Trans Comedian Avery Edison Files Human Rights Complaint

By Parker Marie Molloy

Originally published on Advocate.com July 07 2014 1:49 PM ET

Transgender comedian Avery Edison has filed human rights complaints with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario and the Canadian Human Rights Commission against Canadian corrections and border officials after being detained and housed in a men's correctional facility after trying to enter the country to visit friends.

In February, the 25-year-old comedian was detained by the Canada Border Services Agency at Toronto Pearson International Airport after border agents detemined that a student visa she held had lapsed. Edison, who lives in the United Kingdom, was planning to visit friends in Canada for three weeks.

Edison's complaints center around the fact that she was housed in a men's correctional facility, and treated with undue hostility and repeated misgendering.

"At Maplehurst [detention facility], in spite of Ms. Edison’s legal and self-identification as a woman, Ms. Edison was continually referred to as ‘he’ or ‘him’ or ‘sir,’" reads the complaint.

Originally, Edison hoped to simply put the entire experience behind her, but upon arriving home, she was approached by a number of lawyers who suggested that if she file a formal complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal and Canadian Human Rights Commission.

"[The lawyers suggested that] we could maybe affect some positive change in policy so that it didn't happen to anyone again," Edison told CTV News. "And that's absolutely something I would want to be part of."

While Edison took offense to being repeatedly misgendered, she tells CTV that the core of her complaint has to do with being placed at Maplehurst, a men's facility.

“There was a real feeling in the immigration centre that customs officials had no idea what to do with me, that there was no precedent for handling a transgender person and that there was really an arbitrary decision made,” Edison told CTV. "[Polices should] really defer to an individual’s gender identity, and where they would prefer to be sent."

While being detained, Edison managed to live-tweet her experience, highlighting fears and struggles experienced by transgender travelers. As she stated over a series of tweets, she understands that she wasn't detained as a result of her transgender status, but rather, her trans status simply made her experience worse than it would have been had she not been transgender.

Edison was released on February 13 and allowed to fly home to the U.K.

Contributor: 
Parker Marie Molloy