Transwoman says NL Gov still has much work to do.
While some politicians say it is cause for celebration, local transwoman Jennifer McCreath says that today's announcement by Justice Minister Darin King, regarding a Bill to amend the Human Rights Act to include Gender Identity and Gender Expression, is just the beginning of the solution to a problem that is still very much alive.
Jennifer McCreath says amending an Act can't take back all the acts of discrimination that have happened in the past, nor will it automatically put an end to discrimination presently taking place. While McCreath recognizes that there may be ample examples of discrimination by the private sector towards trans-identified people, McCreath says Provincial Government entities have, and continue to cause, the most headaches for trans-identified people, due to out of date policies or sheer ignorance towards trans issues.
McCreath lost what was supposedly a safe and secure job, in March 2009, as a Senior Policy Analyst with the Provincial Government's IT Department, shortly after she started her transition from male to female. She has since been unable to find employment at that same level. She was even passed up not once, but twice, for job competitions she had won, as recently as the past 12 months. Despite winning competitions for professional-level with with the Department of Innovations Business and Rural Development, and with the Provincial office for Fire and Emergency Services, McCreath was told that she would not be offered employment and no explanation was given. She is currently looking into both legal action and a potential Human Rights Complaint, against both Departments. She says that it can be very difficult to prove this type of discrimination, when it takes place, "The Government amended their Privacy Act last year to give themselves the right to refuse to disclose information to a job applicant, regarding their job competitions," says McCreath. "Changing the Act in text is nice, but changing societal attitudes is going to take lots of work," she said.
Furthermore, McCreath says Provincial Government health care policies and programs are significantly out of date. She says the Provincial Health Care insurance program, MCP, will only cover some of the procedures needed for transition, even if recommended by doctors, and in some case, will only cover procedures if patients subject themselves to a program at the notorious Clarke Institute in Toronto. While the Clarke, also known as Centre For Addictions and Mental Health, may have capabilities to assess transpeople for Gender Dysphoria (as it is defined in the Diagnostics and Statistics Manual), McCreath says global experts in the field have indicated that any team of doctors can provide suitable assessment and treatment programs - as has been proven evident by the fact that McCreath has been diagnosed and treated by doctors here in Newfoundland, "back in the 70s, transsexualism was considered a mental illness, and hence, people were sent to the Clarke Institute, but global experts have now confirmed that this medical condition is physiological, and not mental, and hence, there is no reason to be sending people there," said McCreath. While she acknowledges that CAMH has improved their services in recent months, she says that back in 2008, she was advised against attending CAMH, due to their out of date procedures. McCreath even says she has heard horror stories from fellow trans people who were put through degrading and emotionally-traumatizing experiments at CAMH, "even my doctors told me not to go there, so I took their advice. While going through transition may have cost me significant hardship, I have absolutely no regrets," said McCreath.
Over the past five years, Jennifer has failed at over seventy five job competitions, most of which were with the NL Provincial Government. She has been refused housing accommodation by over 30 landlords, when she was apartment-hunting back in 2009. She has spent over $75000 of her own money on health care and related health care expenses, due to do products and services either not being made available and/or Government not willing to fund it.
McCreath also says that the Human Rights process has significant flaws and limitations. She unsuccessfully filed a complaint against MCP in 2009 but was told they could not hear the case because it amounted to a potential policy issue against a group of people (trans identified people), and not an individual. McCreath has since been in touch with the Federal Government's Human Rights Commission, who said that they do have jurisdiction to send cases to adjudication when there appears to be a public policy matter affecting groups of individuals. She feels that the Provincial system needs to fill in this gap to ensure that vulnerable demographics are not subjected to unfair situations, "Essentially I was told that discrimination against me for being transgender was acceptable, so much that the discrimination against other transgender people was done equally," said McCreath.
McCreath also has concerns that the Human Rights Commission reports to the Minister of Justice, a partisan political entity, rather than to the House of Assembly, as is the case in many other jurisdictions. She cites an interesting situation when the Government was reviewing the Act back in 2010, and refused to include Gender Identity and Gender Expression, even though the Human Rights Commission was recommending it.
While McCreath traveled to Montreal and paid to have sex reassignment surgery out of her own pocket in 2011, she says there are still more medical procedures that she needs to have done, and cannot afford them at this time. Meanwhile, while she has managed to keep herself employed as a file clerk from 2010 - March 2013, and most recently in her current job answering phone calls and doing police dispatch work for the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, she says she is only earning half of what she would be making, should she still have employment at the Senior Analyst level for which she was initially hired onto here with the Government of NL back in 2007.
Finally, McCreath says she is currently suffering from stress, anxiety, depression, and burnout, over what appears to be a never-ending challenge of raising societal education and awareness towards transgender issues, as she attempts to negotiate a happy life here in what she says is a very traditional and conservative place to live. She recently ran an unsuccessful campaign to win the Deputy Mayor seat in the latest St. John's municipal election, although her 17% popular vote appears to make her the most popular trans-identified political candidate in the history of Canadian elections.
McCreath currently oversees a grassroots non-profit entity known as Newfoundland Patient Association for Transsexual Health, (www.Npath.net) with a mandate of lobbying Health Care entities in the Province to adhere to global standards as set out by international body, World Professional Association for Transgender Health www.wpath.org. Jennifer will be working hard in the upcoming months to press the Government to continue to take steps necessary so that trans-identified people can live with fair and equal access to the things needed to live a happy and healthy life.
McCreath also says NPATH will be commemorating Transgender Day of Remembrance, by hosting events in Gander on November 19, and St. John's on November 20. More information will be posted on NPath.net and on Jennifer's blog: JenniferMcCreath.Blogspot.ca
Head of Corporate Management, NPATH.net