2 min

How a Winnipeg bathroom can be a catalyst for trans education

Spur 2016 presents LGBTQTS’ing Canada, panel event on queer policies

LGBTQTS’ing Canada is a panel discussion examining the presence of policies that protect queers from harassment and discrimination in public institutions. Credit: BeiBei Lu

Spur Festival has facilitated artists, scholars and thinkers in six cities across Canada since 2013. In that time, the festival has been host to a wide range of queer programming and the 2016 edition of Spur Winnipeg is no exception.

This year features a free screening of Rémy Huberdeau’s Transgender Parents, Gender Fluidity — a workshop that examines the discrepancies between biological sex and the social constructs of gender, and a third panel discussion called LGBTQTS’ing Canada.

LGBTQTS’ing Canada is a panel discussion that examines the presence of policies that protect queers from harassment and discrimination in public institutions. The purpose of the panel, which includes Huberdeau, is to acknowledge progressive policies already in place in Winnipeg and across the Prairies and to hatch a trans-inclusive strategy in schools, workplaces and other institutions.

Izzy Burgos, an activist and mother of five, was invited to participate in LGBTGTS’ing Canada. She filed a complaint with the Manitoba Human Rights Commission when her trans daughter encountered resistance with using the girls’ washroom in her previous school.

“Bella was entering Grade 3 as her fabulous self, but her peers knew her as their Grade 2 friend who presented as a boy. We threw a coming out party over the summer to re-introduce herself to her classmates. Everyone was so supportive and excited for her.” 

“We initially set Bella up with a gender-neutral bathroom, as she didn’t know how she would feel at first. We never dreamed that what we should have been discussing was her use of the girls’ washroom for when she felt comfortable enough. As it only took her a day or two to realize her peers had no issues accepting and seeing Bella for her true self, she immediately used the girls’ washroom with her girlfriends,” Burgos says.

After a few weeks, Bella was approached by an angry parent and the school subsequently forced her to use the gender-neutral facilities instead of the girls’ restroom, which prompted the complaint with the Manitoba Human Rights Commission.

Burgos believes if the proper education and training had been in place for the school administration and staff, the complaint wouldn’t have been necessary. By legislating trans-inclusive policies on a federal level in public institutions, students like Bella could use the bathrooms they are most comfortable in without fear of discrimination and segregation.

“I’d love to see it come down as far as federal legislation. We have our human rights, but there is a disconnect on so many issues. To have to fight for what our family, and so many others consider common sense issues, is heartbreaking. Unfortunately, there are so many that think differently about our LGBT community that we have to fight for basic rights, such as washroom usage.”

The complaint was successfully settled and Burgos hopes her story will act as a catalyst for implementing meaningful education, awareness and trans rights guidelines.

“I’m a mum of five amazing kids ranging from 22 to 10. I’m proud to say we have a little bit of rainbow throughout our family, from an open and fabulous gay son to a proud and inspiring trans daughter. Our kids have taught us so much about ourselves and the community around us. They inspire me to do more, help where I can. If telling our story helps just one, it’s worth it,” Burgos says.