The University of Toronto has been in an uproar these last few months over transgender pronoun use, political correctness and freedom of speech.
Professor Jordan Peterson is objecting to the canadian government’s Bill C-16, which will outlaw harassment and discrimination based on gender identity expression under the Canadian Human Rights Act and Criminal Code. Peterson believes no individual has the right to invent a new vocabulary because their gender identity does not match the current options in our societies gender spectrum.
Gender identity is defined by the Ontario Human Rights Commission as “each person’s internal and individual experience of gender. It is their sense of being a woman, a man, both, neither or anywhere along the gender spectrum.”
Gender expression is defined as the manner in which a person presents themself, which includes outward appearance such as dress, hair, makeup, behavior, body language and voice, as well as a person’s name and the pronouns they use.
The Human Rights Act protects minority groups from discrimination, being fired, evicted or otherwise discriminated against in federally-regulated workplaces, housing or public Ottawa-run services.
“The addition to the human rights code is not about criminalizing anything,” professor Brenda Cossman said Bill C-16’s addition to the code is not for criminalizing anything, pointing out that violating the human rights code can only be punished through fines, but never jail time.
Peterson argues in one of his many YouTube videos that failure to pay the fine, which he intends to do if he is fined, would result in a trial with the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal where jail time is very possible, as failure to use a transgender’s preferred pronouns is now considered a hate crime under the new legislation.
Peterson believes him being required to address his trans-students by the pronouns they prefer is a violation of his freedom of speech. He further believes that others do not have the authority to compel him to use their preferred pronouns.
Personally, I believe that this bill is needed for the protection of the marginalized minority group. But to force pronouns on another, and the possibility of it being a hate crime should someone not follow the preferred pronouns, is incoherent and absurd.
I have no problem using a friend’s preferred pronouns, but not doing so shouldn’t be a crime. This should be a matter of harassment rather than a hate crime.
Currently, using racial slurs is not illegal, it’s just very poor taste. I think this bill is setting a dangerous precedent by forcing Canadians to use someone’s preferred pronouns. In an effort to give equality to all, basic human rights are being infringed upon.
I trust that our language will evolve while remaining sensitive to the trans community in time. At the very least “they” is a common word which has been adopted by some non-binaries in the trans community and has no implication of sex or gender.
Nick Sallen is the editor-in-chief for the Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected]