Transphobia in Toronto

A firestorm of criticism has erupted in response to an ad that recently appeared in the National Post and Toronto Sun. Placed by Charles McVety’s so-called Institute for Canada Values (ICV), the ad features a wide-eyed young girl accompanied by the phrase “Please! Don’t confuse me,” followed by, “I’m a girl. Don’t teach me to question if I’m a boy, transexual [sic.], transgendered, intersexed or two-spirited [sic.]”

The ad attacks a new Toronto District School Board (TDSB) resource guide that provides teachers with an age-appropriate approach to sex education that incorporates both sexual and gender diversity.

For example, in an activity outline called “‘Pink versus Blue’ — Challenging Gender Stereotypes,” students are asked to divide a group of toys into “girl toys,” “boy toys,” or those that are gender-neutral. Students are asked to question why they associate gender with certain toys. They are further asked how a child might be singled out if they do not conform to traditional gender norms, such as a boy who likes to skip rope or a girl who plays sports better than the boys, and how that might hurt the child’s feelings. The lesson is clearly aimed at preventing bullying. It is not designed to convince a young girl to consider becoming a boy, or vice-versa.

That being said, there is the possibility that someone in the class might have some such inclination — I did. Growing up in rural North Carolina, I knew from around the age of six I was somehow different. I knew that while my body was ‘boy’ and others viewed me that way, I felt more like one of the girls. I didn’t completely understand it or know what it meant (I first heard the word ‘transgender’ around the age of 20), but I was a smart kid and I knew that if I shared my feelings I could expose myself to isolation and violence. So I hid myself and, though it wasn’t intentional, gradually internalized that fear as deep shame.

It took about 20 years before I could seriously begin the process of unlearning that shame, overcome (ironically) self-imposed isolation, and begin living as myself. That process was not always fun, but I survived it, which is an immense source of pride for me today.
The ICV ad is meant to tell my story, only with the opposite conclusion: trans children, intersex children, or anyone who does not conform should learn silence. Silence is often enforced through bullying.

Consider the case of an intersex child, who has no choice about the fact that their bodies may not conform to either female or male stereotypes. There is no shortage of horror stories about surgeries performed on such children, combined with attempts to force conformity to either normative gender category — only to have them reject such assigned roles later in life, often resulting in great misery or even suicide. This is why an intersex child must be afforded safe space to work out their own gender, which will not happen in school without strong classroom guidance.

The ICV ad attempts to undo that, calling on provincial party leadership to “stop confusing” the little girl in the picture. This effectively acts to silence intersex and trans children into shame and self-erasure, possibly even reinstating bullying as a means to accomplish that.
The ad generated significant protest, compelling the National Post to issue a ham-fisted apology (that itself confuses gender identity with sexuality).

Unfortunately, some responses even from LGBTI organizations have been less than stellar, with many describing the ad as “homophobic” or “anti-gay.” The ad certainly does contain (mostly implied) homophobia, which must be condemned. However, the ad aggressively targets trans and intersex individuals. Make no mistake, this is intentional — the religious right believes that by attacking more marginalized members of the LGBTI community they will eventually create an opening to attack the entire community. The appropriate response is not for mainstream gay organizations to avoid discussing trans issues, but rather, to stand up forcefully in order to disarm such an attack.

What’s worse, avoiding the issue acts as yet another erasure of trans identities and trans and intersex bodies — ironic, considering that is the intent of the ad itself.
On October 2, the heat was turned up further when it was reported that Progressive Conservative candidates in upcoming provincial elections were distributing flyers with a similar message, claiming that the TDSB manual promotes “cross-dressing for six-year olds.” Such bizarre claims obviously represent an intense fear of trans and intersex acceptance that must be countered with a forceful response. We must call on both the Toronto Sun and the PC provincial party to issue a public apology, and for mainstream LGBTI organizations to stand unwavering in the face of anti-trans hate speech.

Get stuffed

Sky Blue Sky Sandwich Company (605 Bloor St. West, just west of Bloor and Bathurst), Toronto’s best Wilco-themed sandwich shop, takes us through their version of the time-honoured tradition of the Thanksgiving leftovers sandwich: the One Wing ($4.99).

