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Why trans activists are taking the bathroom to Parliament Hill

Occupotty protest rallies against Senator Don Plett’s amendment

Charlie Lowthian-Rickert, 9, addressed the crowd. Her mother Anne Lowthian, right, helped to organize the event.

Credit: Adrienne Ascah

Activists, politicians and supporters gathered at the Occupotty protest on Parliament Hill in Ottawa to protest the amendment that would restrict trans people’s access to bathrooms in Canadian federal facilities.

Armed with signs — with messages like “Check Your Potty Privilege” and “Flush Plett’s Amendment” — about 75 people attended the April 28 event to protest Senator Don Plett’s amendment to Bill C-279, which would prevent trans people from using the bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity in federal buildings and women’s shelters.

Anne Lowthian, who has a nine-year-old trans daughter, helped organize the event. She credits Brae Carnes, a trans woman in Vancouver, with starting the Occupotty movement by posting selfies from men’s washrooms with the message “Plett Put Me Here.”

“When I heard about the amendment and how it passed the Senate, I was really angry,” said Charlie Lowthian-Rickert, Lowthian’s daughter, as she addressed the crowd. “It’s about me getting forced into a boys’ bathroom. If I was I could get hurt and bullied. I already have been.”

It’s dangerous and unfair to force trans kids and adults to use the wrong bathroom, she said.

“All I want to say here is never discriminate [against] anybody by what they look like,” Lowthian-Rickert said. “My bits and pieces do not define me.”

Randall Garrison, the NDP member of Parliament who introduced Bill C-279 in the House of Commons, also addressed the attendees.

“The Conservatives are letting a small group of transphobic senators derail this bill,” Garrison said. “The amendment is part of that strategy, but the bigger part of that strategy is delay. Of course, as everybody in this crowd understands, legislation has to pass both houses. If it doesn’t do so by the election it’ll die and we’ll have to start over again.”

Amanda Ryan, a trans activist from Gender Mosaic, also addressed the crowd. Plett’s amendment goes against the intent of Bill C-279, which is to enshrine trans rights into law, she said. The only good thing to come out of the amendment has been a dramatic increase in public attention and understanding of trans rights, Ryan said.

“The bill has been in Parliament now for four years,” she said. “I’m calling on the senators of Canada to vote in favour of Senator [Grant] Mitchell’s amendment to get that horrible, discriminatory amendment by Senator Plett rescinded.”

She acknowledged there is only a “very, very slim chance” of getting the amendment rescinded and the bill passed through before the next election, but maintained where there is a glimmer of hope, the trans community will fight.

Senator Grant Mitchell, a Liberal senator who has introduced an amendment in the senate to rescind Plett’s amendment, addressed the crowd as well.

“This is such an obvious thing, passing this bill, recognizing the rights of transgender people,” he said. “I am working with others in the Senate to get this through.”