Transgendered Persons Protection Act

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great honour, actually, to rise in my place today to speak to Bill No. 140, the Transgendered Persons Protection Act.

I think this is a very progressive piece of legislation, and I'm proud to be part of a government that would bring this forward. This is a bill about equality, acceptance, and inclusion of all people, which are the core values, I would say, of the New Democratic Party; in fact, we are the only Party that has sexual orientation included in our mandate and I am very proud of that fact. In fact, that is one of the things that helped make me decide to become a New Democrat. So the fact that we actually have this in our preamble to our DNP values is very, very important.

I believe that this bill proves that this Party actually remained very true to our core values and that we are acting on our feet, as government, passing bills, passing legislation, that speak to our core values and to the members of our Party who have waited and fought so long for bills such as this to come on the floor of this House. In fact, I have to say to my honoured colleague, the member for Richmond that this bill would have come much earlier than three years if the NDP had been in power before three years - perhaps that's something he has overlooked.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I have to also say that as a former actor myself, I've been lucky and blessed to have many, many friends in the LGBT community. As a young woman starting my acting career just down the street at the Neptune Theatre, at the age of 16, my introduction to the world of theatre was very, very interesting because there were many people who were gay, there were many transgendered people, so at a very early age I actually got to be friends with and to experience first-hand their lives and their problems and their challenges of what it was like to live in this world as a transgendered or gay or bi person. It made me a very open person and very accepting of all types of people.

It was actually one of my very first friends - he was a very well-known Canadian female impersonator named Craig Russell - who first brought me down to Hollywood. So by the time I was 20 years old I went to Hollywood and it was at the invitation of Craig Russell, who was the star of a movie called Outrageous. He was an incredible performer, he played Judy Garland, he played Mae West, he played Tallulah Bankhead - the only one he wouldn't play, Mr. Speaker, was Marilyn Monroe. He wouldn't play Marilyn Monroe after he met me because he said I was the only one to play Marilyn Monroe and he wouldn't touch her after he met me.

Anyway, Craig Russell introduced me to Hollywood, he brought me down there, invited me to his apartment. I stayed with him for a number of months and I actually got to see Los Angeles, a view that many people don't get to see. So I didn't get to see all the flashy glitter - I saw that, but I got to see the actual underbelly of the city and the people who make up the grit of that city and the nightclubs and the nightlife and all of the dancers and performers. This was the 1980s - in fact, it was 1980 when I first went to Hollywood, and I feel blessed and honoured to have met so many incredible people who showed me their lives.

One thing about Craig Russell that's a very interesting fact too is that he oftentimes would say, you try having 16 women trapped inside a man's body. It's hard enough to have one woman trapped inside a man's body, but imagine having 16. Many times I would go to see him in his shows and he would get standing ovations; he would have people throwing roses on the floor of the theatre for him. One night I went backstage and he had just done an amazing performance. I knocked on his dressing room door and he said come in, and I could hear sobbing. I went in, and he was sitting in his dressing room and there were flowers all around and all these incredible well wishes, and he was crying his eyes out. I said, what's wrong? They love you. He said, no, no, they don't love me, they love her. They love her. They don't love me.

He felt that he could not really be who he truly was and be accepted in society. Even as it was, he felt that he was accepted as an oddity, as a freak show, and that when he actually dressed up as a man, people would make fun of him.

It was really a turning point in my young life to see somebody so successful and so well loved who deep down had this true self-hatred and a fear and a shame. It was really sad to behold. I will never forget that to this day. I'm just glad that I was able to give my friend the love and the respect and the kindness and the caring that he deserved and to be able to tell him - from a woman to 16 women in a man's body - how much I appreciated him and how much he was loved. (Applause) Thank you.

I think there's a movie, too, the one James Cameron did, the one with the people all in blue - what's that one called? (Interruptions) Avatar. Where they have a speak - where they say, "I see you." I think that the true need of every human being is for each one of us to say to another, I see you. I see you. I see who you are. It means I see who you are, I respect who you are, I accept who you are, and I love you for being you. I think this is so important in our society today.

In Truro-Bible Hill we have a church - we have many churches, but we have a United church that I oftentimes go to called St. Andrew's Church. It has become an affirming church. We have an openly gay minister. He married a Black man and they are well accepted and they are very much respected in our community. They turned that church into an affirming church, which means not only are gays, lesbians, bisexual, transgendered, all people accepted, but they are actually affirmed as well and welcomed into that church. I think that is so important.

It's very interesting because Jay Ettinger, the minister, has been receiving calls from other United churches across Canada saying, what is your secret? Your congregation is growing when so many other churches' congregations are getting smaller. I would have to say that's probably one of the reasons, and that's definitely one of the reasons why I go to that church - to support their efforts in this fight for equality and for affirmation of all.

