LGBTQ

Dear Government of Alberta

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By Justin Wishart

At Faith Beyond Belief we want to model how Christians can winsomely engage the public, including government officials. This is one letter that a concerned Christian parent wrote to a public official about the issue of transgenderism.

I am a proud father of two wonderful daughters. As their father, I take seriously the duty to protect and care for them. To me, their lives and well-being are more important to me than my own. Not only is this true emotionally, but I believe God, the maker of all things, gave me these daughters specifically with the mandate that I should love and protect them. This is as great an expression of my religious convictions as there is. In short, I love and care for them at a much deeper level than you are capable of.

This is the motivation behind my open letter. You have undermined the safety and dignity of my daughters with the adoption of the "Guidelines for Best Practices" document. Before I explain why this is so, I would like to explain why I created this open letter. I sent a letter to the Education Minister, David Eggen (NDP), and my MLA, Prasad Panda (Wildrose). Mr. Eggen replied with what appeared to be a generic form letter. It had the appearance of something sent any parent who may express some concern for these guidelines. The reply did not address even one of my concerns, not one. It seems clear that the Education Minister did not read what I sent and, judging by the response, they have not officially addressed the problems I see. Mr. Panda, as an MLA for the opposition party, offered me encouragement to make my issues known. I agree with Mr. Panda (thank you for actually addressing the concerns I raised) and this is the reason for this letter. When the safety of my children are at stake and my concerns are ignored, I am left with only two options: make this a public matter or remain quiet. My love for my daughters will not allow me to remain quiet.

The Best Practices document states that "strategies should be in place to ensure all areas of the school are safe for all students, all of the time." Yet, it is the document itself that undermines this goal. The primary issue I have is how the schools identify a transgendered person: "Self-identification is the sole measure of an individual's sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression." This clearly states that there are no other criteria which override a simple claim. No test, no medical evidence, nothing to confirm a person's claim. I understand why this is, as there is nothing that can possibly verify someone being transgendered. The document uses the term "evidence-based" throughout, but at the most basic level of this discussion, there is no "evidence-based" data for a subjective claim to transgenderism. It follows that anyone can make the claim, for any reason, and the school would simply accept it.

Put aside your political correctness for just a moment and think about that. One could claim transgenderism because the person feels like a girl trapped in a boy's body. Yet, another person could claim the same thing just because they want to look at naked girls. According to the Best Practices document, there is absolutely no way to tell one from the other. My daughters become potential victims, over and over again, and the school isn't allowed to stop it. This will allow a boy with sexual issues into my girl's washroom since students "are able to access washrooms that are congruent with their gender identity." This potential victimization of my daughters is not some vague theory. At the University of Toronto, they had to revise their inclusive washroom policy because of voyeurism. Two people were seen recording their victims as they used the washroom. How many more people were victimized this way without their knowledge? What would be different here?

Unfortunately, it gets worse. Not only should these false claimers be allowed into the washrooms, but also in change-rooms. "Students with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions have a right to accommodation when it comes to the use of washroom and change-room facilities that are congruent with their gender identity." How easy would it be for a boy to sneak a camera into a change-room because they falsely claim to be transgendered? Not only would you be allowing such a person to lewdly view my daughters, you set up a very real possibility of them being victimized on the Internet. This also applies to sport teams, as it states, "if sports teams are divided by gender, students are given the opportunity to participate on the team that reflects their gender identity and expression." As a former wrestler, I shudder at the thought of girls being forced to wrestle with boys who falsely claim transgenderism. This easily opens girls up to be molested by such people; all with the school's approval. Given these guidelines, how could you stop it? This does not even include the real possibility of an unfair physical disadvantage given to my daughters, and can discourage female participation in sports.

Yet, it even gets worse. This doesn't merely apply to students, but to adults as well. "Family members are able to access washrooms that are congruent with their gender identity." When pedophiles are given a ready excuse to be somewhere they should not be, this will merely embolden them. It is not outside the realm of possibility that a parent who is a pedophile slipping into the girl's washroom where my daughter is. There he will have uninhibited access to her. If a teacher happens to walk in before anything happened, the pedophile would simply claim transgenderism. The teacher becomes powerless to do anything at this point. Sure, she can wait around until he leaves, but the pedophile could simply attend the next function and try again until he is successful. Even if a "legitimate" transgender physical man walks into the washroom, my daughters could feel vulnerable and more than a bit frightened. This, then, undermines her sense of security. Things like this have happened. Christopher Hambrook, self-identifying as Jessica, was granted access to a woman's shelter where he sexually assaulted at least two women in Ontario. Hambrook had previous convictions including a sexual assault of a five-year-old girl and raping a 27-year-old woman. The proposed guidelines found within this document are similar to the Ontario laws which allowed Hambrook access to the vulnerable women. What's to prevent a "family member" from doing the same thing here?

