Protest highlights sex change challenges on P.E.I.

Nigel
Nigel Armstrong
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Changing sex is a difficult journey, a protest gathering in Charlottetown heard Wednesday.

From the look on the faces of tourists and residents passing by, it appears difficult on many levels.

The event was organized by Jennifer McCreath of Newfoundland to coincide with Pride Week on P.E.I. McCreath is an outspoken advocate for people who change their sex.

The protest on the lawn of Province House was attended by close to 30 people, learning about issues and queer language. Non-binary, for example, is a term to describe people who don't want society to label people as exclusively either male or female. In contrast, cisgender or CIS is a term for people who are comfortable identifying with the sex they were born as, the gathering heard.

"The four east provinces here in Canada seem to be struggling more with acceptance of trans issues, specifically with government entities," said McCreath.

One of the major issues for trans people is access to medical procedures, she said. There is no government support of transgender procedures on P.E.I. or in New Brunswick, the protest heard.

"We do have trans plungers here, because we put up with a lot of crap," said McCreath, passing out colourfully decorated plumbing tools as a protest symbol.

"Its tough enough being trans," she said. "We fight stigma. When I came out I lost family, I lost friends, I lost a supposedly safe and secure provincial government job in Newfoundland. I couldn't find a place to live."

Another monumental challenge is getting identification documents.

"We get I.D.ed almost every day," said McCreath.

It's especially hard at airports, she said.

"Your I.D. doesn't match what you are, what's going on here?" she said, mimicking the response of security staff.

"By me being here, and everyone being here, I'm hoping this will create a safe space and create opportunity for people to learn more about trans issues," said McCreath.

"I know we have made great progress already on P.E.I. and I have had way more support than I could ever have imagined," said Ash Arsenault who also spoke at the gathering. "I think it is really good to keep this momentum going.

Arsenault lives on P.E.I. and is undergoing a change from female to male and speaking publicly about it.

"I think there is actually a lot more trans people here than we realize," said Arsenault.

Trina Conrad from Halifax brought greetings from Nova Scotia.

She spoke of the politics within the movement, how drag queens dominate the pride events there, governed by white, able-bodied, cisgender people.

She represents a group that tries to be more age, race and ability inclusive, and more radical and political in support of people's queer lifestyles.

"We stand up," said Conrad of the Halifax-based Rad Pride organization.

NArmstrong@TheGuardian.pe.ca

Twitter.com/NigelPEI

Organizations: Province House, Rad Pride organization

Geographic location: P.E.I., Newfoundland, Charlottetown Canada New Brunswick Nova Scotia

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  • SomeSense
    July 31, 2014 - 13:56

    "I think there is actually a lot more trans people here than we realize," I would agree if you don't realize there are any here but I doubt there are that many in this province. I would be surprised if it was .01% which would hardly make it the norm. While I do personally know several people who are gay/lesbian (although only 1 of them lives in PEI) I don't personally know of a single trans person living anywhere. I am not against people doing whatever they wish as long as they are not infringing on someone's rights. If you want to be trans or gay or bi or whatever that is fine with me but you also need to realize you are not the majority and having people accept you does not mean they need to celebrate you or beliefs. They are still free to believe it is wrong for whatever personal reason they have. Trying to change someone's belief of what they think is right or wrong by force or discrimination or intimidation is exactly what you are against and that should hold true for everyone regardless of their position. As long as no one is discriminating or inciting violence against anyone else or infringing on someone else’s rights everyone has the right to believe, say, do what they wish and this should go for everyone and should be remembered by everyone on both sides of every issue.

    • whatsense
      August 02, 2014 - 22:07

      Many trans people are not openly trans because it's extremely unsafe (especially in conservative places like PEI) or don't tell people they're trans because they'd rather not hear about all the reasons why that person doesn't think their identity is important enough to be acknowledged or respected. Recent studies put people with transgender identities at upwards of 1% of the population and asking for basic legislation ensuring freedom from violence and discrimination and coverage for health procedures necessary for physical and psychological health and safety hardly constitutes an infringement on anyone else's rights. I know trans people from PEI and I don't even live there, and in the city in NB that I live in I know over 30 transgender people so you may want to consider that as someone who obviously isn't a sexual or gender minority you really don't have a very accurate idea of the topic you're trying to comment on here.

  • sick of hearing it
    July 30, 2014 - 22:15

    Perhaps if they'd shut up about it then it wouldn't be such a problem. Most people don't accept Each other its not unique to these drama queens.

    • Sick of your ignorance
      July 30, 2014 - 22:28

      Perhaps if you took the time to educate yourself on the subject you would understand the problem. Human rights are not gained by shutting up.

    • Trans ally
      July 30, 2014 - 22:33

      Your ignorance is mind boggling, sick of it. Perhaps if those African Americans had shut up, they would have been freed sooner. Perhaps if those suffragettes had shut up, they would've got the right to vote sooner. Human rights are human rights, regardless of gender.