Module 6: 2SLGBTQIA+ and Transgender Inclusion
Canada’s History with the 2SLGBTQIA+ Community
Before we get started, please review this timeline from the Northreach Society to learn more about Canada’s history with the 2SLGBTQIA+ community.
Canada’s history with the 2SLGBTQIA+ community has been a reflection of resistance and exclusion, where the community has faced constant systemic discrimination and exclusion within society. Despite historical milestones and evolving protection of human rights to include the community, barriers persist. The impacts of discrimination and exclusion have real impacts when it comes to laws, healthcare, mental health, employment, etc.
Misconceptions, lack of support and education contribute to the perpetuation of attitudinal behaviours, transphobia, homophobia, and overall discrimination towards the community. Let’s go through introductory concepts and ideas to educate and help you differentiate terms under sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression.
A Word on Intersectionality
The term “intersectionality” was coined by Black feminist and legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw to describe how individuals with multiple marginalized identities can experience multiple and unique forms of discrimination that cannot be conceptualized separately (Crenshaw).
When addressing issues of discrimination ranging from gender, race, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, and other identities, an intersectional framework is applied. Lived experiences are shaped by the interaction of identities. Looking at a single category, you are not able to fully understand the complexities of one’s experience. A singular view fails to acknowledge the diverse impacts of intersecting systems of oppression and privilege (which can occur simultaneously) that create different lived experiences within our social context. This framework allows people to understand how an individual’s unique identity plays a role in how they experience community, power, work and beyond, so we can support them more fully (Lopez & Gadsden).
Applying an intersectional lens to health disparities amongst marginalized groups determines factors that contribute to the disparities. For example, homophobic and transphobic discrimination (either real or anticipated) by health practitioners has been identified as a key factor in both leading to health issues and a lower rate of health-seeking in members of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community (McNair). This fear and experience can be compounded by individuals who are immigrants or asylum-seeking and a part of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, factoring in social and cultural factors (Meijia-Canales & Leonard).
Watch the video below to gain a better understanding of intersectionality and the importance of the application of the framework.
What Does 2SLGBTQIA+ Mean?
Below is a breakdown of the sexual orientation and gender terms within the acronym 2SLGBTQIA:
Note on the acronym:
The acronym isn’t an exhaustive list of gender, sexuality and gender expression, the “+” represents other identities, like:
- Pansexual: A person who is attracted to other people regardless of gender
- Non-binary: An umbrella term for gender identities that fall outside of the man-woman binary
Remember that everyone, not just 2SLGBTQ+ people, has a gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation.
Identities of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community are often paired together, though each identity is different and has different experiences and needs related to that identity. It is important to note that individuals are multi-faceted and can have multiple memberships within the community. Moreover, they have intersecting identities of race, disability, etc.
Note: Terminology is constantly evolving; this is not an exhaustive list. Check out:
- Language of Gender – Gender Spectrum
- The 519 Glossary of Terms – The519
- Definitions and Terms – LGBTQ2S Toolkit
Sex and gender are often conflated, perpetuating negative stereotypes and misconceptions that have real impacts on people’s day-to-day livelihoods. It is important to understand the difference and to understand that both can change for a person. Sex is the classification of people as either male, female, or intersex. Sex is usually assigned at birth and is based on an assessment of a person’s reproductive systems, hormones, chromosomes, and other physical characteristics. When a person is assigned a sex at birth, it is sometimes thought that this corresponds to their gender; this may or may not be the case. Gender refers to the individual and/or social experience of being a man, a woman, neither or all. Social norms, expectations and roles related to gender vary across time, space, culture, and individuals.
Cisnormativity and Heteronormativity
Heteronormativity is the assumption that everyone is heterosexual and that heterosexuality is the default, “normal” sexual orientation. The term is used to describe prejudice against people that are not heterosexual, “it can be and is less overt or direct and more widespread or systemic in society, organizations, and institutions” (“The 519 Glossary of Terms“).
