February 2, 2023

Most people would assume that we as a society can accept each other for who we are. However, in some ways we are stuck in the past, while in others we are more advanced. We are not as racist and most other forms of discrimination are not as common. However, homophobia is still a huge problem, as a transgender woman in Hamilton can attest.

An official complaint was filed to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario last October, after the woman was denied access to the women’s washroom at a bus terminal by a security guard stationed there. Even after pointing out that she had the legal right to use the washroom she was still directed to the men’s facility.

Now, if someone pointed out their legal rights to you, wouldn’t you step aside? If faced with a situation such as this you would think logic would override morals.

The City of Hamilton has apologized for the incident. Mike Kirkopoulos, a spokesperson for the city, said that all city staff receive harassment and discrimination prevention training, including gender identity and expression training.

However, if that were the case, then obviously the training wasn’t as thorough as management thought.

“The city is also working to make information around accessible, all-gender washrooms more readily available,” Kirkopoulos said, also stating that the city is waiting until after the tribunal ruling to work on addressing any other recommendations.

That sounds like the City of Hamilton is beating around the bush, probably trying to protect the city from scrutiny, and keeping the discussion about this incident to a minimum.

Back in 2012, Toby’s Act was passed in Ontario, amending our province’s Human Rights Code to include gender identity and gender, meaning that these two groups became protected from discrimination. However, just because legislation is in place doesn’t mean everyone follows it.

Cole Gately, a transgender advocate in Hamilton, spoke out about the situation, saying that public washrooms are one of the most contested places for transgender people.

“We need to get over this mythical threat that these are men posing as women to get into a washroom to hurt people,” Gately said.

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