Then, the Best Guidelines policy further undermines the dignity of my daughters. If they feel threatened or insecure, whether it is due to a real or perceived threat, they are shamed if they bring it up. "A student who objects to sharing a washroom or change-room with a student who is trans or gender-diverse is offered an alternative facility." It is my daughters who get paraded around the school, thus showing everyone how "intolerant" they are. This will marginalize them and open them up to ridicule. Not only does the policy undermine the safety and security of my daughters, they are publicly exposed and shamed if they decide not to be a victim.

I know it must be difficult for a student to feel that their physical sex doesn't match their internal sex. Growing up can be confusing enough without throwing something like this into the mix. I also, on a certain level, understand the government's desire to offer help to such students in this manner. I also find no solid evidence that this would even be helpful to children who claim transgenderism. What if these children experience gender dysphoria? Could these guidelines end up harming children by affirming their dysphoria?

I also demand, yes demand, that my daughters are not sacrificed on the altar of political correctness. To be clear, I do not think that every person, or even most people, who claim to be transgendered are predators. But, to be even more clear, predators will use the ideas expressed in these guidelines to help them catch their prey. It may not happen right away, but we can see that these things are happening in other jurisdictions. Let's have an open-minded and inclusive conversation about this, not the narrow-minded, politically-correct, and totalitarian approach these guidelines propose. The lives and well-being of my daughters depend on it.

Sincerely,

My daughters' father,

Justin Wishart

Some (Same-sex) Marriage Advice from Canada, Part 2

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By Jojo Ruba

In the first part of my article, I made a list of what Americans can expect after the ruling on same-sex marriage last week. As Canadians, we've observed how our rights are being taken away and our voices not-so-slowly being silenced. But there are three important lessons that Americans can take away from the Canadian experience as you deal with the repercussions of same-sex marriage.

What You Need to Do

1. Stop Making This About You

We share your concerns about the ramifications of same-sex marriage to culture and to individual and religious liberty. But, frankly, when we complain about losing our charitable status or make our religious liberties the centerpiece of our arguments against same-sex marriage, we sound just as self-absorbed as the culture that celebrates it. It makes it sound like Christians care more about the money or power.

By Allan Ajifo [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsAs believers, the greatest damage decisions like this have is to limit the freedom to speak God's truth to a hurting culture. One of the lines we use at Faith Beyond Belief is that rather than hating the sin but loving the sinner, we must hate the sin because we love the sinner. God wants us to speak out against destructive behaviour like pornography, divorce, and yes, same-sex marriage, because it damages the people involved. Though we've made brilliant arguments for traditional marriage, I see few articulate why same-sex marriage actually harms the consenting adults who participate in it.

And that's why we also need to stop apologizing for all Christians! I know we're Canadian and we apologize for everything, but don't apologize for trying to love people. Not every Christian is a jerk who has no empathy for same-sex-attracted people. For the most part, Christians are doing their best to show God's love in this situation. They just don't know how.

Instead, let's start by following what Jesus says are the greatest commands: love God first and then love our neighbours as we love ourselves—and aren't there times when we need a bit of tough love?

2. Fear Not

A Calgary Herald columnist actually defended discrimination against Christians based on the issue of homosexuality because, she said, other Christians don't all agree on homosexuality. She argued that it is "extremist" to hold the view that practicing homosexuals will go to Hell, and anyone who holds such views should be screened out of public office.

She quoted Kris Wells, director of the Institute for Sexual Minority Studies at the University of Alberta, who told the National Post: "I have no problem with people of faith running for public office. It's about how one exercises that faith. . . ."[1]

In other words, the director of a pro-gay organization gets to determine how Christians who go into public office should be able to practice their faith. And the Herald columnist calls Christians the extreme ones!

