Changing a Nation Through Advocacy

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Transgender Rights are Human Rights

Today, December 10, 2015, we celebrate Human Rights Day under the theme “Our Rights. Our Freedom. Always”. Human Rights Day commemorates the day on which, in 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly.

Jamaica has since incorporated the principles set forth into Chapter III of our Constitution at the time, and now have adopted and amended the principles to make our own Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedom.  As set out in the Charter of Rights, all Jamaicans have several rights afforded to them by law.

However, the right to freedom in Section 2(i) which makes specific reference to the right to freedom from discrimination on the grounds of – (i) being male or female; (ii) race, place of origin, social class, colour, religion or political opinions does not adequately protect transgender persons from discrimination.

The Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedom neglects to fully protect all Jamaicans regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation. This failure to protect all Jamaicans makes the following outlined in section 3 debatable with regards to their coverage and protection of transgender and gender non-conforming Jamaicans. Section 3 states – (a) the right to life, liberty and security of the person (c) the right to freedom of expression.

Ban Ki-moon

One cannot have the right to life, liberty, security or freedom of expression when the right of freedom from discrimination does not adequately cover transgender persons. Transgender rights are human rights. The amendment of the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedom to include the right to freedom from discrimination regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation would be a step in the right direction to securing the rights and freedom for transgender and gender non-conforming Jamaicans. Our rights, our freedom, matters.

Nelson Mandela Human Rights

The video below highlights the reality of the lives of transgender people across Asia-Pacific. It’s quite a similar reality that many transgender Jamaicans face. Our hopes for the future are the same. Have a watch.

 

Transgender Health Myths

The health and well-being of a transgender person, though quite important, has many aspects that are very private and personal. In addition, there are also a few misconceptions within and outside the transgender community. So here we go busting up some myths.

Myth #1: Surgery is a Top Priority for All Transgender People

Surgery is not a top priority for all transgender people but it is impolite to invade the transgender person’s privacy by seeking to find out if they have had any surgeries. As we explore and promote transgender health and well-being, it’s important to keep in mind that though there is boundless curiousity, there are some things that are not open for conversation, unless the transgender person chooses to discuss it. The anatomical makeup and genital configuration is one such topic that is very personal.

Myth #2: Providing Transgender-Inclusive Benefits is Prohibitively Expensive for Companies. 

Jamaica is not at the stage yet where trans-inclusive healthcare is available from employers. However, it’s important to state here that providing such coverage is not expensive to companies. Trans-inclusive healthcare should be covered under the basic healthcare coverage afforded to all employees. Transgender health benefits are critical to well-being and productiveness of the transgender person, and therefore beneficial to the success of the workforce.

Myth #3 – My Child is Too Young to Know They’re Transgender

As parents and guardians, it’s important to listen to your child in all matters that concern them. The exploration of gender identity is no different. Children are by nature curious: they seek to know more about themselves and the world they live in. If a child has questions about their gender identity or gender expression, then caregivers need to be open to discussing these topics. The child’s emotional health and well-being should be what’s most important and a non-judgmental, loving and open conversation can go a long way towards the long-term success of the child.

Myth#4: Transgender Healthcare is ‘Special Care’

Transgender healthcare is NOT ‘Special Care. The transgender community is no different from the larger community that they exist in. Transgender people are a subset of the population and need healthcare just as all other persons do. Everyone’s medical needs are not the same. It is very important within our Jamaican context that healthcare coverage includes the needs of the transgender population so that the community can access services specific to their needs. Everyone has healthcare needs that are specific to their own needs, and the transgender community is no different. The mandate of the medical profession is to provide ‘special care’ to all. The acknowledgement of the transgender community and their needs is important in order to provide services for ALL Jamaicans.