Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Transgender People are Completely Banned From Boarding Airplanes in Canada

by Christin Scarlett Milloy - January 30, 2012

The shit hit the fan in the trans blogosphere last night, when it came to light that there is a disturbing new section in the Identity Screening Regulations used in airports throughout Canada. Simply put, Transgender People are Completely Banned From Boarding Airplanes in Canada.
The offending section of the regulations reads:
5.2 (1) An air carrier shall not transport a passenger if …
(c) the passenger does not appear to be of the gender indicated on the identification he or she presents;
Although this obviously discriminatory smear of regulation did not come to significant public attention until very recently, it apparently came into effect on July 27th, 2011.
It is important to note that these regulations are not actually a piece of legislation, which would have had to pass through readings and votes in the House and Senate (which is probably why it went unnoticed until now). Rather, the Identity Screening Regulations are a set of rules implemented unilaterally by the Ministry of Transportation, as part of Canada’s so-called Passenger Protect, which is essentially the Canadian Federal Government’s equivalent to the U.S.’s “no-fly” list.
Minister of Transportation Denis Lebel is, of course, a federal Conservative MP appointed to the cabinet position by Stephen Harper.
So what does this mean? Well, in order to change the ‘sex’ designation on a Canadian Passport, the federal government requires proof that surgery has taken place, or will take place within one year. So for non-operative transgender persons, for gender nonconforming (genderqueer) persons, and for the vast majority of pre-operative transsexual persons, it is literally impossible to obtain proper travel documentation marked with the sex designation which “matches” the gender identity in which they live.
In the eyes of the honourable Minister of Transportation, that makes trans people unfit to fly in Canada.
It is interesting to note that this regulatory adjustment occurred immediately following the federal election in 2011. In the previous parliament, Bill C-389, a bill to amend the Human Rights Code to explicitly enshrine protections against discrimination for transgender people, had successfully passed in the House of Commons, only to die on the Senate floor when Harper declared a Federal Election (thereby dissolving parliament).
Is the timing of this disturbing and blatantly discriminatory regulatory adjustment merely a coincidence? That is up to you to decide. However, the negative impact on trans people is crystal clear, and we need to take action now.
What You Can Do:
Facebook Group: À bas l’interdiction aérienne transphobe—Against Canada’s trans flight ban
Recommended Further Reading:
Air Canada confirms they must comply with transphobic law (Jennifer McCreath)
Canadian Department of Justice…Here comes Josie!! (TranssisterR8TO)
UPDATE – JAN 30 17:51
I want to stress that as yet, I have no confirmed cases of a trans person actually being refused boarding. However, as I commented on leftygirl’s blog this afternoon:
Regardless of who may be slipping through the cracks due to matters of convenience or due to individual cases of ignorance on the part of the airport gateminders, the regs are the regs. And the regs ban trans people explicitly by their definition. We cannot allow regs which judge people based on how they “appear” to be gendered; it is unacceptable.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Trans/GenderQueer & all around GLBTTQ friendly Food Bank Annoucement:

The Vancouver Dream Centre is proud to announce the launch of a Qmunity food bank service.

Every other Monday from 5-7pm at 1897 Powell Street @ Victoria Drive:

Jan 23, 2012
February 6
February 20
March 5
March 19
April 2
April 16

No Barriers - no ID, address proof or proof of low income necessary - just come + receive with love all we have collected.

Please bring your own grocery bags (environmentally friendly/re-usable ones especially encouraged).
This is a street level/wheelchair & power scooter friendly space.
Many thanks to Saige, Andrew Rabasse + Ryan Coke for the inspiration and help to launch this initiative!
Please forward this to anyone you know could really benefit from the support of both the free food and the loving hands that serve it.
To volunteer or donate please contact: Jeff Kirkey at littlepreacherman@gmail.com

Monday, January 16, 2012

Confiscating Condoms? The Dumbfounding Ways Police Deal With Prostitution

Each year, scores of new laws are proposed to make prostitution somehow even more illegal than it already is.
January 13, 2012  |  

