On Friday evening I was in the Byward market about to say goodbye to a friend when a man approached the two of us. He asked me if I was a guy or girl. He looked to my friend, told her that he could tell her gender. But he couldn’t tell mine.
He then grabbed my breasts, and made a comment saying either I was a flat-chested woman or a man. He then kept asking me for my name, to see if it was a “man’s” or “woman’s” name. I did not answer, wishing him goodnight instead.
My friend and I walked on. Initially I laughed it off, but I felt dizzy. I woke up the next morning feeling no emotion – no happiness or anger, just nothing. It took a lot of talking this weekend to recover.
I get comments about my gender like those from that man semi-regularly. They vary from “That’s a man!” to “Is that a guy or a girl? Oh my God it’s a guy!” It’s also not the first time that a perfect stranger, again in public, grabbed my breasts on account of how they perceive my gender.
On Sunday, I listened to individuals who were still subjected to the continued practice of involuntary gender assessments in Ottawa. Where they either have their gender assessed, potentially by someone who knows little on the matter, or they are denied medical care. There is always the concern, as I had when I went through that process, that our identity isn’t regarded as legitimate on account of how well we fit (or don’t fit) gender norms and that we are denied care.
Today, the Canadian Blood Services is introducing a ban on blood donations from straight transgender women. However, women who have their genitals surgically altered to look like those of a cisgender woman will be allowed to donate. There is no evidence that altering the appearance of genitals has any effect on the quality of the blood.
There is very little difference between the ignorance that led to that man sexually assaulting me on Friday night, anachronistic gender assessments, and the thinking behind the ban from the Canadian Blood Services. They all involve policing gender when it doesn’t fit within their conception of what is acceptable.
On Friday, I’ll be marching in Ottawa’s Trans March.
These experiences, a few of many, are why I march.