Transgender performance artists Lexi Sanfino and Nina Arsenault were arrested after a WestJet flight June 20. Sanfino caused a disturbance, strutting down the airplane aisle topless after a flight attendant rudely asked the friends for makeup tips: “You know, because you used to be guys, right?” according to the Toronto Star, though the Huffington Post reports the event was part of a performance art project.
Sanfino and Arsenault were arrested in Edmonton when the plane landed, Sanfino because of the disturbance and Arsenault because she refused to stop filming the RCMP officers arresting her friend.
The police addressed the women by male pronouns throughout the ordeal, and allegedly threatened to put them in the male prison. Arsenault, who has had extensive plastic surgery, said one officer even questioned her about her operations, asking her what parts she had “down there.”
The incident occurred just as Bill C-279, which would add gender identity and gender expression as prohibited grounds for discrimination to the Human Rights Act, stalled before the senate. Xtra reported June 24 that despite widespread support from senators, things don’t look promising for the bill, suggesting Conservative higher-ups may be blocking its progress. Opponents to the bill say transgender people are adequately covered under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
With Pride Toronto kicking off this week, LGBT activists from around the world, including Marcela Romero, are telling the senate to stand up for trans rights. The regional coordinator for the Latin American and Caribbean Network of Transgender People, Romero told Xtra: “We don’t want tolerance anymore. We want human rights.”