Happy IDAHO!

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Happy IDAHO!

It's May 17th, International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia! 22 years ago today, the World Health Organization removed homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses. Anti-homophobia and transphobia day was launched in 2004. Organizations in 70 countries now hold events targeted on this day, although less than 10 countries formally recognize it as an official national celebration.

The flip side is the reason we still need a day like this: In 80 or more countries homosexuality is still illegal and 7 still punish this “crime” with the death penalty. Almost all countries make changing sex legally difficult, if not impossible.

Perhaps appropriately, there has been an ongoing battle in the Ontario provincial legislature for the last month over legislation that would combat bullying in schools. The sticking point is whether or not gay kids in Catholic schools are included. Catholic schools in Canada have traditionally received some government funding, so technically should comply with the government's non-discrimination standards set by the constitution. This includes not discriminating against LGBT people, which raises issues of state and church interfering with one another.

The Liberal Party proposed Bill 13, the Accepting Schools Act, which among other things would require that schools allow kids to form Gay Straight Alliance clubs. These are mostly banned in Catholic schools and anti-bullying clubs are only permitted if their name doesn't specify “gay.” Conservatives responded by proposing their own anti-bullying Bill 14, which doesn't mandate GSAs or protections for gay kids.  The heated debate has included PC whip, John Yakabuski, yelling “No to GSAs!” whilst voting against legislation to protect schoolchildren.

While politicians try to agree on a compromise bill, both sides have taken the fight to the streets and the media.  Surveys and public testimony to the committee on Bill 13 make it clear that there is a lot of confusion about both the bill and GSAs.  Many are under the impression that GSAs are clubs that spend all their time teaching gay sex ed and that Bill 13 would require all students in Ontario to join a GSA.  Others believe that Bill 13 will instantly force Catholic schools to allow GSAs.  In fact, the wording of the Bill is so vague that it will be hard to enforce and will likely lead to schoolkids having to fight for their rights in the law courts.  Few realize that the bill is designed to protect all bullied schoolchildren, not just the gay ones.

At the same time, with a rather surreal twist, the Ontario legislature is also moving towards finally passing Bill 33 (Toby's Act). This would be the first Canadian bill to give transgender people equal legal protection by preventing discrimination based on gender identity or gender expression. Happy IDAHO!?

On the national stage, Passport Canada is debating whether to allow passports to be gender neutral, with an option for you to pick “X” rather than “M” or “F.” The reason for this is that the ministry of transport implemented new regulations this year stating that:

“An air carrier shall not transport a passenger if the passenger does not appear to be of the gender indicated on the identification he or she presents.”

Transgender people are only exempted from this rule if they supply medical documents proving their transition process. There are no provisions for gender abnormative gay people, so if I “butch it up” too much I may face a flight ban!  (I wonder what will happen if k.d. lang gets kicked off Air Canada?)

Meanwhile, back home on the ranch, it is snowing again. Southerners faced with snow in mid-May might chicken-little-panic and feel like the sky is falling. Since I am used to this northern climate, I take a moment to gaze up at the big beautiful snowflakes and wonder at how people react differently to changes of weather. How they react differently to changes of society, or of history. How they react differently to someone gay like me.

Happy IDAHO.