Thompson Rivers University

Singer to deliver address sponsored by the world’s only Chair in Transgender Studies

September 27, 2018

TRU Law faculty member Samuel Singer has been invited to present a speech as part of a public lecture series sponsored by the world’s only Chair in Transgender Studies, where he’ll argue that advocates need to widen their lens to look at trans legal issues outside human rights law.

The presentation will be an instalment of the University of Victoria’s public Lansdowne Lecture series—featuring accomplished speakers from a variety of academic and research backgrounds—on Friday, September 28. The university’s current Chair is held by Dr. Aaron Devor, who has been studying and teaching transgender topics for over three decades and is the Founder and Academic Director of the world’s largest Transgender Archives.

“The Chair in Transgender Studies is committed to generating solid reliable information about the real world to drive social change and improve the well-being of trans, non-binary, and Two-Spirit people; and to supporting and building healthy communities by facilitating activities of interest to trans, non-binary, and Two-Spirit people and their allies,” says Devor. “Samuel Singer’s work advances these goals by shining a bright light on the important work that has been done, and the enormous work that remains to be done, in advancing the rights of trans, non-binary, and Two-Spirit people in Canada.”

While Singer’s research interests generally pertain to tax and charity law, he’s also a strong advocate for trans people. He’s applied his tax law background to publish an article evaluating the tax treatment of trans medical expenses, and in 2014 he founded the Trans Legal Clinic in Montreal and served as its supervising lawyer.

Most noteworthy among Singer’s relevant accomplishments is a research project completed for the Canadian Human Rights Commission, examining the historical evolution of trans rights. This research has been shared extensively with other human rights commissions in Canada, lawyers, academic researchers, government departments, employers and members of parliament.

Singer is honoured by his invitation from the Chair of Transgender Studies.

“For years I have admired the Chair’s support for trans research and the amazing speakers they bring to lecture at UVic,” says Singer. “It is really meaningful to me that I have been invited to speak and included amongst people doing such great work in trans studies.”

Singer’s research has been instrumental in mapping the historical development of trans rights, and the themes that have emerged in courts over time. His most recent trans research focuses on trans legal issues outside of human rights law. Singer argues that a thorough and intersectional approach to trans rights requires other legal tools beyond human rights to improve trans lives.

“I’m quite attached to the work that the Chair does in preserving trans history. Much of my public talk focuses on the lessons that we can learn from the history of trans rights in Canada,” says Singer. “While human rights have been an important tool to improve trans lives, trans legal history teaches us that many other legal areas are involved when trans people engage with the law for recognition, aid, or protection.”

While legal amendments providing for explicit equality under Canadian human rights legislation are a significant development, Singer argues that this extensive focus on human rights leaves out other areas of law that regularly intersect with trans people’s lives, including family law, youth protection and access to social benefits. They’re often challenged with legal issues that are not easily or immediately addressed by human rights instruments, and he’s concerned about the risk of limiting the legal narrative and future developments in trans rights to just human rights.

“We have much to learn about trans legal advocacy from the history of trans rights in Canada. I am excited to share stories of trans people actively using the law to find ways to protect themselves and improve their lives.”

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