What you’ll need:
Bread of your choice
Cream cheese
Cranberry sauce
Gravy (optional)

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  1. Take two slices of your favourite bread (try it with whole wheat!)
  2. Spread a light layer of cream cheese on one side
  3. Add a dollop of cranberry sauce on top as desired
  4. Sprinkle stuffing over your cranberry and cheese foundation
  5. Top it off with some turkey slices, and lightly toast your concoction in an oven


Bulletin goes paperless

The U of T News Bulletin is switching from being offered in print and online to online-only.
The news source for faculty and staff, which has a readership of around 2300, covers university life, research developments, and new programs. As indicated by the U of T news website, it promotes the best and most strategic news the university has to offer in terms of teaching, research, and student and faculty experience.

“With such a large organization, it is necessary to give out the appropriate information as efficiently as possible,” said Michael Kurts, Assistant Vice President for Strategic Communications and Marketing at U of T.

A recent survey found that the majority of readers preferred the bulletin online, with only 10 per cent of readers favouring the paper edition.

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Running the news source as online-only will be less time-consuming and more economical. Moreover, the bulletin will be accessible to just as many people as at present, but with reduced difficulty and costs.

“The advantages of having this online version of the bulletin are extensive,” said Kurts. “We are now able to put out the issue twice a week, therefore allowing us to publish more up-to-date stories. As well, with the removal of paper usage, production time is significantly decreased.”
Also available exclusively online is the U of T News website, which is focused more on the external audience outside the faculty and staff. It is similar to the bulletin in that it offers current news, research, and weekly features. The news, however, is more aimed at students.
With the online bulletin up and running, the news and media department at U of T is interested in hearing from its readers. “We want to make this something that is useful to everyone. The key to success is speaking to the audience,” explained Kurts.

In an effort to make the bulletin more visually appealing, the department is working towards incorporating more multimedia; the amount of video and photography on the bulletin is likely to increase.

The U of T News website can be accessed online at

Crash test

It is widely believed that immigrants are unsafe drivers due to unfamiliarity with Canadian road laws, signs, and layouts. Dr. Donald Redelmeier in U of T’s Department of Health Policy, Management & Evaluation of disagrees.

“Ontario has some of the safest roads … in North America and has some of the greatest ethnic diversity of anywhere in North America, so we wondered whether that combination was just a coincidence or actually part of a larger pattern contrary to prevailing thought,” explained Redelmeier.

He and his colleges decided to try to disprove this popular stereotype; they conducted a study and published their findings in the journal, Accident Analysis and Prevention.

Redelmeier explained that the study was conducted by first identifying “every adult who had immigrated to Ontario over the past decade” — about one million people.

“These individuals are tracked forward in time for about eight years from their day of arrival, and then matched to long-term residents of Ontario who have the same age, gender, home location, and social economic status.”

Redelmeier said that the main finding of the study was that “the rate of crashes was about 40–50 per cent lower amongst the recent immigrants compared to the long term residents.
“If long term residents would have had the same risks as recent immigrants, the differences would have saved over 2000 surgical operations and over 30 000 days in hospital,” he continued.

When asked about his most surprising finding, Redelmeier responded, “We observed that the greatest decrease in crash risk was during the initial years following immigration but that the differences still persisted even beyond the fifth and sixth year.”

“The differences in risk also extended in those with highest levels of crash severity as well as the highest level of baseline economic income.”

When asked to explain what he believed to be the cause of the discrepancy, Redelmeier responded that it is “complacency” among long-term residents.

“Experienced motorists develop long-term over-confidence after years of uneventful driving [that] breeds an air of familiarity and so the drivers do not follow basic safety practices such as wearing a seat belt, obeying the speed limits [etc.],” he said.

Redelmeier offered a second theory: “If you are a recent immigrant to Ontario, the last thing you want is to get in trouble with the authorities. So, on account of that, you don’t get sloppy about speed limits or coming to a full stop at stop signs or cutting corners in all sorts of ways.”
Redelmeier feels that “this type of study raises awareness and helps set the record straight.”
“If people have mistaken beliefs about walking under a ladder or black cats or breaking a mirror, there’s no serious harm done. But the problem about road transportation … is that mistaken beliefs in that setting can cost you your life.”

Award celebrates sexual diversity and education

The Mark S. Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies at U of T is honouring advocates for sexual diversity and education.

This year’s recipients of the Bonham Centre Award include Linda Schuyler, a U of T alumna and the co-creator and Executive Producer of Degrassi. The other recipient is Dustin Lance Black, anAmerican screenwriter and director known for his academy award winning film Milk.
“We established [The Bonham Centre Award] in 2007 to recognize either an individual or possibly a group, who have made significant contributions to raising awareness and education around issues of sexual education and sexual diversity,” said Brenda Cossman, Professor of Law and Director at the Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies.