This columnist, however, can only get away with saying something so inane because so many of our culture—and worse, our churches—no longer understand what Christians believe. For example, the Bible Engagement Study found that 69% of Canadians believe the Bible is full of irreconcilable contradictions, but 55% of Canadians have never read the Bible![2]

But that kind of confusion in a once biblically literate culture can only happen when Christians fail to educate others about the Bible. Worse, we can't educate non-believers about our faith if we don't know it ourselves.

I've spoken across Canada for over a decade on issues like abortion and homosexuality, and I can tell you countless stories of Christian leaders and laypeople telling me that they didn't want to hear from me. Most church members I talk to also can't recall a time when their pastor ever talked about homosexuality. Some pastors simply refuse to talk about such issues.[3]

And when we stopped talking about these issues, we stopped linking biblical truth to the relevant issues in our culture. That's why so many Christians can't articulate a well-reasoned explanation for their faith on issues such as truth, morality, and sexuality. We're too ill-informed and too scared to speak.

Yet this level of biblical ignorance is not a time for fear. It is a time for faith. Have you noticed how the debate on same-sex marriage invariably turns into discussion of the Bible and God's will? Rather than running away from it as many Canadians have, why don't you take it as an opportunity to explain the Christian worldview to your friends? Discuss the issue with family members who have rainbow-coloured FB pictures. And of course, before you do, understand what the biblical worldview is. Take this as an opportunity for you to learn why God's love for humanity means discouraging harmful behaviour like homosexuality.

3. Keep Fighting the Good Fight

An apologist friend of mine recently insisted that the "culture war is over" and that "we lost" and we should move on to other issues. He said we can't expect a non-Christian culture to act like Christians.

Interestingly, when I asked him if he was glad William Wilberforce, the abolitionist, didn't share that sentiment, he never responded. If Christian leaders like him gave up on fights against slavery or racial discrimination, the world we would live in would not only be far worse, but it would be far harder to share the gospel to it.

In fact, many Canadian Christians use the "we lost" sentiment to never raise controversial issues again. They have capitulated to culture and act no differently than their secular colleagues. The more "normal" sin gets, the harder it is want to be "abnormal" by speaking out against it.

But as our American friends get used to the new "normal," please remember this:The day before the U.S. legalized same-sex marriage, I was speaking about homosexuality to a church youth group where two young women recently came out as bisexual. Both approached me at the end of my talk and thanked me for it. One in particular told me that she was trying her best to be faithful to God's word but it was so hard because the rest of culture is telling her just to act on her feelings.

I explained to her what I've learned when I've struggled with unwanted sexual attractions—that God understands how we feel and grieves with us. Though we might think the most loving thing to do for someone is to enter into a relationship with them, the most loving thing we can do is to introduce them to Christ. She agreed and said she would do her best to follow Jesus first.

The fight to normalize homosexuality in the U.S. may have been fought over a few months in a courtroom, but it's a daily battle for people like this young woman who want to do the right thing. Your court just made it harder for her to do so.

Rather than giving up and claiming all is lost, don't you think people like her need Christians who are willing to speak truth when no one else does? That's why we have to keep speaking—because millions of people like this girl need to know that only Jesus can bring hope to a confused culture and their confused hearts.


[1] Naomi Lakritz, "It's Not Anti-Christian—It's Anti-Extremist," Calgary Herald, September 19, 2014, accessed July 2, 2015, http://calgaryherald.com/opinion/lakritz-its-not-anti-christian-its-anti-extremist.

[2] "Are Canadians Done with the Bible?," Canadian Bible Forum, accessed July 8, 2015, http://www.bibleengagementstudy.ca.

[3] Jonathan Merritt, "Hillsong's Brian Houston Says Church Won't Take Public Position on LGBT Issues, Jonathan Merritt on Faith & Culture (blog), Oct. 16, 2014, accessed July 7, 2015, http://jonathanmerritt.religionnews.com/2014/10/16/hillsongs-brian-houston-says-church-lgbt-issues/.

Some (Same-sex) Marriage Advice from Canada, Part 1

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By Jojo Ruba

As I've followed the news, read the blogs, and filtered through the endless stream of rainbow-coloured Facebook pictures, it's obvious that our culture is confused about how to react to the legalization of same-sex marriage in the U.S.

