Transgender girls at B.C. legislature to back human rights code bill

Thirteen-year-old transgender students to support legislation

VICTORIA — Two transgender girls who have fought discrimination and bullying say a bill to include gender identity and expression in B.C.’s Human Rights Code will make the province a more inclusive and accepting place.

Grade 7 students Tru Wilson and Harriette Cunningham, both 13 years old, were at the legislature in Victoria Wednesday when the bill was introduced.

“This legislation is important because it would really help educate the public on the issue, and I think it would teach them being trans isn’t an issue and it’s not a deformity,” Cunningham said.

The Comox resident said the bill would make everyday life a lot easier for transgender people, who do no identify with the gender they were born with.

“People will start to realize lots of people are born with different gender identities,” she said.

Three years ago, Cunningham initiated a successful campaign to overturn legislation that required trans people to undergo reassignment surgery before changing gender on their birth certificates.

She was the youngest of 30 British Columbians to receive their new identification in 2014.

“I’d like to see where we are treated like everyday human beings and I’d like to see more support,” Cunningham said at a rally outside of the legislature.

“With this bill, I’d like to see us be on the same level, with the same protections as racial minorities.”

Wilson, too, has faced challenges, and said she fought to change the dress code at her Delta Catholic school.

“While I was transitioning I asked if I could have the girl’s uniform and they declined, so I fought for Catholic schools to allowed transgender youth, all genders, to choose their chosen uniforms,” she said.

‘They stood up because they have to’

Opposition New Democrat Spencer Chandra Herbert, who introduced the private member’s bill, said Cunningham and Wilson are inspirational young leaders.

“As you can see, these two young women are incredible,” he said. “They stood up at an age many others would never say anything. They’ve stood up because they have to.”

Chandra Herbert said he has introduced the transgender rights bill four times since 2011, but the Liberal government has not supported the bill.

He said seven provincial governments and one territorial government have changed their human rights codes to more clearly protect transgender and gender variant people.

“In our province, we have not done nearly enough to ensure that transgender people, peoples’ identity and expression is protected,” Chandra Herbert said. “If it’s not there in black and white you don’t know you have those rights.”

Attorney General Suzanne Anton indicated the government will not be supporting Chandra Herbert’s fourth attempt to have the bill adopted.

“Transgender people are absolutely protected under our human rights code,” said Anton, adding Chandra Herbert was creating alarm about the law. “Everybody is equal before the law in B.C.”

The province’s Humans Rights Code states its purpose is “to foster a society in British Columbia in which there are no impediments to full and free participation in the economic, social, political and cultural life of British Columbia.”

Premier Christy Clark acknowledged transgender people experience more discrimination in their lives than most, but also indicated her government was not about to change the human rights code as proposed by Chandra Herbert.

Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press

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