Brae Carnes started an explosion of criticism regarding the Canadian government’s treatment of transgender rights. When Senator Plett attached an amendment to Bill C-279 (a bill sponsored by NDP MP Randall Garrison which supported transgender rights) that would force transgender persons to use facilities (washrooms, change rooms, etc) that correspond with their gender at birth, Brae Carnes took personal advocacy of transgender rights to the next level.
Carnes, a transgender woman, began taking selfies in male washrooms and posting them to social media platforms with the caption #PlettPutMeHere. This innovative and frank criticism of Senator Plett and the amendment he spearheaded has touched many of us, and opened many eyes to the issue of transgender rights.
OntarioKink was lucky to have been able to speak with Carnes and here is what she had to say about #PlettPutMeHere, Bill C-279 and transgender rights in Canada:
OK: Can you briefly explain Bill C-279 and the amendments proposed by Senator Don Plett that started your awareness campaign?
CARNES: Bill C-279 includes many things, but most importantly it was meant to add “gender identity” as something to be protected under Federal Law, so hate crimes could not be committed legally based on one’s gender identity. Donald Plett made amendments that have pretty much destroyed the bill, however if the bill did become law trans* people would not be able to use the federal sex-specific washrooms of their choice. His reasoning was that it would prevent men from dressing as women to enter women’s spaces (i.e washrooms) and commit assaults or other offences. What Plett failed to recognize was the impact this had on the trans community, and was further noted as calling trans women men, and trans men women.
OK: What do you think of the similar Bill in Florida (House Bill 583)?
CARNES: I don’t know much about the specifics of the bill, but I do think anything that provides a legal basis for discrimination is a huge step backward for the state and country.
OK: Explain to us the thoughts behind the political awareness campaign you have started and how it all began.
CARNES: My first thought was anger. I immediately thought to myself “this guy thinks I belong in the men’s room. I’ll show him how ridiculous his thinking is”. I then made the “Plett put me here” sign, which I wrote in lipstick backwards so it would show up in the mirror selfies. After those garnered some attention I continued to do it without the sign and created the hashtag #plettputmehere. I wanted it to draw attention so we could show how silly the amendments were, and hopefully have them revoked. I just want gender identity to be recognized and protected under Canadian Law. I want to show the world what Senator Don Plett did, and how he has robbed us of our birth rights.
OK: What made you use the ever popular “selfie” in such a political act?
CARNES: I just needed a picture of myself in the men’s room and used my phone… I’ve lived half my life with selfies, to me it’s just a way to take a picture.
OK: How can people who are not transgender help and be involved in making positive changes, personally and politically?
CARNES: Writing letters to the senate has and is a great way to sway the opinion within the senate. Also spreading articles that highlight trans issues and awareness are always helpful.
OK: How do you hope to affect change? What practical aspects (if any) are alongside your social media campaign to raise awareness and counter this amendment?
CARNES: I would like to see the amendments revoked and Bill C-279 passed without amendments before the election. This is unlikely to happen, so I simply hope that in the fall the conservatives are not in power and we can try yet again to get gender identity protected.
OK: Are there any organizations that are effectively working to support trans rights?
CARNES: There are many organizations, some in universities, some in the public. However I do not work with any right now.
OK: What lessons or education do you hope to get to the general population? What is your message?
CARNES: I want them to know what has happened, I want them to know that Trans people are the victims and have been fighting for decades to have the same rights as every other Canadian. I want the public to see how Transphobia is present within our government, and that it needs to end.
OK: What personal risks does this amendment create for transgender people, in regard to safety?
CARNES: If the amendment was made law we could be charged or fined for using the “wrong” washroom – that or the owners of said washroom would be targeted. It also creates a legal basis for discrimination and would give transphobic right winged thinkers to continually oppress trans people.
OK: What, if any, backlash have you received since you started this? What support?
CARNES: The support has been unbelievable, from radio stations to websites globally there has been so much support. I have received thousands of Facebook friend requests and messages of positivity. There is of course some negative backlash, however I do not feed into those who have been poisoned by fear or hatred.
OK: What has the response been from the trans community been?
CARNES: The trans community has been very thankful to me. They see me as a protector of their rights. It is somewhat overwhelming but good to say the least.
If you’d like to take your support further, please voice your support of Bill C-279 by sending an email to members of the Canadian Senate. You can find their email addresses easily by clicking here. You can also thank NDP MP Randall Garrison for taking a stand for transgender rights, and encourage him to continue his worthwhile effort, by emailing him at Randall.Garrison@parl.gc.ca.