News Local

Transgender rights

Cheryl Browne

By Cheryl Browne, Barrie Examiner

Dakota North, age 49, who identifies as a pansexual, claims to have been mistreated at a recent community Easter dinner where she was denied the use of a female washroom.  Mark Wanzel/Barrie Examiner/Postmedia Network

Dakota North, age 49, who identifies as a pansexual, claims to have been mistreated at a recent community Easter dinner where she was denied the use of a female washroom. Mark Wanzel/Barrie Examiner/Postmedia Network

Two months ago, Dakota North stopped pretending she was a man.

Inside, she’d known for a long time she was supposed to have been born a woman, but it took half of her adult life to admit it to the world.

“I’m finding life a lot easier,” North said on Wednesday. “I feel a lot happier. I can be myself and I don’t have to put on a façade.”

Learning to dress as a woman, carry a purse, wearing high-heeled shoes and applying make-up is a steep learning curve but North felt she had mastered it.

However, it wasn’t until she was denied entry to a washroom by another woman at a community function, that it hit home how bumpy the road to transition could be.

North said she had dressed as a woman, in jeans and sneakers, but had worn make-up and was carrying a purse when she attended Barrie Ward 2 Coun. Rose Romita’s Easter dinner at Central United Church on Monday.

But when she approached the washroom door, another guest barred her entrance, she said.

“She said, ‘I’m sorry, you can’t come in here. I have to protect the privacy of the other women’,” North said.

“She was adamant I couldn’t go in there. I was angry, but I didn’t want to leave any doubt that I was in the wrong, so I just walked away.”

North said she spoke with Pastor Kevin Mast of Hope City Church about the incident.

Mast said he immediately spoke with the other woman – not a volunteer – who was attending the event and advised her of the error.

“I did speak with the other guest and suggested strongly she had no right to block the washroom and I brought the matter to Rose’s attention,” Mast said.

He also offered to escort North to a single-stall washroom upstairs that offered more privacy, but North had lost her nerve.

“Nobody is discriminated against at these dinners,” Mast said. “I think the law is pretty clear – if someone is identifying themselves as a particular gender, they have the right to use the washroom of their choice – and we have no right to question that.”

Romita said Mast advised her of the incident and she immediately addressed the crowded church hall.

“I didn’t know about it until after it happened,” Romita said on Wednesday afternoon. “But I did grab the mic and tell people ‘This is an all-inclusive event. No matter what religion you are or if you’re gay or lesbian, everyone’s welcome here’.”

The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) states the Ontario Human Rights Code protects people based on age, ancestry, colour, race, citizenship, ethnic origin, place of origin, creed, disability, family status, marital or single status, gender identity, gender expression, receipt of public (housing) assistance, record of offences (employment) sex (including pregnancy and breastfeeding) and sexual orientation.

Protected areas are accommodation (housing), contacts, employment, goods, services and facilities, membership in unions, trade or professional associations.

During a human rights tribunal in 2015, the OHRC noted, “gender …may be the most significant factor in a person’s identity. It is intensely personal. In many respects, how we look at ourselves and define who we are starts with our gender.”

The Government of Canada Justice Laws website notes the public incitement of hatred offence carries a possible two-year term of imprisonment if convicted.

As for North, she has settled into her new role as a woman with help from the Gilbert Centre.

The 80 Bradford St. centre is a non-profit organization that helps people living with AIDS or who are HIV positive, and offers programs serving gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender people and their families in Simcoe County and the Muskoka area.

“I’ve realized recently I have support at the Gilbert Centre. There are other people there I can relate to and it helps,” she said.

 

CBrowne@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/cherylbrowne1

#2 photo

Dakota North, age 49, who identifies as a pansexual, claims to have been mistreated at a recent community Easter dinner where she was denied the use of a female washroom. Mark Wanzel/Barrie Examiner/Postmedia Network

 



Featured Businesses

Go to the Marketplace »