Gender-blind

Hello Everyone~!

This is the first blog post that I am shamelessly stealing from my academic pursuits. This is something that I am working on a the moment, and I always find that drafting things in a “blog” format is easier than drafting things in an academic format. So, I am going to go through the process of drafting a piece that I am working on, publishing it here, and editing it to make it fit the more academic format that is required of it. I do hope that you enjoy!

Please remember that this is a first draft!

[Image] Figures for men and women in blue and pink. Some men are in pink, some women are in blue. Text in the middle reads "True Love is Gender-blind"

Gender-blind

“Gender-blind,” as it sounds, is a term that is used to describe a person, policy, or service as being blind to the gender of others. In this, the person, policy, or service attempts to communicate an unbiased reaction on the basis of gender identity or gender expression. However, this disinterest towards gender comes across very differently based on whether it is a person or service which claims to be gender-blind.

Gender-blind as Identity

As an identity, the term “gender-blind” lies somewhere between the notions of pansexuality, or panromanticism, and pomosexuality. This is because, much like pansexuality, describing oneself as “gender-blind” acts as a way to tell others that one is sexually or romantically interested in people of all gender identities or gender expressions. However, where pansexuality explicitly allows for sexual relationship with members of all gender identities and expressions, being gender-blind claims to be unaffected or disinterested by the gender of their potential partner, implying an allowance for relationships with members of all genders.

As these terms are so close in their meaning, it is common for people who identify themselves as pansexual to also describe themselves as gender-blind. This is not to say that these terms are simply interchangeable, however, as one could be gender-blind without identifying with pansexuality or vice versa. This is exactly the case with aromantic asexual people. For people with these identities, there may be a disinterest demonstrated towards gender expressions and identities of potential sexual and romantic, but only because of their lack of desire in having romantic or sexual partner at all. Further, those with demiromantic or demisexual identities may also endorse being gender-blind, whether or not they have also endorsed a panromantic orientation.

Likewise, gender-blind, as an identity, overlaps with pomosexuality, or the “erotic reality beyond the boundaries of gender, separatism, and essentialist notions of sexual orientation” (Queen & Schimel, 1997). This deconstruction of the assumptions of, and around, gender boundaries is something that is inherent within the concept of gender-blindness. People with this identity often question the relevance of the gender divide in many aspects of life. This especially true with regards to sexual realm, but some may also find it pertinent to support gender-blindness in policy and services as well.

Gender-blind as Public Policy

From a public policy and social service perceptive, gender-blindness takes on a slightly different reality. Rather than being about opening oneself up to the possibility of having romantic and/or sexual partners of many different gender identities or expressions, gender-blind public policy seeks to remove gender from the determination of provision of services. To this end, gender-blind programs attempt to provide services to the population without regards to the gender of the recipients of said services.

This type of formal equality (treating all people the same, regardless of circumstance) is not typically a problem when there are few barriers to people of any gender accessing said services. However, as the number of barriers to access increase, so does the potential for gender-blind services to neglect the needs of people of a certain gender identity or expression. While this may sound straightforward in theory, in practice, it usually is not. This is because, often, barriers to accessing services are not readily apparent or readily connected.

Take, for example, the complex issue of access to healthcare. In countries without socialized medical systems, the largest barrier to accessing the healthcare that one requires is their access to the finances to pay for this treatment. However, even today, this economic freedom is not afforded to men and women equally. This is especially true considering that women are still disproportionately taxed with the costs of money and time to raise and care for children. These additional costs place women at a disadvantage when it comes to accessing healthcare services, and preventative services in particular.

Further, healthcare services often completely ignore the experiences of people with other gender identities or expressions. This leads to doctors who lack the knowledge or the comfort level to deal with these patients appropriately or adequately. This makes it hard, if not impossible, for these patients to access the healthcare that they require.

Perhaps the European Commission (2013) on gender equality summarizes it best: 

Gender blindness is the failure to recognise that gender is an essential determinant of social outcomes impacting on projects and policies. A gender blind approach assumes that a policy or programme does not have unequal (even if unintended) outcome on women and men.

[Update] A Quickie

*giggle giggle* Do you see what I did there? *giggle*

*clears her throat* Anyway..

