"When I grow up, I'm free to be what I want to be." That was the message written on a little boy's shirt marching at the local Pride Parade.
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.
My daughters' father,
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. 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."
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.
But what cis-racial 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), but no such genetic variation has been discovered for trans-racial people.
However, 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. 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. 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.
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."
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. 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.
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. 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."
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?
 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.
 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.
 "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.
 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.
 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.
 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.
 "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/.
 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.
 Patricia Marx, "About Face," The New Yorker, March 23, 2015, accessed June 18, 2015, http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/03/23/about-face.
 Jonathan Watts, "A Tall Order," The Guardian, December 15, 2003, accessed June 18, 2015, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2003/dec/15/gender.uk.
 This story is real even if the name is not.
 Neil Macdonald, "Why Can't Rachel Dolezal Be as Black as She Wants to Be?"