It's even worse for us as Christians who've run the gamut from celebrating the decision, to despairing of the decision, to apologizing for either reaction!

But as a Canadian organization, we've seen this before. Canada legalized same-sex marriage about 10 years ago and it's important we share with our U.S. friends what happened here. Canada is like the canary in the mine for the U.S. since we're years ahead of you in terms of social change. That's why what happens to us can serve as a warning of what will happen to you.

White House rainbow colors to celebrate June 2015 SCOTUS same-sex marriage rulingAnd though no Christians have been thrown in jail yet for our faith, the legalization of same-sex marriage is a huge step in marginalizing the Christian worldview and making it more difficult to share a biblical faith with our secular culture.

Not thrown in jail yet but . . .

Many of my American friends (at least on Facebook) are already preparing for the worst. They're anticipating churches losing their charitable status or Christian organizations being banned from sharing their beliefs. But that's likely not going to happen right away.

The first thing that will happen is not much. The most important goal proponents of same-sex marriage have is to normalize it, and changing the law is a big step in making that happen. Using that decision to beat up Christians (at least right away) will be counter-productive to that goal.

1. Which is Worse, Ignorance or Evil?

That doesn't mean that there won't be an odd decision by a gay rights group or the local civil liberties association here and there. But most of these activities will be done because of ignorance, not malice.

For example, last year, the city council of a small Canadian tourist town banned Christians from using public property. The Nanaimo city council was to host a leadership simulcast on city property. The conference had nothing to do with sexuality and featured such benign (at least on the topic) speakers as Bishop Desmond Tutu and Laura Bush.

But two gay activists called a city councillor and complained to him that the conference was sponsored by Chick-fil-A, whose president supported traditional marriage campaigns, and hosted Christian psychologist Dr. Henry Cloud, who believes that same-sex attractions can be changed. This prompted the councillor to pass a motion that read

that as owners of the facility, any events that are associated with organizations or people that promote or have a history of divisiveness, homophobia, or other expressions of hate, and as such advise the [city-owned centre] to not permit the upcoming Leadercast event to occur in a City owned facility that is scheduled for Saturday, May the 9th.[1]

After comparing anyone who disagreed with their views on sexuality to criminals and Boko Haram kidnappers (who ironically force Christian girls to convert to Islam), the council passed the motion 8-1. Most of the national media ignored the story.

After an outcry from the local Christian community, human rights groups, and one Jewish reporter, the council sheepishly rescinded the motion, as it likely violated Canada's constitution. But the council's decision laid bare the ignorance of so many Canadians about Christian teachings on sexuality. Banning anyone from using public property because they believe sexuality can be changed would of course ban the Apostle Paul, but also many top gay researchers who openly acknowledge that sexuality is not immutable.[2]

The same thing will happen as Americans become more biblically illiterate. They will pass motions that directly contravene not only Christian belief but the right of Christians to put those beliefs into practice. I asked William Lane Craig once which was worse, a culture that was stupid or a culture that was evil. He laughed and he said they were very similar because one leads to another.

2. Treating Sexual Behaviour as Identity

The more likely place to start for these groups is to ensure that any vestige of treating homosexuality as abnormal is removed. This is the most obvious next step because well-meaning people can be convinced that they are doing a good.

For example, the openly lesbian premier of Ontario recently banned counseling for teens and preteens who want to change their same-sex attractions.[3] Though New Jersey, among other places, beat her to that, the push to get rid of any kind of help for people with unwanted same-sex attractions will get stronger. They believe it is harmful to want to change your sexual orientation just as it would be wrong to want to change your racial or ethnic identity.

Another way to normalize same-sex behaviour is to target schools. The former education minister of Alberta, himself a former pastor of a local megachurch, was instrumental in passing a law forcing all schools that get government funding, including Christian schools, to host gay-straight alliance groups (GSAs).[4] GSAs openly promote homosexuality as normal and any opposition as intolerance. In fact, the Alberta Teachers' Association's own website gives advice on how to start a GSA in religious schools and how to overcome religious opposition to their views.[5]

3. Redefining theology

Targeting religious institutions as the source of opposition is, of course, key to normalizing homosexuality. But not all of the action will be direct or through the law.

