S.W. Underwood is a PhD student in Sociology with a specialization in gender, family, and critical cultural studies. The recipient of a SSHRC Joseph-Armand Bombardier doctoral scholarship, his current research examines gender and family formation among gay men in the transition to parenthood. With Ben Vincent, a PhD student at the University of Leeds, Underwood recently published an Op Ed in the Torontoist discussing trans rights at the University of Toronto. The piece appeared on Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016 and the complete article is available online . The following is an excerpt of the longer article.
Why We Should Stand Up For Trans Rights and Recognition at the University of Toronto
Non-binary students deserve support from U of T faculty, not professors who cast aspersions.
Being transgender is often difficult. In 2015, Ontario researchers found that more than half of trans people have clinical depression, while 43 per cent had a history of attempting suicide [PDF]. Twenty-eight per cent of trans Ontarians could not get employment references with their current name or pronoun, and 58 per cent could not get academic transcripts with the correct name or gender, severely limiting their success on the job market.
Scientific consensus suggests neither biological nor cultural aspects of gender can be adequately explained within a binary [PDF]. Instead, gender develops in a web of environmental and physiological factors, forming diverse bodies and gender identities.
Recognizing the unique needs of transgender people, the Province of Ontario has recently launched public consultations to develop a more comprehensive method for collecting gender data. At the federal level, Bill C-16 aims to curb discrimination based on gender identity.
But not everyone is satisfied with the proposed changes. Jordan Peterson, a clinical psychologist at the University of Toronto who specializes in religious belief and personality, stated in an interview with the CBC’s As It Happens that he refuses to call non-binary transgender students by their pronouns, due to the purported absence of scientific evidence “that gender identity and biological sexuality are independently varying constructs.”
Biological sexuality? Exactly what is this? Clearly not sexual orientation. In the science on gender, such a concept holds no clout. Even if Peterson intended to refer to “sex,” his claims falter anyway.