It's not enough for some lawmakers that for the better part of a century, selling and buying sex has been illegal in every state of the union. (The exception is the system of legalized brothels dotting a handful of low-population counties in Nevada, the existence of which has done little to deter an underground, illegal sex trade.) Each year, scores of new laws are proposed to make prostitution somehow even more illegal than it already is. 
These laws against prostitution don't simply increase penalties for buying or selling sex; they extend to creating criminal consequences for every aspect of sex workers' lives. After just one prostitution arrest, a person can be denied a job, an apartment, or the right to parent her children. She could find herself followed by police just for leaving her home.
Though it's now fashionable for some anti-prostitution activists and lawmakers to position these laws as being of aid to prostitutes, there is absolutely no moral or legal basis for arresting and jailing a person “for her own good.” Yet this is what we have been told about sex workers: that the conditions of prostitution are so horrific that a jail cell is preferable. For sex workers who escape that cell, they still must face the consequences of their prostitution arrest, and in some cases, for the rest of their lives. Today's new anti-prostitution laws don't stop anyone from buying or selling sex – instead, they serve as tools for chipping away at people's rights through profiling and surveillance, a 21st-century continuation of the Scarlet Letter, establishing an entire underclass of people.
Prostitution-Free Zones
Across the United States, sex workers and people who have been profiled as sex workers report being followed and stopped by police under the pretense that anywhere a sex worker might go and anything a sex worker might do in public will lead to a criminal act. The District of Columbia has formalized this system of profiling and surveillance through establishing “prostitution-free zones.” Under this law, the DC chief of police may declare any area a prostitution-free zone for up to 10 days. This empowers officers to arrest “two or more persons congregating in a public space or property in that area for the purpose of engaging in prostitution or prostitution-related offenses,” whether or not they have actually engaged in a crime. A prostitution-related offense includes loitering for the purposes of prostitution – in other words, a vague crime made only more criminal by the creation of a zone where it is even more easy to accuse and arrest you for it. Consequences include up to 180 days in jail and a $300 fine, or both.
In practice, these zones are used to give police the power to sweep entire blocks of people into jail, and overwhelmingly, it is women – women of color and transgender women in particular – who are arrested and fined. The zones end up driving sex workers even further underground, both to live and to work, into yet more dangerous and outlying areas, so as to avoid police harassment. In order to make prostitution invisible, sex workers' lives are made more dangerous. When a local human rights organization, Different Avenues, surveyed DC residents impacted by the zones in the years following their adoption, they found that 80 percent of their respondents had been refused assistance by the police even when they sought it out. Transgender and Latino residents faced the worst treatment from police. Street outreach workers attempting to provide free healthcare were harassed by police in the zones.
DC police can't answer who exactly this law is aimed to serve and protect, as it so clearly pits the health and welfare of some of DC's most vulnerable residents against assumptive notions of “public safety.” How would they explain that being in public as a sex worker is now so potentially disruptive or dangerous that it must be classified as a crime? The threat of people who appear to be prostitutes congregating is apparently so great that even presidents are at risk; in January 2009, a prostitution-free zone was declared in honor of the Obama inauguration.
The law is only more perverse when one considers what a real prostitution-free zone might require in order to be maintained. How far would DC residents wish law enforcement to go? Should they stop and question everyone within the zone? Maybe just the women? Maybe just the women of color? Or maybe just the women of color who “look like prostitutes"? In reality, this is exactly how these laws are used, and now DC is seeking to establish permanent prostitution-free zones throughout the city.