My colleague Janie recently described a Canadian group that put on a seminar on sexuality in our city last year. The group calls itself Christian and tries to create an open dialogue on homosexuality in churches. Rather than outright calling homosexuality acceptable, they want to create "space" for their view and argue that the Bible can be interpreted to both oppose and support same-sex sexual relations.[6]

Taking a page from Matthew Vines and his Reformation Project, they've tasked their adherents to go into local Canadian churches to begin this "dialogue" with the explicit goal to change the theological teachings of their churches and to get them to eventually accept their views on sexuality.

This subtle approach (they compare the controversy over homosexuality to the controversy over the eating of food sacrificed to idols) is very Canadian because it avoids confrontation. But it is meant to achieve the same goal as changing the law: normalizing homosexuality.

4. Who Can Come Out

Since the legalization of same-sex marriage, Canadians have become used to it and many of the subtle approaches no longer need to be subtle.

Now, if you want to work at any government department that administers marriage certificates, you must be willing to perform same-sex ceremonies.[7] Even businesses that take a stand against the issue can be targeted for their beliefs.[8]

The most egregious example of this is what is happening to Trinity Western University's law program. Trinity, Canada's only private Christian university, wants to start a law program. But several law societies in Canada have openly stated that they will refuse to recognize any student who graduates from that program because of the school's policy on homosexuality. Trinity has a code of conduct for all of its students. Though students don't have to be Christians to go to school, they must adhere to a code of conduct where they agree to having no sexual relationships outside of a traditional marriage.[9]

These law societies argue that Trinity graduates cannot practice law because they hold views contrary to the law of the land. In other words, the only lawyers that they will accept are those that support same-sex marriage. (Of course, they didn't take that position when the law of the land was against same-sex marriage.)

These societies have made these decisions through plebiscites of their own members. And I've heard through lawyer friends how even some Christian lawyers have voted to ban graduates from Trinity out of fear of losing their jobs or promotions.

The fight is still in the courts but this echoes another fight the school had a decade ago over Christian teachers who graduated from the school. Back then, teachers' unions refused graduates from the school because they saw them as "homophobic" and therefore incapable of teaching gay students.

Though the courts eventually mandated that the teachers' college could not discriminate against Christians, this kind of harassment of Christian institutions will continue and get worse.[10]

Human Rights Commissions, quasi-judicial bodies that act like courts on some human rights cases, have had a history of punishing Christians for their views on homosexuality. One case punished a pastor for writing a letter against homosexuality in his local paper. The commission ruled that the pastor could not even speak about homosexuality at his church or in conversation (thankfully this was overturned, but only after a long, expensive legal process)![11]

Recently, Canada's Supreme Court ruled that even if Bible verses told the truth, if they were offensive enough to others, they could still be considered hate speech. In other words, truth is no longer a defense in Canada, especially on this issue.[12]

Both cases show that when truth is no longer a standard, the only standard left is the feelings of the most sensitive person in the room.

Knowing that this is what to expect, how should Christians prepare? In part 2 of this article, we will suggest three lessons Americans can take from Canada's experience with same-sex marriage.


[1] You can watch a clip of Ezra Levant speaking on this on Sun News at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uUaODful6vY.

[2] Jonathan Morrow, "(Part 6) Answering the Toughest Questions About Homosexuality with Alan Shlemon," Think Christianly (blog), January 25, 2012, accessed July 2, 2015, http://thinkchristianly.blogspot.ca/2012/01/part-6-answering-toughest-questions.html.

[3] Rob Ferguson, "Ontario Becomes First Province to Ban 'Conversion Therapy' for LGBTQ children," Toronto Star, Jun 04 2015, accessed July 2, 2015, http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2015/06/04/ontario-becomes-first-province-to-ban-conversion-therapy-for-lgbtq-children.html.

[4] Mariam Ibrahim and Karen Kleiss, "Gay-straight Alliances Now Mandatory in Alberta: 'We're No Longer That Redneck, Roughneck Province,'" National Post, March 11, 2015, accessed July 2, 2015, http://news.nationalpost.com/news/canada/gay-straight-alliances-now-mandatory-in-alberta-were-no-longer-that-redneck-roughneck-province.

[5] Kristopher Wells, Gay-Straight Alliances: A Guide for Teachers (Edmonton: Alberta Teachers' Association, 2006), 26, http://www.teachers.ab.ca/SiteCollectionDocuments/ATA/Publications/Human-Rights-Issues/Gay–Straight%20Student%20Alliances%20in%20Alberta%20Schools%20A%20Guide%20for%20Teachers.pdf.

