Being trans and visible on the political stage

Statement by Green Party of Canada interim Leader Amita Kuttner on Transgender Day of Visibility

March 31, 2022

OTTAWA – It’s an honour beyond belief and expectation to be the first openly trans and non-binary leader of a federal political party in Canada. There is a great responsibility in being a good representative while I have this short window as interim Leader. 

I have an up-close look at the many barriers to participation in politics that are faced by trans and non-binary people, but am also highly aware that it’s a personal experience and limited by my privileges. I do not face the transmisogyny that trans women and many non-binary people do. I certainly still face lots of misogyny though, which is tantamount to transphobia in that I only experience it as I am not properly seen as a man. Though I’d rather use the opportunity to break down the system than to just seek to be treated as a man in an inequitable society.  

I also have been able to witness the benefits of representation, in that having a trans person around in leadership is transformative. Being in the room changes the dialogue; it’s really hard to ignore the existence of people when they’re right in front of you. Certainly by being here I bring a different lens to all policy, but it’s important to be clear that it is my lived experiences not my identity alone that makes this true. 

It’s a daily battle confronting the rampant microaggressions; in some ways I think being publicly visible makes it worse as it is therefore so constant and people feel like they have permission to attack people in power. In other ways, though, I am protected by being in a position that many respect and I have a strong community to defend me. On my mind always are those in the trans and non-binary community who are excessively vulnerable, especially due to intersections of race, poverty, and more. 

I cannot let this moment go without pushing for what I know are substantive and sorely needed policy changes. Though I may be accused of focusing too heavily on my identity, this is not reason to not push for what is right. Anti-trans hate and violence are on the rise and terrifying discriminatory legislation is becoming more common as we see daily out of the United States. This means kids' lives are increasingly in danger.  

What is clear to me is that anti-trans hate is not well recognized. Systemic bias and many forms of discrimination still go unnoticed, and are often disputed by those who are not affected. Anti-trans sentiments appear to be particularly disputed. I constantly see blatantly hateful messages being defended by well meaning people who simply do not know the background and history.

It’s truly an awful experience to have one’s being and identity so heavily politicized, I have been horrified when people have suggested my identity is for attention and power, when in effect it’s crushing to carry around. A politicized identity means people feel free to argue about your very existence without a second thought to your well-being. 

This has to stop, we must recognize that anti-trans hate is very real, and as unacceptable as any other form of hate. Those perpetuating it must be informed about it and given the opportunity (rather quickly) to stop. We’re tired of having to explain repeatedly why intrusive personal questions and hateful remarks are not okay. 

Gender identity and expression are now protected against discrimination in the Canadian Human Rights Act, but as we are unfortunately well aware there is little recourse for people when they experience discrimination of any kind. Much like with our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the documents say good things but the enforcement is left to the individual to take through the justice system. 

Fundamentally, societal and governmental structures based on patriarchy and white supremacy will continue to allow gender-based discrimination until they are transformed. By default they will also place the responsibility on the individual affected to seek recourse, which in itself is a discriminatory structure which requires marginaized people to have time and resources to fight to have their basic rights recognized . 

Today, as we are visible and proud, mourning constantly those of us lost to violence and hatred as well as systemic oppression, I hope we get to share our joy as well. That in our being visible, for those of us who can be, we help pave the way for others, and help people learn about us and break down the hate.  

A few important policy needs:

  • Stable funding for trans organizations
    Funding for 2SLGBTQIA+ organizations is often unreliable, adding to the precarity of life for many trans people.
  • A strategy to end conversion therapy and support survivors
    Even with the practice banned, without a plan to end conversion therapy and support survivors the harm continues. 
  • Better access to health care including universal access to mental health care.
    We need better access to gender affirming care across the country as it varies regionally. We also need safe access to general care that is trans friendly as currently regular health care is often inacessible, discriminatory, or minimally uninformed. 
  • An anti-trans hate strategy.
    Direct recognition of anti-trans hate and a plan to combat it through education and protections. 
  • Improvements to immigration, refugee laws and process.
    Trans rights outside of Canada are variable, and we need to be supporting people getting to safety. Getting rid of the Safe Third Country Agreement with the rise of anti-trans legislation in the USA is one example. 
  • Improved citizenship laws
    People with ties to Canada and claims to citizenship get lost and excluded as they cannot come to Canada through standard immigration and refugee pathways. Trans kids are placed in danger this way as well. 
  • Government oversight of safety of process for trans and non-binary refugees
    The federal government should work with the provinces to make sure issuing of government IDs is accessible and done with people’s names and proper gender markers instead of deadnames. Otherwise this places a huge burden of time, cost and administration on the individual as well as psychological burden.  


For more information or to arrange an interview:
John Chenery
1-613-562-4916 ext. 215