Oger vs. Whatcott: Human Rights Tribunal Removes Our Most Important Rights
by Jonathon Kneeland
When legislators are wise, they avoid, as far as possible, framing laws in such a way as to compel conscientious men to choose between sin and what is legally a crime. – Bertrand Russell, Authority and the Individual
The transgender debate has now reached the mainstream and it's very likely that you fall into some category of citizen affected by at least some of the propositions put forward by transgender activists. It's also likely that you might be able to go through life ignoring this growing debate; however, I think that would be a moral mistake that could come back to you in the form of unintended consequences at some point down the road. In my opinion, it's nearly always a bad idea to lie, and it's always a terrible idea to lie on the whim of self-serving political activists. If you're willing to lie about biological reality out of a fear of not being politically correct, then you can be made to lie about anything. This would make you a poor citizen, and your theoretical role in state sanctioned atrocities in past historical periods should be clear to you. There's no need for you to fantasize about how you would have stopped genocide or refused to participate in it had you been there at the time. If you're willing to lie to avoid negative comments on social media, then it's unlikely that you would have behaved admirably in more serious times or under more serious circumstances. This fact should get you to thinking about your own role in our society and how you might improve things by simply telling the truth, or at least by refusing to go along with lies.
A recent decision by the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal has now put aggressive activists in the position of being able to claim that you, as a fellow citizen, must accept and repeat their incorrect assertions as your own and must also refrain from making your own opinions known if they conflict with those of trans-activists. A transgendered woman named Morgane Oger filed a human rights complaint against a religious fundamentalist named Bill Whatcott. The incident that sparked the complaint was that of Whatcott distributing flyers condemning Oger's transgenderism, as a moral defect complete with disease and mental illness, while Oger was in the middle of a political campaign. Whatcott was ordered to pay Oger $55,000.00 for "injury to her dignity, feelings, and self-respect." It's worth noting that $20,000.00 of the penalty was imposed for Whatcott's refusal to acknowledge Oger's claim of being female and for exhibiting deliberately inflammatory behaviour during the hearing. It's clear that Whatcott does not recognize the legitimacy of the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal. I share in this feeling, especially after reading the decision. It was a little too much like reading some terrible BuzzFeed article. It also looks to me like political activists sharing the spoils of war by awarding other political activists the possessions of a defeated foe. This to me is a nightmarish precedent and seems like the kind of thing that should never happen in a modern democracy that claims to operate under the rule of law.
I'll make clear again, as I've done elsewhere, that I have no objection to transgenderism in general. I differ from Whatcott in that I don't view transgenderism itself as a barrier to political participation. Whatcott claimed that it was Oger's lifestyle that should be a barrier to being elected to a public position and he seemed to have no regard or interest in Oger's political positions. I view this as his right. I mention the difference between Whatcott's and my own position for an important reason: I wish to categorize and make distinctions between the various groups affected by the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal ruling as well as trans-activism in general. They are not all the same and it's important that they are not all lumped together and labelled as the product of "bigots" or "transphobes" as they frequently are. Before I do that, I'd like to go off on one small tangent that I can't resist.
Whatcott was taken before a tribunal that appears to ignore his Charter rights in regards to free expression. I hear nothing on the news about this fact. There is no army of lawyers jumping into action to fight on behalf of maintaining our right to freely express ourselves. Just by coincidence, our provincial public auto insurance corporation just announced that they were going to cap minor injury payouts and also settle some claims through a tribunal process instead of through court. Our obese and repulsive lawyer fueled ambulance-chasing industry immediately banned together and is now very publically vowing to challenge the government's new insurance rules in court because, "tribunals will limit citizen's access to their Charter rights." I can't help but notice how virtuous and determined our lawyers instantly become when easy access to an endless supply of public cash – amounts determined by the ability to exaggerate multiplied by how many feet underground the lawyer's moral compass is buried – is under threat. Yet, on the single issue that is the heart of our democracy – free expression – they seem to have disappeared and fallen silent. Lawyers are not a protected class and I hope to see much vitriol coming their way over this obvious ethical failing.
And now we'll move on to the categorization of various groups affected by the transgender movement and the Human Rights Tribunal ruling. All of these groups have valid arguments in one way or another. The important question is how, as a society, we can make room for all of these views.
