up to those around them to prove who they are in their actions and reactions to their transgender peers.

Switch: A Community in Transition and Orchids: My Intersex Adventure are showing on March 12 at 7 p.m. in H-110. For more information, check out

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