A question asked, a question overlooked

July 5, 2024   ·   0 Comments


Just because you can, doesn’t always mean you should. That goes for some things done that may make others uncomfortable, just as it applies to one’s participation in the caustic world of social media commentary.

Melody Wiseheart is a transgender individual who identifies as a woman but still has male genitalia. Nothing wrong with that, in my humble estimation. I’ve had what I’ve felt were worse existential crises applying for jobs. Choosing which words to put to a page, even.

She’s made waves in competitive swimming pools. Those waves have even crested on international shores by way of foreign media picking up the coverage. Wiseheart is a member of the Orangeville Otters Swim Club. She competes in pools throughout Ontario, sometimes against teenage swimmers. In December, she swam against girls aged eight to 16 at a meet in Barrie. Wiseheart is in her 50s.

The competition was sanctioned by the sport’s national governing body. According to the rules, it’s perfectly fine that a swimmer that age competes in the same events as much younger swimmers. And so what? I’m not versed in the science behind any advantages or disadvantages that can be had by way of difference in arm length or muscle development in the pool. The only way I’d be caught in the water is if I fell out of a boat. Perhaps the pool is some measure of an equalizer that brings swimmers of varied ages into an acceptable competitive range of ability.

Just because you’re permitted, doesn’t mean you have to.

Before and after the competition, Wiseheart decided to change in the same room as those teen girls last year. That, I think, is key: that she decided to do that. Regardless of how she identifies herself, she has the genitalia of an adult man. The other swimmers were teens at various stages of puberty. According to reports, parents in the changeroom fashioned some sort of towel structure to give privacy for everybody changing. Privacy for Wiseheart and the uncomfortable parents and youths.

The matter was brought to the fore again when Charles Harnick, Orangeville’s integrity commissioner and a former Ontario Attorney General, released in May his decision about a municipal code of conduct complaint against an unnamed town councillor. His report was on the agenda of the last council meeting in June.

The integrity complaint stemmed from alleged comments made on a Facebook page called Orangeville Bitch and Complain. The council member remains anonymous because Harnick’s investigation didn’t find anything that contravened the municipal code of conduct.

The allegation was regarding social media comments made in January that the complainant was racist and hateful and the complainant was told not to use Orangeville public facilities.

Members of the social media page (it’s a private page, of course) debated a transgendered individual’s use of changeroom facilities at a local swimming pool. The complainant makes it clear in her various posts that she is vehemently opposed to the town’s policy regarding transgender use of changeroom facilities.

In his final ruling, Harnick wrote that she clearly states her position as follows, “I’m just not okay with a 50 year old born male changing with minor girls.”

The respondent replied to the complainant’s post by stating, “Your comments are hateful and disgusting. My Orangeville is inclusive to all races and sexual orientation. I am glad to hear that you will not be using our Orangeville facilities. Your racist comments are not welcome in our town.”

In his report, Harnick, a former Attorney General of Ontario, said the comment didn’t amount to harassment or bullying.

“It was but a single, albeit pointed, remark,” he wrote in his report.

What’s more, is that elsewhere in the commissioner’s ruling it’s noted that the comments on the Facebook page were actually misrepresented in the complaint to Harnick.

Social media’s corrosive lure: Just because you can, why would you?

There’s more coverage of the code of conduct complaint and Harnick’s ruling in this edition of The Citizen.

We’re all trying to get by the best way we can, inching toward some measure of happiness. But here’s the rub: If the best way you know offends somebody, why would you want to?

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