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

Nigel Armstrong
Published on July 30, 2014

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.