[6] Janie Bont, "Finding Space for the Bible in 'Generous Spaciousness'", Faith Beyond Belief (blog), November 20, 2014, accessed July 2, 2015, http://www.faithbeyondbelief.ca/2014/11/20/finding-space-for-the-bible-in-generous-spaciousness/.

[7] "Marriage officials can't refuse gays: Sask. Court, CBC News, Jan 10, 2011, accessed July 2, 2015, http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatchewan/marriage-officials-can-t-refuse-gays-sask-court-1.1011669.

[8] "Jewelry store to refund engagement ring deposit to same-sex couple," CBC News, May 19, 2015, accessed July 2, 2015, http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/newfoundland-labrador/jewelry-store-to-refund-engagement-ring-deposit-to-same-sex-couple-1.3078557.

[9] Kelly McParland, "Crusade Against Trinity Western Law School Runs Up Against a Sensible Judge," National Post, January 30, 2015, accessed July 7, 2015, http://news.nationalpost.com/full-comment/kelly-mcparland-crusade-against-trinity-western-law-school-runs-up-against-an-intelligent-judge.

[10] Trinity Western University v. British Columbia College of Teachers, [2001] 1 S.C.R. 772, 2001 S.C.C. 31 (CanLII), May 17, 2001, accessed July 2, 2015, http://www.canlii.org/en/ca/scc/doc/2001/2001scc31/2001scc31.html.

[11] Jenn Ruddy, "Stephen Boissoin on Free Speech, Porn and His Anti-Gay Letter," Daily Xtra, December 8, 2009, accessed July 2, 2015, http://www.dailyxtra.com/canada/news-and-ideas/news/stephen-boissoin-free-speech-porn-and-anti-gay-letter-52317. See also "Lund v Boissoin," Wikipedia, updated January 7, 2015, accessed July 2, 2015, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lund_v_Boissoin.

[12] Bruce Bawer, "Canadian Supreme Court Kills Last Hope for Free Speech," Frontpage Mag, February 28, 2013, accessed July 2, 2015, http://www.frontpagemag.com/fpm/179449/canadian-supreme-court-kills-last-hope-free-speech-bruce-bawer.

Coming Out as Trans-Racial

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By Jojo Ruba

(With special thanks to Jonathan Swift, the father of modern-day social satire.)

I never thought I would be writing this. Not even my closest friends or family know about the pain I face every day or how lonely it feels not to be able to tell anyone.

But recent events give me hope that I will be accepted for who I really am: a white person trapped in a brown person's body.

Interest in trans-racial people like myself of course has piqued because of the controversy surrounding Rachel Dolezal, the past president of a local NAACP group in Washington State. The NAACP is a US civil-rights group that primarily helps African-Americans.

The problem is that Rachel was born white, not black, and many people think this disqualifies her from leading a black group. Even her parents, who are both Caucasian, are accusing Rachel of lying about her race.

But Rachel insists that she has identified as a black person even as a five-year-old. "I was drawing self-portraits with the brown crayon instead of the peach crayon, and black curly hair," she told Today Show host, Matt Lauer.[1] However, she didn't feel free to fully express who she was when she was younger. She said social pressure forced her to live as a white person, even though she identified as black. "I was socially conditioned to be limited to whatever biological identity was thrust upon me and narrated to me. And so I kind of felt pretty awkward with that at times."[2]

Many have mocked Rachel because they don't understand her struggle. I can. I too was five when we moved from the Philippines to Canada and it was a difficult struggle for me to fit in. In fact, there were hardly any Asian kids in my elementary school—they were mostly white. As I began going to school, I noticed things about my culture that I didn't want to identify with. For example, as I learned proper English, I began to correct my parents' funny accent (ironically, Filipinos have a problem with the letter "F"). I would also make sure we never brought rice to school for lunch because white people only ate sandwiches. Even when we played video games, I would choose to be the white characters not the brown ones.

As I moved into high school, I had non-white friends but I began to identify with the white kids at school and act like them. In fact, many of my white friends told me that they often "forgot" that I wasn't white! I even heard a term to describe how I was feeling: I was a "coconut," white inside but brown outside.

