The detailed study of Bill 2 (PL2) on the reform of family law has just begun and Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette has already indicated that the notions of sex and identity of gender will be grouped “under the same hat”1 in the Civil Code.
However, they are not included in the Canadian and Quebec Charters of Human Rights, which rightly recognize gender identity or expression as a prohibited ground of discrimination different from that of sex. “Gender” (social construction) and “sex” (related to biology) are indeed two distinct concepts recognized by our Charters. Why should it be otherwise in the Civil Code?
In doing so, he reduces an immutable biological characteristic to a sociological and behavioral notion that evolves over time. This setting aside of the scientific meaning of “sex” has concrete consequences for the entire population, but especially for women who find themselves disembodied in a vocabulary that empties the word “woman” of its meaning. Thus, it will be a question of talking about “pregnant, breastfeeding or menstruating people”. In addition to the profound contempt conveyed by this vocabulary, refusing to recognize women’s conditions that are specific to them is tantamount to jeopardizing the measures put in place to ensure their rights to equality and dignity, based on sex.
Moreover, by amalgamating the notions of sex and gender, the statistical data making it possible to recognize the reality of women disappear. However, the absence of reliable biological data on sex jeopardizes women’s sport, the advances needed for women’s health and their safety.
Conflating sex and gender will have a big impact on women’s sports teams, created for greater equity, in recognition of the physical differences that set them apart from men. Thus, the “sex” identifier helps to ensure the sustainability of women’s sports competitions, developed because society recognizes that there are significant genetic, anatomical and physiological differences between women and men that disadvantage women in a significant in sports competitions. The American experience shows that more and more teenage girls are losing competitions, as well as associated university scholarships, to trans people, biologically male, who are faster and stronger than them.
Gender-specific data is essential for the health system to provide quality service, as well as in clinical and biomedical research, to ensure that the biological reality of each person is taken into account. It is this type of data that has, for example, saved lives by concluding that heart attack symptoms differ widely between women and men.
Conflating sex and gender also jeopardizes the effective treatment of people in emergency hospitals who are unable to speak. Emergency physicians must be able to act quickly, without having to undress the patient, to know if they should investigate the side of the prostate or a possible ectopic pregnancy, in the event of a crisis.
It should be remembered that it is in particular gender-specific data that first responders use to identify road accident victims, victims of crime, to facilitate the search for criminals or to issue AMBER alerts.
Gender integrity is also essential in order to meet international standards, such as the United Nations Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, which state that “different categories of prisoners shall be placed in institutions or parts of separate establishments according to their sex […]”2.
Confusing “sex” and “gender” also poses significant security risks to women. For example, in Canada, Madilyn Harks, formerly Matthew Harks, a serial child molester suspected of more than 60 victims and approximately 200 offences, sexually assaulted two female prison inmates who “looked like children »3. In Toronto, in a shelter and resource center for women victims of sexual and conjugal violence, women who do not feel comfortable sharing a room with “trans women” with penises are sent back to the streets and find themselves in a situation of homelessness. Their security needs are not taken into account4.
It is certainly not by dismissing scientific concepts, by creating new forms of discrimination against women or by hastily proposing to assimilate gender and sex, without the possibility of discussing them sufficiently, that the Government of Quebec will promote the advent of a society that we hope is truly inclusive.
Looking forward to a real social debate to find a respectful way of passage for all!