If you noticed that I was gone, I am sorry about that. I have been dealing with a lot of changes over the past little while, and I imagine that I will be dealing with many more as the months roll on. However, I think that I have started to settle into my new role and my new place.

And, that was the hint for some of the changes that I have experienced as of late: I moved. This wasn’t really a minor thing for me, I moved more than 2500km across the country. (Sheesh Canada is huge). So, instead of coming to you from some little Southwestern Ontario town, I am coming to you from the largest city in Saskatchewan!

I can already feel the reader comments forming as they read that: Why Saskatchewan? There is nothing in Saskatchewan!

Well… You would think that. But, I have to say that there is far more happening in this city in the prairies than there was going on back home. Plus, there is graduate school. That’s right! I am in Graduate School and being all Graduate School-ly, whatever that means. So far, it is meant that I have a lot of reading to do, a lot of writing to do, and a major research project to begin. But, I guess that wasn’t enough for me, because I also got myself a job working in an awesomely sex-positive, sex toy shop. ( ^_^ )

So, yeah. Things have changed.

What does that mean about my blogging habit? I haven’t a clue at the moment. Over the last little while, I just didn’t have the time to even think about the blog as I went about trying to situate myself in my new home and my new town. However, now that the weather is cooling down and the demands of Graduate school are starting to kick in, I think that there may be some time for posting here and there. However, the content of those posts is going to more closely reflect what I am working on at school at the moment than some arbitrary topic around Post-Modernism or Sexual and Gender Minority issues.

… Who am I kidding? Everyone knows that I went to Graduate School to study Sexual and Gender Minority issues, so that should still be there in spade.

Anyway, I said that this would be quick and it seems to be dragging on a bit now. So, I will leave you with the TL;DR version: a list of new things to happen in my life over the last couple months.

New things:

  • Holding my first job in a retail setting
  • Starting my first year of a Graduate school program!
  • First time west of Lansing, Michigan
  • First solo drive of more than 2000km
  • First job working more than 6 hours a week
  • Possible: first time earning enough to be over the poverty line!
  • First time owning my own car

The Reason I Refuse to go Stealth

[Image] Stealth, as written on a hockey stick

Photo by:Andrew Jensen

Going stealth is something which a lot of Trans* people strive for at the beginning of their transition. They hope, as many would, that never bringing up the fact that they were assigned to the wrong sex category at birth would make their life much easier somehow.

I was one of those. When I first started transitioning, I felt that the end goal was to be fully female (whatever the hell that means). I thought that, at the end of my transition, I should be able to just stop mentioning that I was Trans* and fade into the background. I thought that I would just be able to live my life, as just another woman, without being hated or discriminated against because of who I was. I mean, I even lied to my first boyfriend about it. (A story for another time)

Today however, I am of a completely different mind. I have been in the process of transitioning for over 5 years now and, if I wanted to, I could probably go stealth.

I just don’t want to anymore.

It isn’t because I don’t think my life would be any easier if I just stopped talking about being Trans*, I know that it almost certainly would. Instead, it is because I now feel that it would be selfish of me to go stealth.

Before I go any further, I want to make it clear that I don’t think it is inherently selfish to go stealth. There are a lot of reasons to make that decision, for or against, and some of them are really good ones. Personal and familial safety are two of the biggest of those, and I would never fault anyone for doing what they need to to survive.

However, for me, I feel as though it would be. You see, I am rather lucky for the most part. I live in Canada (a white, mostly progressive country) as a white, young, passable Trans* person. I do not get threats or harassment while walking down the street. I don’t get told that I am not allowed in Rainbow safe spaces or Women’s Only spaces. I don’t get picked on or made fun of because of the way that I look.

The only time that I get blow back for being Trans* is when I out myself.

This just isn’t true for many Trans* people in my community or even for many Trans* people in the larger Trans* communities. For many Trans* people, they don’t have any choice but to not pass. It isn’t due to any failure of their own, but rather a failure of their genetics or their current situation. However, as a result of no indiscretion on their part, they are thrown into the role of being the public image of the Trans* community.

