The Canadian court ruling on intentional misgendering is a step forward for trans rights, but the backlash shows how much fight is left


I was looking through my phone when I saw the headlines announcing that a Canadian court had ruled that intentional misgendering is a human rights violation. As I doom-scrolled into the comments section I saw people protesting that “SJW snowflake politics has gone too far”, “We live in a clown world” and “What, so I can get arrested for calling someone sweetheart now?” I couldn’t help but wonder whether people had read the articles before commenting, or people just couldn’t understand the toll that misgendering can have on people.

Those who took the time to read the 42 page ruling will know that this was not just an accidental slip up, but a case of workplace harassment. Not only was Jessie Nelson continuously intentionally misgendered, when they asked their bar manager to use their correct pronouns the interactions became “heated” resulting in Jessie getting fired for coming on “too strong too fast” and being too “militant”. The tribunal resulted with the judge ordering the restaurant management to pay Nelson $30,000 in damage, as well as “implement a pronoun policy and mandatory training for all staff and managers about diversity, equity and inclusion”. 

The comments section reminded me of my frustration with the misconception that trans and non-binary people are overly sensitive and incapable of deciphering the difference between accidental misgendering and when it’s done with malicious intent, as if this isn’t something we have to navigate on a daily basis. People seem more outraged by the fact that they might need to make more effort to respect others’ identity than they are that someone lost their job due to being non-binary. 

When it comes to trans rights, there are so many issues that need to get addressed so it can be disheartening to see so many fumble to get to grips with something as simple as pronouns. “Hey, this is my friend Nic, she’s really into reading, sorry, they are really into reading.” See how easy that was? So why are we getting hung up on this? 

Despite the laws in place to protect us, 63% experience transphobia whilst seeking employment, 73% for people of colour, 69% for disabled people. We can no longer afford to ignore the statistics. I hope in the coming years we can prioritise trans safety over cis fragility. Safety at home, at work and beyond is a human right, it’s that simple.


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