There is no question that transgendered people face discrimination and barriers that many other people do not face. There have been, still are, and will be more cases of unprovoked violence against transgendered people simply because they are transgendered. There are likely barriers to meaningful employment and the pool of romantic partners is likely very small or at least more limited than it is for other segments of our population. For all of these reasons, the position that special protections are required is a valid one; although, I think that the protections demanded, and offered, will be counterproductive and backfire. Some transgendered people claim, believably in my opinion, that they face far more discrimination than other groups. This is a reasonable claim. I'm willing to concede that these arguments are valid and that some remedy is required. My dispute with some people would be in the solutions to these problems and not in the existence of them. I'm willing to grant all of their claims of discrimination and unreasonable barriers to real equality. It's on the solutions that we have a disagreement.
My personal position is one of wishing for the maximum of personal freedom for every person in our society. If it's not illegal and you're not harming anyone else then you should be able to do it. I don't grant myself, or anyone else, the right to prohibit someone else's lifestyle or behaviours on the basis of personal subjective morality. That being said, I think it is reasonable to warn someone if you feel that something they are doing will cause them harm. If you really believe that, and you have the power to warn them, then I would argue that you have a moral obligation to do so – especially when it comes to young people.
There is a new and growing movement of people who transitioned while too young and are now "de-transitioning" and attempting to warn others. I don't think it would be morally acceptable to try and silence them. This is despite the fact that many of the things they are going to say are going to be in direct conflict with our new human rights legislation as it relates to transgendered people. Here, the identity politics racket puts itself in a bit of a knot, as we know how much they like to go on about "lived experience". When there's a lived experience that is in opposition to their political goals, they suddenly want to ban the telling of that experience as "hate speech". We've witnessed this play out recently in the public dispute between Morgane Oger and Jenn Smith – also a transgendered woman. Their views on the politics of transgenderism are in direct opposition to each other. Oger claims that trans women are women and Smith says that they are not. Oger has put much effort into silencing Smith and has threatened that Smith's views on the arguments amount to prohibited hate speech – this is a direct threat of a human rights complaint. It's very easy to see how absurd and messy things quickly become when we stifle free expression.
My main objection to the Oger vs. Whatcott decision is that they have no business interfering in the free expression of citizens. My secondary objection is that they are actually harming transgendered people by taking such positions. There has been a visible backlash since the decision was released. I think it's reasonable to suggest that this decision, along with the ideology behind it, has done more harm to public opinion of the trans-movement than any other factor. Canadians are decent people overall. If you let them hear all of the arguments and make up their own minds I am confident that most people will come out on the side of reasonableness and compassion. If you try and limit what they can say or hear, they are likely to suspect you of using underhanded techniques to advance sinister motives.
I think it would be good if a transgendered person were to be elected into a public position. Government, in a healthy democracy, should be representative of all citizens. Whenever an underrepresented group manages to get a member of their group elected, I think it benefits our country and lowers conflict overall. We could use a little less conflict. However, we need not discard the most important features of our democracy to achieve this. I would never want to see anyone in government who wishes to silence others. A person like that has no business in a position of power.
Devout religious people of some faiths object to the transgender movement for reasons that I personally find absurd. Whatcott's religious objection is of the kind that begins with a faulty premise: "God wants..." or "God designed..." and "therefore..." Whatcott makes two basic and important errors in logic here. First, he cannot offer us even a remotely plausible theory as to how he knows God exists. Second, if we let Whatcott off the hook and grant him God's existence, Whatcott would still be left to explain how he knows God's mind. If God created man then presumably he created people with a desire to be transgendered. In this case, it would be Whatcott who was interfering in God's design by trying to discourage the practice. And the level of arrogance that would be required to take up God's work and implement your own perception of his ideas as the unquestionable rules for all is beyond what could be considered compatible with a civilized society.
Whatcott's belief that transgenderism violates the wishes of God should carry no more weight than my belief that a unicorn in the forest spoke to me and told me that personal injury lawyers should be forever banished to the desert. Neither of these beliefs should be banned by the government. Neither of these beliefs calls for violence or cause harm to anyone.