In this role, these members of the Trans* community have their body and actions policed. Everything they do, everything they say, is assumed to be generalizable to the entirety of the Trans* community. They are forced, often without the knowledge or ability to do so, to defend the Trans* community and all of its members.

And, in choosing to be stealth, as a privileged person with little risk of societal reprisals, I am condoning the mistreatment of those who can’t hide from society’s abuse and harassment. I am choosing to relegate my knowledge of the Trans* communities and the experiences I have gained throughout my transition to the dustbin, never to be used again.

And, that just isn’t fair.

That isn’t fair to me or my narrative. That isn’t fair to the Trans* community. That isn’t fair for the larger Rainbow communities. It just isn’t fair for anyone.

So, for that reason, I actively choose, as I hope to always do, to use my privileged position within the Trans* communities to advocate, fight, and rally for the inclusion of all Trans* people in society. And, I actively choose not to hide or to force the others around me to create my narrative for me.

DOMA Didn’t End, It Wasn’t Struck Down, and Stop Saying That It Was

Unless you have been living under a rock the last couple of days, you likely know that the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) recently struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). However, if you have been reading about the decision in many online sources, you may have been misled.

In many of the news outlets that I have been looking at over the last 48 hours, I have seen one HUGE mistake being reported again and again. This mistake is news outlets reporting that DOMA has been repealed or struck down.

[Image] Now that DOMA'S dead, will Obama and Clinton take fight to Illinois[Image] Obama hails court decision striking down DOMA[Image] Court Overturns DOMA, Sidesteps Broad Gay Marriage Ruling[Image] Dems voted for DOMA, cheered its end[Image] How the end of DOMA will affect Obamacare, Federal Employees[Image] Same-sex couples cheer DOMA's demise

 

Sadly, this isn’t what actually happened. The ruling that the SCOTUS handed down did not strike down the entirety of DOMA, but rather, the ruling struck down a specific section within the larger law. Specifically, the ruling by the SCOTUS struck down Section 3.

    (a) IN GENERAL- Chapter 1 of title 1, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following:

`Sec. 7. Definition of `marriage’ and `spouse’

    `In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, or of any ruling, regulation, or interpretation of the various administrative bureaus and agencies of the United States, the word `marriage’ means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word `spouse’ refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.’.
    (b) CLERICAL AMENDMENT- The table of sections at the beginning of chapter 1 of title 1, United States Code, is amended by inserting after the item relating to section 6 the following new item:
        `7. Definition of `marriage’ and `spouse’.’.

Assuming that your legalese is up to scratch, you know that Section 3 of DOMA was the section of the law that was being used to stop same-sex couples (i.e. those who have been legally married in a state which allows same-sex marriage) from accessing the same benefits that are given to heterosexual couples. So, by striking down this section, the SCOTUS paved the way for a lot of really positive things… in the states that have legal same-sex marriage.

In these states, the federal government can no longer deny access to the benefits of marriage based on the fact that the marriage is between two members of the same-sex. This means that, unlike the day before the decision, immigration, pension, healthcare, and tax benefits have to be extended to same-sex couples in the same way that they are in heterosexual couples.

Needless to say, this is great news, even if it only truly impacts a select subset of the LGBT subset of the population of the US.

However, what would have been ever greater news would be if the entirety of DOMA was struck down. If this were the case, not only would Section 3 (the federal ban on benefits) be removed from the books, but so would Section 2.

    (a) IN GENERAL- Chapter 115 of title 28, United States Code, is amended by adding after section 1738B the following:

`Sec. 1738C. Certain acts, records, and proceedings and the effect thereof

    `No State, territory, or possession of the United States, or Indian tribe, shall be required to give effect to any public act, record, or judicial proceeding of any other State, territory, possession, or tribe respecting a relationship between persons of the same sex that is treated as a marriage under the laws of such other State, territory, possession, or tribe, or a right or claim arising from such relationship.’.
    (b) CLERICAL AMENDMENT- The table of sections at the beginning of chapter 115 of title 28, United States Code, is amended by inserting after the item relating to section 1738B the following new item:
        `1738C. Certain acts, records, and proceedings and the effect thereof.’.