Some might think that I am just a victim of a culture that values "whiteness." I don't identify as brown because I was never given a chance to see that there was nothing wrong with my ethnic identity. Anyone who feels trapped in the wrong race faces this ignorance.

When an ad for skin-whitening lotion was put inside buses in Toronto, there was public outcry! Many accused the ad of being racist because it encouraged people to try to change something, their skin colour, when there was nothing wrong with their skin.[3]

But what cis-racial[4] people don't realize is, just like gender, race is a social construct. We create it in the cultures we come from. Because it is a social construct, it is fluid and can change.

Ironically, some transgendered people don't support trans-racial people despite the fact we use the exact same arguments. They even argue there may be genetic causes for transgenderism (even though it's inconclusive so far),[5] but no such genetic variation has been discovered for trans-racial people.

Whitening soapHowever, if our gender identities cannot be limited by our bodies, why should our race be limited by our bodies? I remember hearing about the beginning of a local training event for LGBT and pro-choice activists. That's when participants were asked to introduce themselves by saying their name and what pronoun they wanted to be called at the meeting—he, she, it or they. They could decide for themselves if they were male, female, an inanimate object or a plural entity for the day. No one was going to make that decision about their identity for them!

In the same way, all trans-racial people are asking for that same right! When our view of who we are clashes with our physical bodies, we can't be happy. And isn't that the most important thing in this debate, helping people live at peace with themselves by getting them to change their bodies?

In fact, there are likely more transracial people because so many are interested in adjusting if not outright changing their racial features. For example, the global market for skin-whitening lotion, soap and other cosmetic products is expected to have $19.8 billion in sales by 2018 especially in places like Asia, the Middle East and even Africa.[6] You can even find many of these products in Canada at local Asian markets.

In Vancouver, Asians are spending up to $10 000 on plastic surgery to get their noses less flat and more Caucasian.[7] Meanwhile, around the world, over 700 000 people yearly get blepharoplasties and epicanthoplasties—eyelid surgeries that make their eyes look more Western and less Asian. The operations can total up to $25 000.[8]

One journalist researching plastic surgery in South Korea discovered that it is so common and so radical that some Korean hospitals "offer certificates of identity to foreign patients, who might need help convincing immigration officers that they're not in the Witness Protection Program."[9]

In China, these racial changes are even more important. They have height requirements to get into law school or to get a job as a stewardess. To get into the foreign ministry, for example, male applicants need to be at least 5ft 7in, while women must be at least 5ft 3in. This is because Chinese diplomats must match the height of their foreign counterparts.[10] To fix this, many go through painful surgery where their legs are literally broken in two so they can extend their height. One reporter described the procedure this way:

[A] doctor sawed through the flesh and bone below her knee to insert what looks an awful lot like knitting needles through the length of her tibiae. . . . These giant steel pins are connected by eight screws punched horizontally through her ankle and calf to a steel cage surrounding each leg. Once the bone starts to heal, these cages will act like a medieval torture device—each day over the next few months [she] will turn the screws a fraction and stretch her limbs more and more until she has grown by 8 cm.[11]

As I've now come out as trans-racial, I am considering all of those options so that my outside self will reflect what I've always been inside. Unfortunately, my province does not pay for any of these procedures yet under our free healthcare, though they do pay for sex reassignment surgery. But as more people recognize the voices of trans-racial people, our government must be convinced to cover this surgery so trans-racial people can be more like ourselves.

Unfortunately, we have a lot of work to do to educate Canadians. One of my friends, "Eugene," is a Christian who actually went through gender reassignment surgery from male to female and lived as a female for 10 years.[12] He said the urge to change was so overwhelming, that he left his wife and children to live a different life. But after hearing a sermon from Billy Graham on the radio, he realized that he had destroyed his life and now lives as a man again.

When he learned that I wanted to get operations to change my race, he told me what he tells others who want to change their identity: if your mind doesn't feel compatible with your healthy body, work on changing your mind, not your body. He said I needed to accept myself for who God made me because there was nothing wrong with my body. "We have all been made by God as a unique creation and made as He designed us. He made us according to His plan and purpose," he said.

I told him God made me trans-racial so I had the right to change my body because God designed us to act on our feelings. He must have wanted me to change my race; otherwise, He wouldn't have given me these feelings and the technology to make it happen!