If a personal injury lawyer felt deeply troubled by my belief that he should be banished to the desert then I would question his sanity. If he simply rolled his eyes and thought me either delusional or an idiot, then I would be reassured. There is no need for the state to intervene here and to defend the offended group from my theories or to protect their feelings. Let me state my opinions and let people respond. And wouldn't it be more helpful overall if people knew that this is what I actually thought? Wouldn't they be able to make more thorough assessments of me?
Whatcott's position does contain something important that can't be ignored: He actually believes it. He appears to believe it very deeply. For this reason, I say we have no right to prohibit him from expressing his position. His views are unpopular, likely misguided, and offensive to some people. But this is no reason for the state to use its power to silence him. The whole history of human improvement has been based on people putting unpopular ideas forward. Instead of banning the ideas, we ought to welcome them and argue over them. That is the only way to make real progress. The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal has removed his right to state his opinion. This has made us all, including transgender people, a little less free.
The idea that the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal decision has made transgender people less free and less safe is easy to demonstrate. In addition to protecting "gender identity and expression" from criticism, human rights regulations also protect religious groups from criticism. This necessarily leads to the silencing of people who criticize religion and some of its more vile elements.
One of these vile elements is the belief that mobs have the right to enforce God's will with whatever means necessary. If you take an ignorant and delusional mob, poison it with an ignorant and delusional belief, you're going to end up with violence and cruelty. In Paris this year, a transgendered woman was attacked by a group of Algerian Muslims speaking Arabic. She was punched, pushed around, and had beer poured on her. The video is disturbing to watch. It's also disturbing to know that transphobia, homophobia, and anti-Semitism – the violent kind – are on the rise in Paris. This is because in much of Europe it has become unacceptable, and in some cases illegal, to criticize Islam. This is the terrible trap that well meaning but unthinking human rights activists dig for themselves and for everyone else. It is extremely important that all citizens be able to freely express criticism of anything they like any time they like. Let the ideas flow freely and let people argue about the merit of the ideas.
My particular objection to the transgender movement, or rather, a single component of it, is based in my being an atheist, skeptic, freethinker and secular humanist. I hold the right to maintain these ways of thinking very seriously and very deeply. I will never lie on behalf of my government or on behalf of any political movement or activist agenda. I have done enough reading and have a deep enough understanding of history to know that officially mandated lies lead to decay and then ruin. And they always start with small lies. I won't do it, ever. If your political ideology requires lies to advance or sustain, then there's something seriously wrong with it.
Men cannot become women or vice versa. This is my position. It's a position based in science and reality and it's solid. I will not move on this point until sound evidence to the contrary has been produced. Show me real evidence to the contrary and I'll evaluate it honestly and without bias. So far, there is nothing that could be considered remotely convincing in this area. You could just as well demand I agree that a son gives birth to his mother. I'm not going to believe it unless you provide evidence that clearly demonstrates that it's the case. Lots of luck to you. You've got some real work ahead.
This is my sole objection. And generally, it is the objection of genuine atheists, freethinkers, skeptics, and secular humanists. The phrase "trans women are women", so often mindlessly parroted by serious virtue signalers or fanatical activists, is an affront to any genuine member of the above movements. It's an assault on reason and common sense. This is however, my only objection.
It makes no difference to me how other people choose to live. This is what distinguishes my objections from Whatcott's, or from that of the Islamist thugs in Paris. I hold no moral position on transgenderism. It is simply a matter of my right and duty to remain loyal to reality.
In this way, it is some in the transgender movement who are the aggressors. They have no right to claim victim status while using state power to impose their religious worldview on others. I do not impose my worldview on them, yet, they attempt to impose theirs on me by way of demanding that I lie on their behalf. I'm not going to do it, and they can't make me. I will continue to respect their right to live as they please; continue to fight for their right to be free from discrimination or harassment; continue to fight for their right to freely criticise ideas – even mine; but I will not lie for them. I won't lie for any political movement or ideology.
If the B.C Human Rights Tribunal wants to use its power to remove this right from people like me, then it ought to change its name. The ability of citizens to make observations about the world and then to truthfully express those observations is a deeply held and serious human right. It is this right that paved the way for all other rights. Without it, no society can hope to improve. It is sinister and diabolical that an organization with state power would pretend to advance human rights but in reality use its power to remove the most important and universally desired human right in the history of civilization.
