Bill C-16

 

This poem was written by a non-binary, queer Mennonite who is not publicly out, so asked that their identity be withheld.

They blog sporadically at singingmenno.wordpress.com.

Do you know what it feels like to have your very existence constantly up for public debate?

If you don’t, please, listen closely.

If you do, I am so sorry—

Feel free to come and find commiseration.

Feel free to leave if reliving this pain is too much right now.

But if you don’t know what it feels like to be trans, I implore you to listen!

 

Bill C-16 is currently in its second sitting in the senate.

It would add gender identity and gender expression to the protected classes in the Canadian Human Rights Act and in the Criminal Code.

Sounds great, doesn’t it?

It doesn’t?

Apparently protecting a vulnerable group of people is too much to ask if our existence makes you uncomfortable.

How is this even up for debate?

In 2015, after three years of being eviscerated until the remnants were meaningless, a similar bill died in the senate,

Victim to the lie that trans peoples’ safety is less important than cis peoples’

That trans people having the same rights as cis people will endanger society.

 

Two years later, another bill offers protection,

Offers to help heal this wound.

Yet the accusations and fear-mongering have come back once more:

Your pronouns are plural; they’re not even real!

Men will sneak into women’s bathrooms!

You are betraying the feminist cause!

These sentiments never disappeared;

They just lingered under the surface for a while—

Lies that are easy to ignore if they aren’t about you

Lies trans people can’t escape from hearing.

 

This conversation keeps on coming back in different iterations,

Like Mozart’s Variations on a Common Theme,

Like Pachelbel’s Canon coming back to haunt our music decade after decade.

But it seems cruel to music that I would even use such an unflattering metaphor to describe how

The demonization of trans people

Of trans bodies

Keeps cropping up like a sludge you can never clear away,

Burrowing into our psyches like mould

Innocuous in appearance until you realize that

The tendrils have dug in deep under the surface,

Spoiling something that once was pure,

Villainizing the innocent.

 

Even fellow members of the trans community criticise each other, and I learn that

I am indecisive.

I should choose a side.

Non-binary identities are invalid.

This has been brought up in the Senate:

“The transgender community… believes there are only two genders… yet, seventy-plus genders will be included in this bill.”

The problem is,

They only talked to a small group within the trans population,

Science corroborates that gender and sex are not binaries,

And gender identity and expression also impact people who don’t identify as trans.

Does my having rights,

in addition to your having rights,

somehow diminish your rights?

Jordan Peterson has stirred up fear that this bill heralds the end of free speech,

That he could be jailed for not using my pronouns,

That his rights are on trial here.

This lie, too, has entered the Senate debate:

“This bill compels speech. It doesn’t just work against freedom of speech. It actually

compels certain speech.”

Some facts:

This bill protects people from genocide and

From having hatred incited against them

It extends the same protections for people on the basis of gender identity and expression

As are extended on the basis of “race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, disability, and conviction for an offence for which a pardon has been granted or in respect of which a record suspension has been ordered.”

Exhale.

 

These are not “special protections.”

These are basic human rights.

 

Every human deserves to live free from fear for their safety

Free from having their humanity diminished

Free from being a constant representative of an entire group of people,

From constant analysis and scrutiny and judgement.

But this bill does not guarantee these rights for trans people.

It just guarantees that it will be a specific crime to encourage genocide or incite hatred

against us.

There are even protections in place for you:

If your hate speech is

Stating a truth,

Part of public debate, or

Part of your religious doctrine

You are protected from prosecution.

 

Intentionally misgendering someone

Intentionally using the wrong pronouns

These are acts of violence.

But you are within your rights to attack our dignity.

 

In the last year,

More than a third of trans youth have attempted suicide,

Almost two-thirds of us have self-harmed,

Over two-thirds of trans people are homeless, unemployed, or underemployed,

And you’re worried about losing your right to disparage us?

 

This bill is just trying to ensure that

All people really are equal before the law.

 

There is still a long way to go before this will ring true

Before all trans Canadians actually have access to basic human rights.

 

Basically, this bill enables the government to collect stats on hate crimes towards trans folks.

 

Is that too much to ask?

 

Your right to continue speculating about my gender,

To continue ignoring my pronouns,

To continue being unaffected by my pain,

Will still far outweigh my right to feel safe in society,

To feel respected and dignified,

To not worry about my existence.

Tell me, whose rights are in jeopardy?

 

In all the talk around Bill C-16,

In which Jordan Peterson’s voice has been elevated louder than all others,

Drowning out the cries of trans people for justice,

I have yet to hear a Mennonite individual or organization speak up.

 

Maybe I missed it;

I’m not the only trans Mennonite.

But I lament that in all the conversation surrounding LGBTQ+ inclusion,

You only really talk about the L and the G.

Your concern that two people who love each other,

but don’t fit your vision of Family—

that they could create something beautiful

This concern dominates the conversation,

Burying the identities and concerns of

trans Mennonites

bi Mennonites

queer Mennonites

intersex Mennonites

ace Mennonites.

Yes, we do exist

And we need you to hear us.

 

Jesus said to love your neighbour.

I guess I missed the part where he qualified that statement.

Love your neighbour—so long as they agree with you.