“This year, we have [presented the award] to two folks who have made very significant contributions in their cultural works,” continued Cossman. “Linda Schuyler [is] one of the co-creators and producers of the entire Degrassi series — a series that, in our view, has really pushed, challenged, and educated folks around many issues [surrounding] sexual education and sexual diversity.”

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The Degrassi series is well-known for its depiction of teenage life. It has brought to light issues including teenage pregnancy, sexual assault, and sexuality and gender. Through the experiences of the show’s characters, Degrassi educates its audience about sexual diversity and promotes inclusivity.

Linda Schuyler stressed the importance of sexual education in order to counteract bullying, which is a prominent issue amongst youth.

“The only way to combat [bullying] is to encourage acceptance of individual differences,” Schuyler reported to The Varsity. “Sexual education and acceptance…is key to creating an environment of tolerance and understanding. We need to live in a society where people can be accepted for who they are rather than their label.”

Simon Bredin, Public Affairs Director for LGBTOUT, was “…especially enthused to learn of this year’s award recipients [at] a time when our community’s ability to provide outreach to youth is endangered by close-mindedness.”

Corey Scott, UTSU VP Internal, responded, “It’s important to celebrate Schuyler, Black, and others that promote sexual diversity and challenge oppressive views.

“As students,” he continued, “we want to see sexual diversity studies not only at university, but at all levels of education. Especially given Tim Hudak’s recent queer and transphobic messaging around primary sex-ed curriculum, it’s important for us to celebrate diversity and continue challenging discrimination in our community.”

The Tories have ignited controversy across Ontario with their distribution of campaign flyers that encourage parents to vote against a Liberal sex-ed agenda that allegedly promotes “cross-dressing for six-year-olds.” The Liberals say that the Progressive Conservatives’ literature is homophobic.

SEC commended The Bonham Centre for recognizing Schuyler and Black’s contributions, and defended the need for sexual education in schools.

“Sexual education is important because access to information can help prevent decisions that [may] put an individual’s health at risk,” said Kayla Wright, Executive Director at S.E.C.
Bredin agreed. “By affronts like Tim Hudak’s vilification of sex-ed…we are reminded of the media’s imperative to portray role models for… youth.

“[Schuyler and Black] have produced a body of work so outstanding that it goes beyond just queer communities [and brings] an important message of hope and acceptance to millions worldwide.”

The 100 Series: Meet Dan Dolderman

Many U of T professors boast of countless awards, but only a few are privileged enough to have their own fan clubs ­— one of them is psychology professor Dan Dolderman.

Chuckling uncontrollably, Dolderman said he “felt really flattered” after students informed him of the Facebook fan club’s existence four years ago.

Though primarily an environmental psychologist, Dolderman is best known for teaching PSY100, Intro to Psychology. PSY100 is taught in Convocation Hall and is one of the biggest classes in the University, catering to 1500 students per lecture.

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“The large number of students is pretty challenging,” he said. “There are lots of people you don’t get to know at all…so I usually end up spending quite a bit of time after my classes — like, an hour to an hour and a half — just talking to people about different things.”

To hold his students’ interest, Dolderman weaves anecdotes through lectures and cracks jokes.

“I try to make [classes] fun so they’re genuinely enjoyable, but I also try to strike a balance by making things personally relevant…profound and deeply meaningful,” he explained.
Despite the class size, Dolderman, who started teaching the course in 2007 after joining the faculty in 2002, said that PSY100 is the psychology department’s “well-kept secret.”
“It’s actually really fun to teach. You get to really reflect on the most important and perspective-altering ideas that psychology has to offer because we cover a huge amount of terrain in a small amount of time,” he said.

According to his Leading the Way Youth Summit speaker’s profile, growing up in rural Ontario has given Dolderman an “enduring love for nature” that has motivated him to focus his research on environmental communication and behavioural changes.

“I’ve always been interested in environmental issues. I was trained as a social psychologist but I wanted to apply my knowledge to real-life situations. Environmental psychology’s multidisciplinary aspect allows me to contribute to the world in terms of my interests…like climate change and international development.”

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Outside of class, he dedicates his time to working with initiatives such as the U of T Sustainability Office’s Rewire program, which aims to reduce total energy consumption through small behavioural changes. He has also lent his knowledge to Toronto’s City Council and organizations such as Free the Children as a consultant on topics ranging from psychology to youth development and volunteerism.