Mr. Speaker, I also would like to mention the fact that in Truro-Bible Hill recently we had the municipal elections. It was wonderful to see that for the first time ever we had an openly gay woman, who is married to a female firefighter, and they have two wonderful daughters, and she was running for mayor of Truro. This is in a town where, of course, we had had what they call "the gay-flag flap" awhile back where it was discussed and where the mayor and the town council decided they did not want to raise the gay flag on Gay Pride Day.

Actually that made international news, Mr. Speaker, and it put Truro in a very difficult light because we actually got the reputation of being not open to gays and transgender people. In fact, the very opposite is true because our gay community is growing and, in fact, in this last election, although the woman, Keltie Jones, did not win the election - many people thought she wouldn't have a chance in Truro - she actually only lost the mayorship by 195 votes - 195 votes, that's all.

So for the first time ever, an openly gay woman running for the mayor of Truro, I think that sends a very strong message that Truro is indeed very welcoming for gays, lesbians and transgendered and bi people. I'm very proud of that fact.

Mr. Speaker, another thing I would like to bring up along with this bill is that one of the very first duties I did as a new MLA was as a notary public. I was asked to do a name change for a woman who was born a man. She came to me in great distress because she was in the middle of transitioning and she could not find anybody, until that point, who would support her bid to get a name change, to try to do everything that they could to try to help her in her efforts to be able to express herself outwardly as she felt inwardly. She had had great trouble actually getting this name change and getting someone to do it for her. So I was also at the same time being asked to do a name change for a young woman in the community and I felt, well, what's the difference between doing a name change for a young woman from a woman's name to another woman's name to somebody who had a male name but called herself by a woman's name, dressed as a woman, felt as a woman, and wanted to be named as a woman? Again, it actually took me quite a while to go through all the proper channels to finally get her the help that she needed and I was able to give her her name change, and I'm so proud. It's one of the highlights. (Applause) Thank you, I appreciate that.

I know that some people may say, well, what's in a name? But to some people it's very, very important, the name that they are called, and if this helps them to identify and to express their true selves, then it's very, very important.

I would also like to say, Mr. Speaker, that oftentimes when you hear in the news about people who have been really cruel to violent against people who are different from them, people who are either gay or transgendered, people who are actually really bullying these people, really focusing on these people, sometimes it has happened in the army as well. I know there was one case in the United States where there was a young man who just bullied and bullied and bullied another young man who was gay, in the army, and finally killed him. Sometimes what I say, a phrase goes through my mind when I hear about these kinds of things, it's from Shakespeare and it's from the play Hamlet, and in fact, Hamlet says it about Gertrude, his mother, when he thinks that Gertrude, his mother, had a hand in killing his father, and the phrase is, the lady doth protest too much, methinks.

I use that, Mr. Speaker, when I hear of people picking on others because I think perhaps the reason why they are so fixated on that particular person and that particular issue is because perhaps deep down they also feel somewhat similar and are afraid to express themselves. So methinks the lady doth protest too much sometimes is what is happening deep down under the surface and it's a shame that they feel so much shame about themselves that they can't come out and more openly show who they truly are as some people who are brave and take to the streets and are themselves and get attacked for it. (Interruption) Yes, and ridiculed.

I have to say I saw a movie recently, Mr. Speaker, that has a very good example of this. It was actually J. Edgar, about J. Edgar Hoover. Anybody who has seen that movie might recall a scene - Leonardo DiCaprio, of course, plays Hoover, and his mother, the wonderful Judi Dench, one of my favourite actresses of all time - she says at one point, you know, my dear, we used to have a young uncle of yours, and we called him Daffy. He said, yes, I remember him. He was a great uncle. She said, yes, well, you know why we called him "Daffy"? Because we caught him one time trying on his sister's skirts and dresses, so we said, oh, he's like a daffodil. We used to make him stand in the corner and wear a hoop skirt, and we called him Daffy from that day on. She said, I would rather have a dead son than a Daffy son.

Mr. Speaker, I thought that spoke realms about the awful abuse that people are faced with, who are transgendered or trying to be transgendered - people who are trying to be themselves but are not accepted in our society or by their families.

I look forward to the day when all people are accepted for themselves, where they receive the respect and the kindness and the compassion that I believe this Party embodies, which is that we open our arms to all and we will stand up for the rights of all. For that reason, I am proud to be here to speak to Bill No. 140, and to all of my friends who have had a lot to do with this - Hugo Dann, I really appreciate his work. He worked very closely with the Minister of Justice on this bill. I want to thank the Minister of Justice for introducing this bill, and also the Minister of Communities, Culture and Heritage for his incredible, impassioned speech today in the House. With that, Mr. Speaker, I'll take my seat.