Condoms As Evidence
With the prostitution-free zones, prostitution is understood to be a crime of intent. No one is actually arrested in the act of having or agreeing to have sex for compensation; only for appearing as if they might do so. In the same vein, arresting officers in DC and throughout the US routinely search people suspected of prostitution for condoms, confiscating them as evidence of a crime. For some cops, condoms serve the function that marijuana does in a stop-and-frisk encounter (only there's no actual law against possessing or using condoms), unless a cop thinks you might be a sex worker or otherwise wants to move you along and into custody.
Sex workers and health and human rights advocates have pointed out that it makes absolutely no sense for publicly funded police departments to confiscate condoms that publicly funded health departments make so widely available. Now in New York, sex workers and allies are pushing for a statewide law prohibiting condoms from being considered evidence of prostitution. Unsurprisingly, this has not been an easy law to advocate for with law enforcement, which claims that district attorneys and vice departments need to be able to use condoms as evidence of prostitution in order to build cases against suspected sex traffickers – even though there's no evidence that condoms are a key indicator that someone is a victim of trafficking. Meanwhile, while lawmakers fight over this, the Sex Workers' Project reports that “people are hesitant to carry condoms to protect themselves and others, for fear that it will lead to arrest or be held against them in court.” 
The War on Trafficking
Under the guise of “fighting sex trafficking” policy makers and advocates have proposed new laws and police practices that end up targeting sex workers. This is part of a larger move to give police expanded powers and budgets to track and arrest people involved in the sex trade. As Emi Koyama wrote in a Bitch magazine investigation, combatting forced labor in the sex trade is increasingly referred to by advocates and policymakers as the “War on Trafficking."
Like the War on Terror before it, the War on Trafficking has meant expanded police powers, including wiretapping of suspected traffickers, as well as increased collaboration with federal agencies with the power to indefinitely detain and deport people believed to be involved in trafficking. Illinois is now the first state in the nation to permit law enforcement to tap the phones of suspected traffickers. In August 2011, Cook County police were the first to use wiretapping to intercept thousands of phone calls in an alleged sex trafficking case assisted by the Department of Justice, dubbed “Operation Little Girl Lost.”
However, Illinois' legal definition of a trafficker is so broad that even nonprofit organizations could be considered traffickers for giving any material aid -- food, clothing, shelter, even a Metrocard -- to someone in the sex trade if that person is under the age of 18.
In addition, as in DC, young people in Illinois could be less likely to seek out the support of these organizations. Through the adoption of Secure Communities, now a young person picked up by the police could end up being cross-referenced with a database of immigration violations, and find herself and her family detained and deported. With such broad-ranging police intervention in communities, anti-prostitution laws become yet another reason for people to fear the police.
Are anti-prostitution laws like these intended to fight for the rights, safety and well-being of people involved in the sex trade? Or are they premised solely on eradicating prostitution and putting anyone involved in it behind bars? When advocates and policy makers contend that they need more laws to “fight” anything involving prostitution – even if they claim to be doing it to ensure human rights – they must explain in whose interest these laws are. The problem they face isn't that existing laws simply aren't tough enough to fight prostitution; it's that there is very little agreement about who that fight actually serves. The reality is, people still engage in the sex trade knowing that doing so exposes them to possible surveillance, arrest and incarceration. As the sex trade persists in every regard despite the law, why would yet one more law make a difference? Or would it only allow police to cast their net further, jail more people, however they wish?
Melissa Gira Grant has written for Slate, the Guardian (UK), the New York Observer and Jezebel, among others. Follow her on Twitter: @melissagira

