Quebec Needs Better Housing & Employment Protections for Trans People

  • Graphic: Jennifer Aedy

We’re beginning another fast-tracked year at Concordia University—two more semesters of studying, getting and hopefully staying organized, and dealing with the variety of other issues faced by people within our extremely large age group.

In this hectic world, a wide array of complications can greatly affect our overall capacity to do well in school, maintain a healthy sleep schedule and even—if we’re being optimistic—do things that we enjoy.

The outcome of these factors will be influenced by a person’s status in housing and employment—two realms that can be extremely problematic for a number of folks, due to the stresses they cause within our capitalist society. The bureaucratic processes of getting and keeping a job, trouble with your boss or landlord, paying rent, and dealing with the Régie du logement can all be extremely complex and overwhelming.

It’s often mentally demanding, emotionally taxing, and just plain tough to understand what messages from our landlords and bosses are trying to tell us—this applies to almost everyone. Beyond that, other elements of peoples’ identities can become a factor in their navigation of those systems, and can greatly affect a person’s capacity to swim—or drown—in seemingly uncharted waters.

Resources on navigating issues with bosses and landlords totally exist, but they don’t exist specifically for trans and gender-nonconforming people. Since I experience the realities of living as a trans person in cisnormative society, I can also distinguish their effects in bureaucracy.

I’m a mixed, neurodiverse, trans-masculine person in the midst of my medical transition—an identity that allows me a lot of privileges and perks. Neurodiversity is a concept that frames neurological differences like autism and bipolarity as natural human variation, rather than disorder.

I roam the world being seen as a primarily masculine or male person, but I am still read as queer and gender-nonconforming mixed person—and that plays into my navigation of bureaucratic spaces.

My work at Concordia Student Union’s off-campus Housing and Job Bank helps me to better understand how trans realities intersect with legislation, politics and navigating a system that was built to be inaccessible to trans and gender-nonconforming people. It has helped me see that cisgender people controlling legislation surrounding trans people is dangerous, and often—if not always—leaves the most marginalized members of the community behind.

We, as trans people, should know better than to be satisfied with half-cooked caring.

Cisgender people creating legislation surrounding trans people’s gender validity also raises the important question of whether all trans people even understand what this means. How does this affect us when it’s applied? How does it make us safer? And how does this touch the people in our community in the most need of change?

Some issues that trans people must face when navigating society include signing leases or work contracts with a name and gender marker that differs from their legal ID, being refused a job or apartment based on gender presentation, experiencing harassment, threats and violence from customers, coworkers and landlords. If legislation isn’t specifically targeting these realities, then what is it doing? Finding and keeping stable housing and employment are two of the biggest obstacles faced by trans and gender-nonconforming people.

It’s also important to note that attempting to solve these problems with legislation—or even a change in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms—is completely useless if it excludes people. For example, if those without Canadian legal status, those below or above a certain age, those of certain neurodiverse realities or those who don’t conform to binary gender can’t experience the effects of legal changes, then “falling through the cracks” isn’t exactly the appropriate metaphor. Existing protections for trans people often seem more like they’re made of fishnet rather than concrete.

We need to look at legislation that affects trans people, such as the recent bills 103 and C-36—Quebec’s bill to allow trans children to change their name and gender identity, and Canada’s prostitution law, respectively. We need to prioritize those who are invisibilized and focus on how these systems are adjusting to trans existence and resistance. When legislative changes occur, educational resources also need to be set up. Actual conversations surrounding these realities need to begin, otherwise we’re stuck in a cycle of fake promises related to inclusion.

That is exactly the problem with trans-related legislation—the belief that changes for trans people will come from the system which has willingly invalidated us for decades. Creating faint, rainbow-coloured changes ultimately doesn’t matter if trans people can still be systematically refused housing and employment because they’re trans. And since there’s no way to live within this machine without employment or housing, we are left with broken promises and hypervisibility.

Julien Rose Johnson works as an office assistant at the CSU’s Housing and Job Bank. HOJO is a resource that offers students and non-students information and counsel on housing and employment issues.

By commenting on this page you agree to the terms of our Comments Policy.