Let’s watch this video to better understand heteronormativity within the context of a workplace setting, demonstrating the impact heteronormativity can have on day-to-day interactions.
Cisnormativity is the assumption that all people are cisgender, meaning their sex assigned at birth aligns with their gender identity, and that is the default or “normal” gender identity. This privileges cisgender identities and erases or under-represents gender variance, which often results in prejudice and harmful narratives. Cisnormativity is used to describe systemic prejudice against trans people. 519 states “it can be and is less overt or direct and more widespread or systemic in society, organizations, and institutions.”
Heteronormativity and cisnormativity result in prejudice against the community, but it also contributes to the erasure of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, especially trans folks. As a result, barriers are established and maintained to disrupt access to adequate healthcare, education, employment, housing, etc. These barriers have direct negative effects on people’s mental health, safety and livelihoods.
Transphobia (or cissexism) is the negative views and sentiments against trans persons and communities, including aversion, fear, hostility, and intolerance (which can be internalized too). It, like other biases, is founded on assumptions and misunderstandings that are used to justify discrimination, harassment, and violence against trans individuals or others who are thought to be trans (“The 519 Glossary of Terms“). Transphobia is rooted in the desire to maintain the gender-binary erasing/obscuring the realities of the variance of gender, which marginalizes identities that don’t align with either birth-assigned sex or none at all (“Anti-Oppression: Anti-Transphobia“).
Transphobia is broad and can encompass everything from “hate crimes directed at trans people, to structural barriers to inclusion in institutional settings (e.g., schools, hospitals, employment), to interpersonal discrimination” (Bauer & Scheim 2). Transphobia is detrimental to the physical and mental health of trans people and is associated with an increased risk of depression, suicide, anxiety and murder (Longman et al.). These barriers and risks are compounded when you highlight Black trans women’s experiences and other IPOC. Beyond institutional barriers, transphobia results in violence and death; higher amongst Black trans women. For those who face all these types of transphobia on a regular basis, the impacts may be severe. It is crucial to understand that trans individuals are not inherently more likely to have mental health issues, but that discrimination and prejudice create an unsafe and exclusionary society. This exacerbates factors that can lead to mental health issues.
Employment, housing, mental health, economic marginalization, lack of social participation, avoidance of health care and violence are some of the results of systemic discrimination or antagonism directed against transgender/non-binary/genderqueer/agender persons.
Specific contexts around employment, workplace and microaggressions will be explored later in the module.
Did You Know…
Many trans Ontarians experience transphobia according to the Ontario-based Trans PULSE survey:
- 98% of trans Ontarians reported at least one experience of transphobia.
- Nearly 75% of trans people have been made fun of for being trans.
- Over 25% have experienced physical violence because they were trans.
- Nearly 25% reported being harassed by police.
- Trans women experience transphobia more often than trans men (Longman et al.).
It is important to acknowledge that the effects of transphobia can be compounded by the intersection of identities like race, class, religion, disability, etc.
Gender, Sexuality and Gender Expression
Gender and sexuality are separate and important to a person’s overall identity. Gender identity, sexuality or gender expressions are not inherently linked, and assumptions should not be made about one’s sexual orientation based on their gender or gender expression or vice versa. The social constructs reproduced by cisnormativity and heteronormativity around gender and sexuality result in prejudice and systemic oppression negatively impacting gender-diverse and sexual minority individuals. The existing social constructs are assumed to be the “norm” and this contributes to why terms and understanding get conflated, fuelling misconceptions.
Below is a breakdown of the terms gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation:
Let’s take a closer look at sex, gender identity and pronouns. Do you know the difference between sex and gender identity and what are pronouns? Do you know why do we use them?
Additionally, there are Neo-Pronouns, which are:
Alternative pronouns that are gender neutral and preferred by some non-binary and gender-diverse persons. Some examples are “ze/hir” and “ey/em” (“The 519 Glossary of Terms“).