Transgender people told us about the major impacts on their mental health from daily discrimination, lack of societal acceptance, poverty, unaffordable housing and alienation from family, based on gender identity. A focus group co-facilitated by Rainbow Health Ontario, identified poverty as a consequence of discrimination, but also a contributing factor to poor mental health. In a study of 433 trans Ontarians, half “seriously considered” suicide because they were trans. Trans youth (up to age 24) were more than twice as likely to seriously consider suicide than trans people over age 25.
Gender identity and gender expression
Under the Ontario Human Rights Code, discrimination and harassment because of gender identity or gender expression is against the law. Everyone should be able to have the same opportunities and benefits, and be treated with equal dignity and respect including transgender, transsexual and intersex persons, cross-dressers, and other people whose gender identity or expression is, or is seen to be, different from their birth sex.
In 2012 “gender identity” and “gender expression” were added as grounds of discrimination in the Ontario Human Rights Code. To fully address the new Code grounds, as well as the significant legal decisions, policy changes and other developments since its first policy, the OHRC released a new Policy on preventing discrimination based on gender identity and gender expression in April 2014.
To learn more about the OHRC’s work on gender identity and expression, and the public consultation it undertook to develop the new policy, see Talking about gender identity and gender expression.
The Code does not define the grounds of gender identity, gender expression or sex. Instead, the understanding of these and other related terms, and the implications for the Code and OHRC policies, is evolving from tribunal and court decisions, social science research as well as self identity and common everyday use.
Sex is the anatomical classification of people as male, female or intersex, usually assigned at birth.
New policy protects human rights of trans and gender-diverse people
The OHRC launched an important new policy in Spring 2014, the Policy on preventing discrimination because of gender identity and gender expression. This policy followed the 2012 amendment to the Human Rights Code to add the grounds of gender identity and gender expression. This change provides protection for one of the most vulnerable and marginalized communities in society.