This section of DOMA is the section that bars the federal government from enacting any legislation that would open the ability to marry up to same-sex couples. Basically, it makes it so that same-sex marriage, as it is at the moment, must be won on a state-by-state basis.

Should this section had fallen to the pen of the SCOTUS as well, the federal government could have, and likely would have, drafted a bill aimed at making same-sex marriage legal nationwide. While this would not have likely been successful (as you could imagine given the Republican controlled House), it would have almost definitely been stalled for the remainder of the Obama presidency, giving the Democrats strong political fire power come election time.

RCMP Harass and Threaten Trans Women… again

[Image] The outdoor sign of the RCMP

RCMP Sign
Image by: waferboard

On Thursday, two Canadian Transgender Artists, Nina Arsenault and Lexi Sanfino, were arrested after their WestJet flight landed in Edmonton, Alberta. During this flight, Lexi Sanfino took off her top and walked topless down the aisle of the plane. When the plane arrived at its destination, Sanfino was taken into custody for causing a disturbance while Arsenault was detained but released without charge.

Here in Canada, laws against women baring their breasts are scantly used. For the most part, police and legislators alike understand that any woman arrested for baring her breasts would likely challenge the law all the way up to the Supreme Court of Canada. Given that Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms promises equal protections under the law based on sex, the law in question (and all laws like it in Canada) would most likely be ruled without standing, and thus, be struck down.

Because of this, police officers use other laws to cover their butts. In this case, they used the law against “causing a disturbance,” a catch-all that allows police to arrest anyone who they feel is doing something they don’t like. Usually, when the police resort to catch-all laws to arrest people, the line in the sand between fair policing practices and police abuse of power has already been crossed.

In this case, that is exactly what happened. In further conversations with Nina Arsenault, news sources such as the Huffington Post and The Toronto Star found out that, while in police custody, Nina had her camera confiscated, had pictures and videos (including those of the arrest) deleted, and both women were verbally harassed by police. Given that the arresting officers were members of the RCMP and given the RCMP’s track record of harassment, this isn’t surprising to me. However, the comments (allegedly) made by the officers still warrant examination.

According to the Toronto Star,

Arsenault and Sanfino said they were taken to an RCMP holding cell, where Arsenault claims an officer took her camera and deleted photos and a video of the arrest.

They claim the officers began referring to them as males after seeing their passports.

“They were addressing us by male pronouns,” said Arsenault. “I was like, “OK dude, I understand that legally it says ‘M’ on our passports, but we present as women. . . . Everyone knows I’ve had a lot of surgical procedures to feminize myself.”

“They said, ‘Just so you know, we might have to put you two in the male prison.’ ”

Regarding the alleged comment, Sanfino said, “All I kept thinking is they are threatening me with one hell of a good time.”

Arsenault alleges an officer questioned her about her operations.

“He said, ‘So have you had the final sex change surgery? Do you have the original parts down there? Did you get something new?’ I said, ‘I don’t think that has anything to do with my arrest.’

If the conversation between police, Sanfino, and Arsenault took place the way that Arsenault reported to the Toronto Star, there is a (yet another) major issue with the RCMP. While it is not exactly uncommon for people to ask trans people about what is between their legs, it is still something that is deeply problematic. In this case, however, it wasn’t just that someone was breaching social decorum to ask questions that were transphobic and offensive, but a police officer (someone with training in how to lawfully arrest and detain people) was asking them.

However, this is not the worst part of the conversation, not by a long way. The worst part of the conversation comes when the police officer openly threatens to place these two Trans women in Male prison environments. In doing so, these officers have to have a clear understanding that this would put the women at greatly increased risk of sexual violence, assault, or even murder.

If the police officers in this conversation didn’t know that this were the case, this wouldn’t have been a threat, it wouldn’t have even needed to be mentioned. However, in mentioning that they could well lock these women up in male lock-up, these officers made it extremely clear that they wished to use their power to harass, embarrass, debase, and degrade these women.

This shows, yet again, that police services throughout Canada do not have the training or general knowledge to appropriately handle the transgender population. Further, this shows, yet again, why legislation (such as Bill C-279) is needed to ensure that those in positions of power do not continue to use their power to deny opportunity, harass, degrade, assault, or threaten trans people as a matter of business as usual.

