EXCLUSIVE: 'Expert' witness testifies that being a lesbian is transphobic in trial against BC nurse

“I do know,” the WPATH-affiliated 'expert' witness said, “in a lot of the research we’ve done, that there are lesbian-identified women who do have sex with people who have penises.”

Mia Ashton Montreal QC

On day two of the seven-day disciplinary hearing of British Columbia nurse Amy Hamm, under investigation for allegedly transphobic “off-duty” activity, the cross-examination of Dr. Elizabeth Saewyc, witness for the British Columbia College of Nurses and Midwives (BCCNM) continued.

Saewyc, who is Director of the University of British Columbia (UBC) School of Nursing and the head of the Stigma and Resilience Among Vulnerable Youth Center was called as an expert witness by the BCCNM. 

In her cross-examination, Karen Bastow, legal counsel for Hamm, explored Saewyc’s experience working with the LGBT community and her knowledge of the discrimination they face, as well as her understanding of the conflict between gender identity ideology and women’s rights. 

However, on the issue of the barriers to care that transgender people supposedly experience in a clinical setting, Saewyc was only able to provide anecdotal evidence derived from surveys conducted in her research, in which people who identify as transgender responded that they had been misgendered, or experienced other harms in the healthcare setting. 

It was put to Saewyc that Hamm, in her more than 10 years as a nurse, has never observed transgender people being denied care on the basis of their gender identity, nor being misgendered or experiencing other forms of discrimination. “That’s good to hear,” she responded.

The disciplinary hearing is the result of two complaints made to the BCCNM, neither of which were from patients or colleagues of Hamm. One was brought by an individual named Alex Turriff, who is a self-described social justice warrior politically influenced by Marxism, and the other complainant remains anonymous.

As Saewyc is a member of WPATH, Bastow inquired as to whether she agreed with the organization’s recognition of eunuch as a gender identity. “I have to admit I did see a chapter entitled that,” replied the witness, referring to the latest Standards of Care, “but I have not read that chapter.”

Still on the subject of WPATH, Saewyc was asked for her thoughts on the member who requested that pedophiles be referred to as "Minor Attracted Persons" in order to reduce stigma, but Saewyc was not aware that a member of WPATH had said but said she would not agree with it.

Confusion over terminology was a recurrent theme throughout the days’ proceedings, with Bastow using terms referring to biological reality, while Saewyc spoke the language of gender identity ideology. 

At one point, Bastow was asked by Brent Olthius, counsel for the BCCNM, who announced he/him pronouns, to refer to biological males who identify as women as “transgender women” because the College felt other terms were “disrespectful and denigrating.” This is a demand to concede that gender identity is paramount to biological sex in a case about whether or not that is a mandatory belief for a nurse to hold.

More confusion occurred later when discussion moved to the topic of the "cotton ceiling," a term coined to describe the barrier heterosexual males who identify as women and therefore believe themselves to be lesbians face when trying to find a lesbian partner. The term derives from the idea that biological males who identify as lesbians cannot get into a lesbian's underwear, which is because lesbians are same-sex attracted. Trans rights advocates have claimed that lesbians ought to be "same-gender" attracted and accept biological males who identify as lesbians into their pool for prospective partners.

Saewyc said that she had only come across the term in the materials provided for the hearing, but that she understood it to be a “barrier between transgender women and ‘cisgender’ women.” Bastow explains that it refers to lesbian women insisting that they will not engage in “sexual conduct with … biological men who self-identify as woman.”

“I’m not sure I can agree with the terminology you’re using,” replied Saewyc. “You’re … conflating sex and gender … 'men' is a gender term that refers to a gender identity.”

“Let me clarify. I do understand where you’re coming from,” said Bastow, who in fact did not understand where Saewyc was coming from at all. “Biological women who identify as lesbians object to the idea that they are to have sex with biological men who identify as women,” she explained.

“No, I’m afraid you’ve misunderstood me,” replied Saewyc. “If you’re talking about lesbian women who are biologically female, objecting to have sex with transgender women, whose sex assigned at birth was male, that may be what it is involving.”

“I do know,” Saewyc continued, “in a lot of the research we’ve done, that there are lesbian-identified women who do have sex with people who have penises.”

She also said she did not understand why lesbians would need to publicly state that they are only interested in females, that she couldn’t say whether it was transphobic without context, but that there could be circumstances in which it could be transphobic. She was not aware that lesbians are being banned from dating sites for specifying females only.

Yet more linguistic disparities were evident when the Canadian Women’s Sex-Based Rights (caWsbar) group was brought up, of which Hamm is a co-founder. 

Saewyc felt that caWsbar was clearly a trans-exclusionary group, but when Bastow pointed out that trans-identified females would be allowed to join the group, Saewyc was confused.

“I’m not sure that the group would be advocating for transmen because they identify themselves as Canadian Women’s Sex-Based Rights,” she stressed, “so they’re identifying specific genders and I’m not sure that transmen would identify with the gender of women, or would consider the group speaking on their behalf.”

When Bastow explained that the group advocates for biological females and includes trans-identified females in their advocacy, Saewyc had trouble understanding.

“They’re identifying a definition of women that is exclusively based on sex assigned at birth, and that’s not what gender is,” replied Saewyc who then went on to reiterate that “transmen” may not feel that the group represents them. “So they’re basically advocating for ‘cisgender’ women’s rights?” asks Saewyc, still not able to understand the use of sex-based language.

Saewyc didn’t feel that caWsbar’s opposition to teenage girls being given puberty blockers and testosterone and having bilateral mastectomies “aligned with health care guidelines.” Many of the public statements included in the complaint against Hamm are in relation to this particular issue.

Saewyc wasn’t able to comment on the findings of the Cass Review that some same-sex attracted youth were inappropriately transitioned by the soon-to-be-closed Tavistock gender clinic because she had not read the Cass interim report. The pediatric gender clinic in London is expected to close early next year as an independent review conducted by Dr Hilary Cass, former President of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, found that the service was not a safe or viable option for the treatment of children.


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