Love your neighbour—provided their existence doesn’t make you uncomfortable.

 

Even if you disagree with us,

Even if you think that we are somehow misguided,

When we are telling you over and over again that we don’t feel loved

That your words and actions are making us afraid

That your rhetoric is painful

That your decisions are literally killing some of us

Isn’t it time to reconsider?

 

Jesus also said that if someone asks for bread you shouldn’t give them a stone

Yet you are trading fish for snakes and eggs for scorpions.

 

You are hurting me.

I am frustrated and hurt that you don’t know I exist

Frustrated and hurt that even in my affirming congregation,

I don’t feel safe enough to be out.

I’m tired of people using the wrong pronouns

Tired of limiting my out-ness and gender expression

Tired of being afraid.

I’m mostly feeling frustrated, hurt, and exhausted when it comes to the church.

 

It is exhausting to be trans, and to be trans within the church.

I’m tired of constantly thinking about my identity

Tired of trying to figure it out for myself

of worrying about coming out or being outed

of wondering what people think of me

Frustrated that this “issue” is the main thing I think about

that my existence can be reduced to an “issue.”

I have other interests; I have school!

 

If the church really wants to exhibit the love and justice of Jesus,

You’ll make the church a safe place for humanity to authentically be

So that trans people have energy to live life, form relationships,

and contribute to the church.

 

Stop hurting us.

If you hurt a member of the church, you hurt the body,

And trans people are the church.

 

 

Please help improve the lives of trans people in Canada by writing to or telephoning your senator and asking them to vote for Bill C-16. You can read this article to learn more: http://qmunity.ca/news/bill-c-16-and-transphobia/

 

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4 Comments Add yours

  1. Ester Neufeldt says:

    I am so appreciative that I receive these communications. My heart aches for the pain expressed here and wonder what else I can do to be supportive?

    I just want you to know that there are many of us who stand with you and want the Mennonite church and our society to model what Jesus taught us…unfortunately, we still have so far to go.

    Praying for love and justice will guide our way!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. mennoqmunity says:

      Ester, I will pass your comment along to the person concerned. Thanks for your support.

      Like

  2. kinna green says:

    I am not Mennonite, but l totally agree with what this person is saying. My sentiments exactly.

    Like

  3. singingmenno says:

    Hi Ester,

    Thank you so much for commenting and for your support! I wrote this to express my frustrations; that said, I also have a great love for the Mennonite church. Many people are advocating for change and are showing a lot of love to their LGBTQ+ siblings.

    It is difficult to know how we can become welcoming when so many hurtful things are ingrained in society. There are also things that are very painful, and others just twinge a little.

    A small but huge way to support the trans community is to write your pronouns on your name tag any time you attend an event. Having people assume each other’s pronouns doesn’t work out well when pronouns get assumed incorrectly. Writing she/her(s), he/him/his, they/them/theirs, vi/vir/vis, etc. (whichever pronouns you use) under your name makes it safer for trans folks to do the same and means that if people ask, you can do some of the explaining when people ask.

    Don’t assume someone’s pronouns. When you meet someone, introduce yourself with your name and pronouns and it makes it safer for those around you to do the same. I wrote a post a couple of months ago on creating safe spaces and pronouns. I’d recommend you check it out! It is tricky but important business.

    If you’re struggling to remember someone’s name or pronouns, every time you hear their name or see their face or think of them, repeat their name and pronouns in your head (or aloud if you’re alone) until they become second nature to you. Practice saying sentences with pronouns with which you are less familiar. Assume non gendered pronouns until you have a chance to ask. It is much easier to switch from “they” or another less familiar pronoun to a binary pronoun than the reverse. You also avoid assuming a gender as they is accepted when gender is unknown: e.g. “Look, someone left their textbook behind after class. I hope they don’t need it for studying tonight.”

    That said, pronouns are also tricky because they don’t by default indicate gender. Some nonbinary people use binary pronouns and vice versa. But at the same time, mispronouning someone is a form of misgendering because we associate pronouns with gender and then assume a gender with the pronouns, which then gets incorporated into our language: “he is such a handsome young man.”

    Think about the subtle ways your church is cisnormative (and heteronormative). Even if you have a statement of affirmation, there can be subtle and not so subtle things that can make LGBTQ+ folks feel uncomfortable at best. Do you have a gender neutral washroom? If you have single stall (room) washrooms, why do they have to be gendered at all? What are the implications of having men’s and women’s groups? How do we gender spaces? What language do we use when talking about eachother, our fellow siblings in Christ? What language do we use for God? Is God gendered? How? Why? Do we make jokes about “when a young woman finds her husband” or assume that teenagers need to be separated into two groups to talk about relationships? What are the implications of assuming everyone will get married? Do we support and include single people in our church into adulthood? Do we make it very clear that it is safe for folks to come out about gender identity and/or sexual orientation? How can we normalize it so that no one has to come out or everyone has to (never assuming one way or another)?

    These are difficult questions with nuanced answers, and there are more. To avoid making this lengthy comment even longer, I’ll end here. You are, however, inspiring my next blog post–or maybe a series of blog posts!

    Thank you for your compassionate response.

    Like

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