Concealment in an Unlawful Assembly: A New Weapon for Police Officers

[Image] Two protesters wearing homemade Guy Fawkes masks and heavy coats.

Photo by: Dmitri Korobtsov

Yesterday, a new private member’s bill was passed into law in Canada. This bill, C-309, sought to change section 65 and 66 of the Criminal Code to make it illegal to wear a mask at a riot or unlawful assembly. While this may seem like something that could really be in the public good, I am of the opinion that the law is nothing more than a covert attempt by the Harper government to dissuade people from taking part in protests and other demonstrations.

You see, there are two main problems with this law as it exists:

1) The law is defined much too broadly.

I have to admit that part of the reason that the law is defined too broadly is because it relies heavily on other legal terms that are already much too broadly defined. Like most bills, you get into this definitional nightmare where everything is defined in a circle, and as you follow that definition circle, you realize that it could mean just about anything.

For this law, the definition of the situation under which the law can be utilized was defined as any “unlawful assembly.” However, the term unlawful assembly already has a definition in the Criminal Code of Canada, and is defined as:

63. (1) An unlawful assembly is an assembly of three or more persons who, with intent to carry out any common purpose, assemble in such a manner or so conduct themselves when they are assembled as to cause persons in the neighbourhood of the assembly to fear, on reasonable grounds, that they

(a) will disturb the peace tumultuously; or

(b) will by that assembly needlessly and without reasonable cause provoke other persons to disturb the peace tumultuously.

This means that any gathering with three or more people could be considered to be an unlawful assembly so long as the neighbourhood around the gathering fear that the gathering will disturb the peace in some shape or form. As these guidelines for determining whether a gathering is lawful or not are not exactly stringent, the vast majority of large protests and peaceful demonstrations can easily be categorized as unlawful. This means that, as far as this law is concerned, it is no longer legal to wear a mask (or paint your face) for a protest or large gathering.

2) The law is redundant

Of the two main problems that I have with the law, this is likely the bigger of them.

As I have already mentioned, the law seeks to make it illegal to wear a mask in an unlawful assembly. However, as the name “unlawful assembly” implies, it is already illegal to take part in an unlawful assembly. So, basically, what the law is asking for is to make it illegal to do something while doing something illegal.

This leads to this odd enforcement problem of: Can you arrest someone for wearing a mask at an unlawful assembly, but not arrest them for being part of an unlawful assembly? If you can, isn’t it the job of the prosecutor in the case to prove, not only that the protester was wearing a mask, but also that the assembly was unlawful? And if the police officer didn’t arrest the person for being part of an unlawful assembly, doesn’t that mean that the officer didn’t have probable cause to assume that the person was part of an unlawful assembly?

So, basically, for you to be arrested under this law, you have to already be breaking the law. However, because being part of an unlawful assembly is a summary offence, and wearing a mask in an unlawful assembly is an indictable offence, what is essentially happening is that the government is imposing harsher sentences on members of unlawful assemblies (again, which includes just about every large protest or peaceful demonstration).

Conclusion:

What this law boils down to is nothing more than a philosophy of “if we make punishments worse, it will stop.” The stated goal of the bill was to make it illegal for one to conceal their identity while rioting. This would make it easier for police officers to identify, charge, and convict protesters for being part of an unlawful assembly or doing something riotous. However, should the law be enforced as it is stated, the concealment of identity will cause the same exact problems for this new law as it did for the last one, expect this time, the punishments are bigger.

However, the idea that police officers are going to wait till after the fact to charge people with wearing a mask in a protest is truly ludicrous. Empowered by this new law, what is more likely to happen is that police officers will start arresting people with masks prior to the protest becoming a riot. This would allow the police officers to bust up protests faster and levy harsher punishments for otherwise peaceful protesters, possibly escalating the conflict to a point where it boils over into something more dangerous than a simple gathering.

In short, what this bill offers the people of Canada is not more protection against those who choose to riot, cause damage, or bodily harm, but instead a legal weapon that police officers can use to goad peaceful protests into something more dangerous, and thus, more arrestable.