With his background in psychology, Dolderman is seeking ways to increase political activism in society; he hopes to achieve this with his new pet project, “Unstoppable Snowball.” The program, to be unveiled this winter, is a social networking experiment that “takes people’s existing motivations and provides them with ways to see how easily they can affect change.”
“We are close to passing our tipping points, and after that it would be really hard to turn things around. There is need for pretty massive social change, and without rigorous movements, it is never going to happen,” he stated. “There is a huge disconnect between caring and taking action, and I want to help people feel more comfortable reaching out to their peers,” he continued.

When asked about the most memorable moments of his teaching career, Dolderman replied that he cannot name only one.

“There are two different kinds of [moments] that are really memorable,” said the professor “Ones where everyone — even me — is laughing at something that’s happened in class or…ones when the room is entirely silent and you can feel people are completely with you. I can’t really explain it.”

To illustrate what he meant, Dolderman reminisced about a lecture he did in his cognitive psychology class last winter.

“There was one time in my class where we did a meditation designed to make people feel certain emotions like compassion. It was 15 minutes of guided exercise and at the end of it at least three-quarters of the class had tears in their eyes. Getting people in touch with things that they themselves [felt] really, really deeply – it was incredible. I’ll never forget that,” he said.
Having realized that he wanted to be an educator towards the end of his graduate studies in Waterloo, Dolderman said that he has never once second-guessed his decision.
“Teaching is basically my dream job, I really like people and…being [at] U of T is a really amazing opportunity to connect with brilliant people everyday.”

News in brief

The Muslim identity
The Toronto Star recently interviewed three women who choose to wear the hijab in order to be “identifiable Muslims.” Each woman stated that this decision was motivated by faith and political ideals, not family tradition.

During her first year at Ryerson, Ambreen Syed, 24, was motivated to wear the hijab after attending the annual GTA Muslim convention. “The hijab is part of my identity,” said Syed, who feels that the convention “opened [a] door to self-discovery.”

“I wanted to be identified as a Muslim,” she continued, describing how the hijab makes her feel empowered.

After a 2006 pilgrimage to Mecca that “revolved around prayer and goodness,” Sophie Siddiqi, 30, chose to wear the Muslim headscarf.

Sahar Ammor, 18, decided to wear the hijab a year ago, to strengthen her personal relationship with God. ”It reminds me that since I don’t live in a Muslim country, I have to keep my mind on my faith and that I’m representing Islam,” she explained.

For these women, and other hijabis, the hijab “completes their identity”.

With files from the Toronto Star.
–Gabriella Lambert

Thousands Run for the Cure
Thirty-thousand runners made their way through downtown Toronto in the annual Run for the Cure event on Sunday, September 30.

The run, which took place in over 56 cities across Canada, aims to raise money for breast cancer research. This year, the event aimed to raise over $33 million nationally. Last week’s Toronto run raised over $5 million.

Diane Gordon of the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation stressed that the campaign is not just about the money. “The event is more than just fundraising – it’s as simple as hope for [those affected],” she told 680 News.

The event is gradually becoming a worldwide phenomenon. Participants ran in Kandahar, Afghanistan this year; this is the first time an overseas team has participated.

With files from 680 News and CTV
–Charlotte Smith

Get your head in the game

Linebacker Ejiro (EJ) Kuale stands out not just physically, but verbally in a locker room full of players from the Toronto Argonauts. Sporting sunglasses and speaking with a deep Florida drawl, he’s all fired up following September 24th’s emotional 25–24 victory over the league’s number one team, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. He is already prepared for the next opponent.
“We [are] here to stay, we [are going to] be in the playoffs,” he says. As for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, “Guess what? They [are] gonna lose next, period, point blank. I’m guaranteeing it!” This is more than a guarantee. With the Argos having a 3-9 record and facing a hated rival, some may accuse Kaule of talking big, but in fact, he’s engaging in one of the most important parts of the game: psychology.

Psychology creates off field entertainment and thrill for coaches, players, media and the fans. Psychology is not just for the professionals; it is found at all levels of sport, as the similarities between the Toronto Argonauts and U of T’s men’s football team prove.

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Sports psychology consultant Dr. Peter Papadogiannis, PhD at The Sports Clinic at UTM, explains that predictions like Kaule’s come from a player’s “self-efficacy,” the confidence and belief a player has in their own abilities that they will follow through.