The feminist position against the radical portion of the trans movement is the most pragmatic of all the objections. The objections of the freethinker or the religious fanatic, as described above, are abstract arguments compared to the arguments of feminists, or more broadly, to women in general. The religious fanatic could be told to get lost and get over it – there'd be no real harm in that. The freethinker could be told that the right of trans women to avoid discrimination is more important than the idea of telling the truth all the time. It could be argued that my desire to tell the truth is simply the notion of an idealist and has no real world value as an argument, and is outweighed by the reality of human suffering. Women, however, are left to deal with the outcome of this argument in places such as women's rape shelters, women's sports, and women's prisons.
When a woman has experienced violence, brutality, or sexual abuse at the hands of a male, I think it is a duty of society to allow her the ability to escape to a place free of men. She should not, at that point, be expected to start producing philosophical arguments to justify her position. No man has a right to place his wish for convenience or acceptance of his personal desires above the right of a female who has experienced real trauma. I say convenience because there are facilities that will accept abused transgendered women. There is absolutely no reason – other than to exert power – to allow men into shelters where they are not welcome. A woman would have already had male power exerted over her if she were at a shelter to begin with. What exactly is the purpose of forcing the victim to endure further displays of male power over her? This looks to me like a serious moral crime and a massive injustice. No organization should partake in something as hideous as this and use the term "human rights" in its name.
Biological males have not only demanded access to women's rape shelters, they are now barging their way into women's sports. If current trends continue, it is only a matter of time before biological females have been completely eliminated from their own sports divisions. Because of the efforts of human rights organizations and militant trans activists, biological males are now competing in women's divisions. If you have daughters in sports, you will eventually find they will be unable to ever earn a first-place medal. If they are in contact sports or combat sports, they will face an increased risk of injury. Do women have a right to compete under fair circumstances or not? Would this not be a natural "human right"?
One of the darkest and most depressing parts of our society has to be our prisons. People end up there after everything has gone wrong in their lives. Very few people were born destined for prison. I can't help but think that many women who end up there have had miserable and difficult existences. Being slightly old-fashioned, I'll also say that many women who are in prison have likely been let down or abused by men in their lives who should have been caring for and making sacrifices for them. I realize that this is a double standard, but I live in a country where I'm free not only to believe what I want, but also to express my beliefs. Could we not all agree that a woman who is in prison is particularly vulnerable? What kind of organization would insist that biologically male prisoners be allowed to choose to live in a female prison? Why would that desire take priority over the right of women to avoid being sexually assaulted by males while captive in prison? Again, what is a human right, and who gets to determine their order in the hierarchy of rights?
If our society is to be diverse and free, then we must make room for everyone. By diverse, I mean intellectually and politically varied. The diversity that is peddled in our media and by our liberal politicians is not diversity – it's enforced uniformity. It is political tension, caused by real diversity, that maintains balance and harmony, and it is foolish to use state power to favour one political ideology over another. It is also foolish to silence any one segment of our population. Short of calling for violence, there is no speech that should be prohibited by the state. Let people share their ideas and let us all argue about those ideas. There isn't a person in the world that I trust to decide for me what I'm permitted to hear.
There was no reason for Oger/Whatcott to end up in a tribunal hearing. Whatcott exposed himself as a deluded fool and Oger could have simply said as much and moved on, and we would all know a little more. The usefulness of our Human Rights Tribunals has obviously ended. They are now doing damage with impunity and have fallen into absurdity in an effort to keep the hurt-feelings industry going. Where do we line up to collect the cheques? I'd like $25.00 each time I'm forced to roll my eyes at Justin Trudeau. Actually, I don't want any money. My right to respond to a proposition with an argument is worth more to me than the incoherent ranting and arbitrary award of any tribunal. The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal has succeeded in removing a fundamental human right from citizens. For this, they should have their authority revoked. And where are all these bloody lawyers who jumped out of their chairs the second they heard that accident victims might lose access to their Charter rights? Are our Charter rights important or not? Or is it only the ones that protect cash grabs that are worth defending?