Related Links:

What is Sex? No, Seriously.

[Image] A lit up red sign reading "Sex in Progress"

Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby
Photo by: Jean KOULEV

A while back, I wrote a post on my personal blog about how my lack of a definition for sex (and, thus, sexuality) caused me issues understanding asexuality as it related to me. So, I thought that I would try to examine the topic a bit more closely.

What is sex?

This is a question that I have been struggling with for years without any formal answer to it. When I was younger, I thought that sex was simply the act of one man penetrating one woman with his penis. But as time went on, my definition grew to include people who identified as lesbian, gay, or bisexual. When I did this, my definition moved from centering the phallus and the act of penetration to centering sexual touch and orgasm. In this definition, I thought that sex was an act between two people with the goal of one or both of them having an orgasm.

This then shifted again as I started hearing about the possibility that more than two people could be involved in sexual activity at a time, and it shifted again when I found out that consent was an active process that is continuous, shifting, and explicit. At this point, the definition was something to the effect of “sex is an act between two or more actively consenting adults with the goal of one or more of them having an orgasm.” In this definition, the acts themselves aren’t really defined, you could really have a thing for shoes, masturbate looking while licking someone else’s shoes, and that would be considered sex (in this definition). Likewise, sex would also include touching, groping, massaging, or penetrating with the goal of, orgasm.

But then things shifted again. As I started reading more about sex positivity I learned about the move by many to remove orgasm as the center of sex. The reason is that there are many people in the world who enjoy sex but do not have the ability to have an orgasm. This doesn’t necessarily make it so that they are broken people or that they have a sexual dysfunction or something, but instead that they have sex like everyone else, just without orgasm.

This, truthfully, fucked over my definitions of sex. If it isn’t centered around particular parts of the body or particular acts or particular goals. What is left to define sex? It is just a case of “sex is what I call it?” Or, even worse, “I know it when I see it?”

So, hitting a bit of a bump in the road at this point, I did what every 25 year old person would do when faced with this question: I asked my mother!

After my mother stopped laughing at the fact her 25 year old, married daughter asked her this question, the conversation continued much like the development of my personal definition. We went through definition after definition countering each one with an example of sex that didn’t fit. Eventually, she too got stuck. But throughout my discussion with her, the conversation seemed to center around intimacy-which she defined as physical and emotional closeness-and genital manipulation.

Then I went over to my facebook, and I started asking my friends about it. Again, this conversation took much the same form as the last, moving from definitions based solely around penetration towards more broad definitions. For a while, however, there was one definition that stuck (until it was ultimately defeated yet again). This definition is that sex is a consensual act between two or more people which includes penetration and/or orgasm.

While I do still have issues with both of those ideas, somehow the combining of them seemed to make a lot of sense. But shortly after this was posted, someone mentioned that sex is something that you could do by yourself and should be about something pleasurable. I really like this idea that sexual pleasure or sexual arousal is a part of the definition, but this reconstruction of sex as something that you can do alone, without penetration or orgasm, really sent the discussion all the way back to square one.

While these discussions didn’t really get me the definition that I was looking for, I did find some things that seem to be rather important to the definition, should there be one. Placing consent and pleasure at the center of the definition, as the place that all sexual activity originates, is one such idea I found to be extremely important.  Further, the fact that emotional and physical intimacy seem to be recurring themes, while not perfect by any means, suggests that these also play a role in sex in someway, even if it is just a socialized, scripted one. And lastly, the idea that orgasm and penetration, while both very problematic defining attributes of sexual activity, seem to be very culturally linked to the idea of sex as a whole.

Being that I had a long trip of self-discovery prior to asking others for their input, I am sure that I am biasing the analysis in some way. But, more than that, I am not really surprised that the conversations seemed to center around what it did. Rather, I am surprised that, while everyone I asked seemed to treat the question in such a blasé manner, no one had a clear, consistent definition which they stuck to.

But, what are your thoughts on the matter?

Given that I have yet to come up with a consistent definition of what sex is, perhaps you can help me out. Tell me your thoughts or the definitions that you use in the comments below. Perhaps, with your help, we can plug this whole in the English language once and for all!