Friday, January 13, 2012

B.C Ecstacy update

At least one of the recent ecstasy-related deaths in the Lower Mainland has been linked to the same potent neurotoxin found in five overdoses in Calgary, health officials say.
Provincial Health Officer Dr. Perry Kendall told reporters Thursday that one of the four young people who have died after taking ecstasy in the last two months consumed a pill containing paramethoxymethamphetamine (PMMA), a toxin that can lead to seizures and dangerously elevated body temperatures.
"[PMMA] is considerably more neurotoxic than MDMA is," Kendall said, referring to the active ingredient in ecstasy.
He added that there is a possibility some of the three other recent deaths are also associated with PMMA, but the coroner's office hasn't completed its investigation into those cases. While the same chemical has been linked to ecstasy-related deaths in Calgary, investigators don't yet know if the drugs are from the same batch.
Kendall says that PMMA causes a "storm" of the neurotransmitter serotonin that is difficult for the brain to process and that it takes longer for users to feel the effects of the drug than pure ecstasy does.
"The onset is very slow to start with, so they start taking more pills," Kendall said.
A total of 16 people died in B.C. after taking ecstasy last year, and health officials will now take a second look at those cases to see if PMMA was a factor.
"We don't really know if PMMA was present in 2011 because we weren't testing for it," Kendall said.
Police and medical specialists have been warning Metro Vancouverites to stay away from ecstasy after the recent spate of deaths.
A 22-year-old Vancouver woman died this weekend after taking ecstasy at a house party following similar tragedies that claimed the lives of 20-year-old Tyler Miller on Nov. 27, 17-year-old Cheryl McCormack on Dec. 20 and an unnamed Burnaby resident who ingested ecstasy on New Year's Eve.
A 24-year-old Abbotsford resident was also rushed to hospital in critical condition on New Year's Eve after taking ecstasy with friends, who say she may have taken more of the drug than they had.
The overdoses mirror a similar trend in Calgary, where five people have died after taking ecstasy in recent weeks. On Wednesday, a coroner in the Alberta city confirmed that PMMA and methamphetamine were present in the toxicology reports for each of the victims.
Police say that PMMA and methamphetamine have not previously been found in ecstasy sold in Calgary.
Health officials say that the majority of ecstasy on the streets of B.C. is contaminated with other drugs like methamphetamine, ephedrine, ketamine and PCP.
"The best advice is, don't take illicit drugs," Kendall said.
"If you still feel you have to take these drugs, never take more than one and have a sober person with you."
He pointed out that because ecstasy is usually manufactured in a bathtub, the composition of one pill won't necessarily match up with another from the same batch. He said that the drug can also affect different people in different ways depending on a number of factors, including the prescription drugs they may be taking.
"There's a possibility we have different genetic pathways for breaking down these drugs," Kendall added.
He said he did not know which one of the recent ecstasy deaths in B.C. has been associated with PMMA.


Thursday, January 12, 2012

New home @ HIM

Happy New Year!

Please note that HUSTLE: Men on the Move has relocated. As of Jan. 1 2012, we are now a program of HIM - Health Initiative for Men, a gay men's health organization serving the Vancouver community. Please visit HIM at http://www.chechhimout.ca/ for info on their programs and services. Stay tuned for the new HUSTLE page on the web site TBA soon.

Below is new contact info for HUSTLE admin and krew:

Matthew Taylor
Program Manager
604.488.1001 ext 231

Outreach/Netreach krew


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Born this way

Mental Health

You've got a lot going on. Whether it's work pressures, bills, relationships, family issues or feelings of isolation, life as a gay man can sometimes be overwhelming. This section provides resources, articles and information about how you can take care of your mental health.

Men on Men: Born This Way

Posted by HIM on Tuesday January 3rd, 2012

Beginning on Tuesday, January 10th, the Men on Men Relationship Discussion Group will evolve into the new Men on Men: Born This Way Discussion Group.
The group will come together each week to explore the joys and complexities of not identifying as heterosexual in a culture largely designed by and for straight guys.  The workshops will be facilitated and themed for weekly skills-building and lively interaction. 
The group is open to all men who love and/or have sex with men.  We welcome positive, negative and unknown HIV status guys, men of all ages and ethnic identities, gay, bisexual, queer, trans, two-spirit guys and all men who love men.
START DATE:         Tuesday, January 10th, drop-in
TIME:                        6:30 pm - 8 pm
LOCATION:              The Roundhouse181 Roundhouse Mews at Pacific Blvd - the Yaletown end of Davie St.(check at reception for which room we're in).
This is a collaborative group from HIM and QMUNITY.  Scheduled topics will be available early January. To register, email register@checkhimout.ca or education@qmunity.ca or call HIM at (604) 488-1001 or QMUNITY at (604) 684-5307 ext.112.