“It takes one individu al to change the mood of a group,” Papadogiannis explained. “Kuale is taking it from what they need to do to get mentally and physically prepared; they’re taking on additional things and mental energy becomes physical energy very quick.”

Whether a team is on a winning streak or having a losing season, like the Argos, the coach’s job involves a large amount of psychology. Faiz Ahmed is a fourth-year psychology and biology student, and plays on the UTM men’s basketball and flag football teams. The aspiring sports psychologist explains that Kaule’s prediction of a guaranteed victory shows an air of confidence that his teammates can either gladly adopt, or resist. When a player goes out on a limb and makes a bold statement, it affects the coach as much as it impacts the players.
“So much of coaching theory comes from sports’ psychology” Ahmed says. He explains that a coach uses specific techniques to develop mental toughness. The process of developing this toughness has four facets. The first aspect is “strong self-belief.”

Strong self-belief is something coaches look for in players to ensure that what they teach them will be understood and carried out in their performances. “Strong self belief is about confidence, like self-efficacy,” Ahmed explains. “A player has to trust his own abilities going into a task.”

The second aspect is “internal motivation to be successful.” This aspect reflects what drives an athlete to perform to the fullest, regardless of past performance. Internal motivation is divided into two parts: “intrinsic” and “extrinsic” motivations. Intrinsic motivation causes a player to perform well for their own personal satisfaction and is needed for an athlete to perform at a high level. Extrinsic motivation allows for a limited level of performance, since the athlete is motivated by outside forces like fame, friends, family, coaches, money or media.
The third side of mental toughness is “the ability to focus on one’s thoughts and beliefs without distraction.” A coach’s duty is to have their players prepared to focus on their individual and group tasks, whether on or off the field. Kuale’s prediction of victory presented an unconscious distraction for the team. Argonauts’ head coach Jim Barker’s job is to confront distractions like this and help the players ignore their effects.

The final aspect of mental toughness used by coaches is the “ability to compose oneself under pressure.” Different techniques are employed to keep an athlete’s mind at ease “Imagery,” “arousal regulation,” and “goal setting” are effective and commonly used techniques.
Barker, like other coaches, uses game film, communication, and repetitive tasks during practice to create “imagery.” Imagery is literally imagining yourself executing a task. When done enough times effectively, a person’s brain cannot differentiate whether what was done was real or imagined. “If a player imagines making a game winning play in their head enough times, when they go to do it, their brain’s going to be confident,” says Ahmed. “they’re actually going to believe that they hit it a thousand times in their head.”

Arousal-regulation constitutes “cognitive or physiological activation to maximize performance; that can be something like meditation or stretching,” says Ahmed, “Anything to help [athletes] play at their best.” Coaches use arousal-regulation to make players aware of their anxiety and excitement in certain situations. In a physical and emotional game like football, if a player is mentally aware and in control of how they feel, they can more effectively carry out their tasks.
Coaches use long and short-term goal setting before each season and each game. It is important that goals be visible to ensure accountability and collected awareness of the task at hand. Inside the Argonauts’ meeting facility at the UTM’s south field, motivational messages, inspiring quotes, and pictures of the teams past successes serve for goal setting.

When he took over the Varsity Blues men’s football team at the start of this season, head coach Greg Gary spoke of reversing the negative mentality that has plagued the team through many years of losing seasons. “We didn’t know how to compete; we had to learn how to compete and how to practice,” Gary said. “My task was to change that and change the culture.”

“You have to create a new-ness, inspire people, create optimism, show that it’s going to change,” Papadogiannis explains. “It’s called human capital in business. You need to get the people that move the ship to buy into the plan.

“You need to have a vision, place the vision, and then you have to follow through on it; you have to walk [the walk], and the players say ‘Wow! Coach is changing things, and I see it and feel it.’”

Was Kuale’s prediction more than simply motivating himself — a tactic to intimidate the opponents? “I don’t think our guys can think it out like that, in terms of it being a tactic,” Barker joked.

Kuale’s prediction failed to come true as the Argonauts lost 27–12 to the Ti-Cats on October 1. The player took responsibility for his one-tackle performance, but remained confident and did not regret his guarantee the week prior.

“I would still say the same thing this week; it’s about my team and I believe in my team.” Kaule said. “I will take responsibility for [Terry Grant’s 89 yard touchdown] run, because I am the linebacker.

“[We] were disappointed, but I know we’re not giving up. We’re going to keep pushing on for the rest of the season. There is still something to play for.”