Dr. Dawg

Gender confusion and the democratic deficit

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Harper sovereign.jpg

Once again the unelected Senate, under orders from King Stephen I, is set to veto legislation passed by the democratically-elected House of Commons. As a commoner, I’m outraged by this regal power-grab, and I hope you are, too.

It doesn’t matter what the legislation is. Harper no longer requires a majority in the House when he has a hand-picked one in the Red Chamber. About two-thirds of those who bothered to vote in the last election have effectively been disenfranchised.

One needs to imagine what this man would do with a majority government. And I think we have two clues: first, his contempt for democracy and democratic process, already entrenched, would become institutionalized. And second, his social conservative agenda. Republic of Gilead, here we come.

Anyone with a passing knowledge of anthropology, even of the popular sort, knows that “gender” is fluid, its structure anything but universal.Those who have visited the South Pacific, or had anything to do with Inuit, knows what I’m talking about. Rigid binary gender classification is a “Western” notion that has all the force of socialization and institutions behind it.

This has an obvious consequence: those unhappy in the gender role assigned to them have only the option of squeezing themselves into the other one. Rather than having a spectrum of gender available, if I can put it that way, so-called “transgendered” people* are forced to migrate from one rigid classification to another. That’s why many of us reading Jan Morris, for example, are struck by the caricatured image of the gender to which they wish to transition. I have met strong feminists who react very negatively to these caricatures, which isn’t surprising.

In a perfect world, sexual identity might not even exist as such, certainly not as a binary category. But we aren’t there yet, and if the Conservatives have their way, we won’t take even a baby step in that direction.

The pending destruction of human rights legislation to protect transgendered individuals is, or should be, offensive to anyone with an ounce of human decency. Amazingly, and credit where credit is due, no fewer than three of Harper’s Cabinet—John Baird, Lawrence Cannon and James Moore—stood up for Bill C-389 in the House fo Commons. Seven Liberals opposed it. Both the BQ and the NDP unanimously supported it.

One can only marvel at the pivot upon which the discussion turned. “Doctor” Charles McVety, a close confidant of Stephen Harper, immediately thought of bathrooms.

This isn’t the first time that toilets have sprung to the fevered minds of the far Right when the spectre of human rights has loomed. The proposed Equal Rights Amendment south of the border was sunk, at least in part, because of a vigorous promotion of the myth that it would require unisex public facilities.

Now we are informed that according human rights and dignity to transsexuals would allow male predators to hang around in women’s washrooms—just as the ignorant, back in the day, argued that legalizing homosexuality would make male washrooms unsafe.

Let’s try to recall that, in 1967, the Supreme Court of Canada in Klippert determined that jailing a person for life for the “crime” of homosexuality was good law and public policy. This was reversed shortly afterward\s, of course, with Pierre Trudeau’s omnibus bill to amend the Criminal Code, but it indicates the lengths that the state was willing to go to police gender roles in society.

Just as the American Psychiatric Association once considered homosexuality to be a “mental illness,” do too do these DSM-IV types, with their ballooning list of “disorders” feeding the specialists who identify and “treat” them, consider departure from gender norms a sickness to this day.

If indeed transgenderism is a “mental illness,” it’s one of our making. There is very little doubt that the gender police have imposed sufficient stress to make many transgendered people deeply, even clinically, depressed. Measures like Bill C-389 could help to chip away at the rigid, crazy-making polarities of gender.

But that’s not likely to happen. A squad of unelected bigots is about to thwart the will of our elected representatives. That double whammy should make for some interesting coalitions. Democrats unconcerned with gender issues or even actively “transphobic” will not support a process like this, while those for whom “gender” is an oppressive concept cannot let this stand.

A number of commenters over at the Globe and Mail, meanwhile, are holding forth, many in fine progressive fashion. My fave so far: “Don’t worry Charles, most men will keep using the men’s bathrooms. The line ups for the women’s bathroom are way too long.”

* The notion of “crossing” is probably subjectively accurate, but clearly rooted in a heteronormative context. People should simply be allowed to be, which requires no such journey.

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This page contains a single entry by Dr. Dawg published on February 11, 2011 12:38 PM.

Day of Departure 2: can we call this "uprising" a "revolution" now? was the previous entry in this blog.

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