Some progressive voices are at least starting to listen. CBC personality Neil Macdonald states, "The notion of deciding your race is becoming more relevant every day in America. Don't forget, this is a country practically founded on the concept of self-invention and reinvention…In addition, race is becoming a relative notion."[13]

That's progress. He understands that ethnicity is a social construct and the reality of our physical bodies can no longer dictate who we are. Rather, it's what we feel and how we think that shape our identity, not our bodies.

I realize that it's hard to change conventions like this, but in order to be accommodating of all Canadians, we must be willing to change our thinking—and even I am still learning.When I excitedly told a friend about my article and that Neil Macdonald supports trans-racial rights, he said that was impossible. Why? Because he was Neil Macdonald. At first, I didn't understand and was about to argue with him.

But then he explained. Even though he was born a black girl, he always identified with the CBC reporter he watched on TV. "I even dressed up like him as a kid," he said. "If our identities shouldn't be limited by our physical bodies, then can't I live the way I always felt? Can't I be Neil Macdonald?" Neil was right, of course. If my physical features don't shape my identity, then neither could the fact that he was born a poor, black girl from Calgary, stop him from identifying as a rich, white CBC reporter from Toronto. I even encouraged him to contact the CBC to get paid the other Neil's salary.

If our physical bodies no longer limit how we identify ourselves, then we can be anyone or anything we feel. We no longer have to conform to any social construct: gender, race, geography, species etc. We would all be free to live as we truly want—and have the government cover all our plastic surgeries!

Next, I am exploring the idea that I am not just white but actually a 69-year-old British woman from the North Pole, trapped in a 30-something male Filipino body in Southern Alberta. I have always felt like a cold, old soul, so doesn't it make sense that I deserve to get my government pension and northern living allowance?


[1] Eun Hyung Kim, "Rachel Dolezal Breaks Her Silence on TODAY: 'I Identify as Black,'" June 16, 2015, accessed June 18, 2015, http://www.today.com/news/rachel-dolezal-speaks-today-show-matt-lauer-after-naacp-resignation-t26371.

[2] Neil Macdonald, "Why Can't Rachel Dolezal Be as Black as She Wants to Be?" CBC News, June 17, 2015, accessed June 18, 2015, http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/why-can-t-rachel-dolezal-be-as-black-as-she-wants-to-be-1.3116030.

[3] "TTC Removing Controversial Skin-Lighening Ads After Outcry," CBC News, December 5, 2014, accessed June 18, 2015, http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/ttc-removing-controversial-skin-lightening-ads-after-outcry-1.2862061.

[4] Cis-race is when your race matches your physical ethnicity. Transgender people use the terms cis-male and cis-female for those whose gender identity matches their physical bodies.

[5] Julia Wallace, "Discovery of a 'Transsexual Gene' Raises More Questions Than Answers," Popular Science, November 18, 2008, accessed June 18, 2015, http://www.popsci.com/scitech/article/2008-11/discovery-transsexual-gene-raises-more-questions-answers.

[6] Andrew McDougall, "Skin Lightening Trend in Asia Booses Global Market," CosmeticsDesign-Asia.com, June 4, 2013, accessed June 18, 2015, http://www.cosmeticsdesign-asia.com/Market-Trends/Skin-lightening-trend-in-Asia-boosts-global-market.

[7] "Asian Plastic Surgery Is a Vancouver Growth Industry," Vancouver Sun, June 22, 2012, accessed June 18, 2015, http://blogs.vancouversun.com/2012/06/22/asian-plastic-surgery-is-a-vancouver-growth-industry/.

[8] Chris Stokel-Walker, "When Does Plastic Surgery Become Racial Transformation?," BuzzFeed, May 16, 2013, accessed June 18, 2014, http://www.buzzfeed.com/chrisstokelwalker/when-does-plastic-surgery-become-racial-transformation#.mt2nM4R0dY.

[9] Patricia Marx, "About Face," The New Yorker, March 23, 2015, accessed June 18, 2015, http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/03/23/about-face.

[10] Jonathan Watts, "A Tall Order," The Guardian, December 15, 2003, accessed June 18, 2015, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2003/dec/15/gender.uk.

[11] Ibid.

[12] This story is real even if the name is not.

[13] Neil Macdonald, "Why Can't Rachel Dolezal Be as Black as She Wants to Be?"