It is tragically appropriate that the presence of transgender people comes last in the acronym LGBT. In the struggle for LGBT equality, the rights of the transgendered community is almost always left behind as an afterthought.
Almost one year ago, Canada passed its first law protecting the transgender community from discrimination at the federal level. While this was a welcome initiative, it came decades after similar protection was extended to the gay and lesbian community. It was also opposed by all but 18 of the Conservative party caucus, including the Prime Minister.
The presence of an anti-discrimination law does not guarantee freedom from discrimination, as illustrated by this week’s detention of a British transgender woman in a male detention facility.
Avery Edison arrived at Toronto’s Pearson airport Monday night and was detained based on a previous immigration violation. In addition to the extreme tactics used to deal with her previous immigration violation, Edison was ordered detained in a male detention facility, despite the fact that her identity documents all indicated her gender as female.
Reportedly, however, Edison’s legal identity didn’t matter; she was told that it was the state of her genitals that would determine the facility to which she would be sent.
After the intervention of the newest member of Jordan Battista’s immigration team, Adrienne Smith, Edison’s partner, and other activists, Edison was transferred to a female facility Tuesday night. Adrienne Smith is appearing at a detention review hearing on this morning to represent Edison.
Although of little consolation to Edison, her treatment illustrates the continuing need for training, policy and legislation designed to understand the discriminatory attitudes faced by the transgender community and to eradicate what is now illegal conduct in Canada.