09 February 2012

When Pierre Is Allowed To Become Pauline But Can't Go Home

Imagine that you've just won the right to do something about which you've always dreamed--in this case, serving in the Armed Forces of your country.

Now, having become a soldier, sailor or member of your country's air force, imagine that you can't fly home to visit your family.

That is exactly the situation faced by transgender people in a Western country that's among the world's most respected, at least when it comest to human rights and general civility.

That country would be Canada.  Yes, the same country that had gay marriage before its powerful neighbor to the south.  Said neighbor still has it in only a few states, while the entirety of Canada--the second-largest nation on the planet--has it.

And Canada not only allows LGBT people to serve in its armed forces, it also allows members of the military who are making gender transition to wear the uniform of their "destination" gender.  So, if Pierre is in the process of becoming Pauline, he can wear Pauline's uniform even if he hasn't yet had surgery.

As far as I know, no other country has such a policy.   In the United States, transgenders still can't serve, at least not openly, in the military.  If they have been diagnosed with Gender Identity Disorder or have begun to transition, they can't join; if, once they're in, they visibly transition or reveal their identities, they can't stay.

Yet the same country that has no problem with transgenders serving in its armed forces has a policy that is, if unintentionally, as discriminatory against transgenders as anything its southern neighbor, and any number of other countries, have.

In July of 2011, Transport Canada instituted a rule stating that a passenger could be barred from boarding a plane if he or she doesn't appear to be the gender indicated on his or her passport.

Just for its sheer subjectivity alone, it's a terrible policy.  There are plenty of masculine-looking women and feminine-looking men, most of whom never thought about transitioning.  If this law can wreak havoc with them, imagine what it can do for any number of transgender people-- such as those who, for various reasons, never have the surgery or wait many years for it.

The argument made for this law--and the policies the US and other countries have regarding gender identity indicated on passports--goes something like this:  "Well, some suicide bomber might disguise pretend to be a woman to get on a plane." 

It's a silly--not to mention offensive--argument for any number of reasons.  First of all, suicide bombers, and terrorists generally, aren't people who try to "fly under the radar."  They are driven by some sort of rage or resentment, or out of  fervent (if twisted) political or religious beliefs that matter more to them than their own lives.  People who are about to blow themselves up for the sake of killing a bunch of other people aren't much concenred about whether or not they'll be found out.  If anything, they want to be known for committing the terrible deeds they plan to do.

Someone who is simply insane (which, according to some people, includes the would-be terrorists I've just mentioned) also isn't going to trouble him or herself with concealing his or her identity or carrying a false passport.

Also, consider the fact that someone who really wants to commit a terrible crime on a plane has to, well, get on the plane.  If he's carrying a false passport and is caught, that won't happen.  Most likely, he'll be arrested.  And, if he is caught wearing a dress and carrying a female passport that isn't his, he'll probably get the shit beaten out of him in the airport parking garage.

Now tell me, what self-respecting suicide bomber would do that?

I remember that when I first tried to get a new passport that indicated me as female,  the State Department gave, essentially, the reasons I just mentioned for denying me (as well as others in my situation).  Yet, one State Department representative with whom I spoke said that, to his knowledge, no terrorist had ever committed his or her deeds while presenting him or herself as a member of the other gender. 

Even one who could "pass" as a member of the other side is unlikely to represent him or herself as one in order to gain access to something and blow it up.  Even such people would have to spend a lot of time and money (As far as I know, Al Queda and Hamaz aren't paying for hormones or GRS.) to be a convincing member of the gender they were trying to represent.  And, if you're a male-to-female, the hormones rob you of a good part of your physical strength and quickness--not to mention that it's easier to do the sorts of things terrorists do in most men's than in most women's clothing!

So, what would-be terrorists Transport Canada expects to stop with such a policy is beyond me.  And, given the other laws Canada has, I rather doubt they were trying to exclude transgender people from boarding planes.  So what, exactly is the rationale for such a law?

Fortunately, there is a movement to repeal it.  I trust Canadians to have the good sense, and good will, to do so.  Hopefully, lawmakers in my country will start looking north for their cues.

No comments: