October 16, 2009

Bodily integrity of transgender individuals

Posted in Current Events, Rape Culture at 9:59 pm by sacetalks

Over twenty years ago, members of New York’s queer community rioted at Stonewall Inn, a place in which those who identified as what many now term as LGBITTIQQ sought community, refuge, safety and, of course, fun.  The riots were in response to police brutality against sexual minorities and marked the beginning of international queer rights activism.

While rights for LGBTTIQQ individuals have certainly come a long way since Stonewall, those who identify as lesbian, gay, transgender, two-spirited, intersex, queer and questioning still face a number of significant barriers.  Not only do people who identify (or are labelled) as sexual minorities or gender variant experience a disproportionate amount of violence, including sexual assault, but are also the targets of prejudice, bigotry and hatred.

Recently, the St. Albert Catholic School district made the decision to fire Jan Buterman.  Buterman, labelled a girl when born and now transitioning into a man, was dismissed by the school board who justified this blatant discrimination by arguing that changing one’s gender contradicts Roman Catholic values.

Interesting that welcoming all people, regardless of their identity, isn’t a part of Roman Catholic values.  Even more curious is that what one claims as a religious value seemingly trumps human rights.

Not 0nly is such treatment unjust, but seriously misguided.  We don’t know the reasons Buterman has for transitioning, but many trans people explain that a “gender change” isn’t so much of a change as much of an adjustment.  That is, it is arguable that Buterman was always a man, but one born in a woman’s body.  After all, “gender” is a social construct – one’s gender is a set of values a culture ascribes onto one’s sex (in this context, “sex” refers to one’s genitals).  Perhaps Buterman, like some other trans people, feels that his gender has remained static; it is simply his sex that is changing.  Whatever the reason, however, a transgender person is just that – a person deserving of justice, freedom and integrity.

Some may question why this topic is being explored on a sexual assault blog.  The reason is that sexual assault and the rights of LGBTTIQQ individuals are intertwined because both rest on the value of bodily integrity.  Any concept of freedom must include the right to control one’s own body – what comes out of it, what enters it, what parts it changes and what parts stay the same.  Our bodies are ours to manage, not a school board’s to pathologize, medicalize and make deviant.

Ultimately, Buterman is not a deviant individual whose body may negatively impact the children with which he works.  Rather, Buterman is a human being whose value as a teacher must rest on his teaching methods, not on his body.  To do otherwise is to deny him the fundamental right of bodily integrity, just as sexual assault survivors (and victims) are denied on a continual basis.

I urge people to remember Stonewall and the rights for which LGBTTIQQ groups have been fighting which are, simply, the right to live freely.  To do otherwise is not only to deny the human rights of LGBTTIQQ populations, but to use the same reasoning others use to justify sexual assault.

Articles used in writing this piece:

-Post by Pragya Sharma



  1. […] From SACE Talks: On the bodily integrity of transgender individuals. […]

  2. Monika said,


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