Transgender Rights and the Sweet Taste of Equality
The ongoing struggle for equality and transgender rights in our society is highlighted by the stories of Autumn Scardina, Jenne Vailoces, and many others who fight to restore long-overlooked rights. Their efforts have definitely made gender-diverse people more visible than ever before.
It is important to keep in mind that our society is far more diverse than any single narrative, but still, such stories can pave the way toward increased visibility and awareness. Visibility and awareness are two of the most powerful tools in challenging social divides, nurturing diversity, and building community.
The following stories are just two examples that highlight how we can bring light to the social barriers that marginalized communities continue to face. Despite recent progress, the fight for transgender rights is far from over and continues to demand attention and support.
Autumn Scardina, was denied service by a baker because of her transgender status
The Story of a Transgender Woman Who Was Denied a Cake
On June 26th, 2017, Autumn Scardina, a transgender woman, went to a bakery in Colorado owned by Jack Phillips, to order a birthday cake. She wanted the cake to be blue on the outside and pink on the inside, for six to eight people.
Phillips’ wife initially agreed to make the cake, but it was rejected by Phillips after Scardina elaborated that the design was a reflection of her transition from male to female, and to celebrate it on her transition “birthday”. Scardina filed a lawsuit against Phillips and Masterpiece Cakeshop in June 2019.
In 2021, a Denver District Judge ruled that Phillips violated the state’s anti-discrimination law by refusing to make the cake for Scardina because of her transgender status. The ruling ordered Phillips to pay a $500 fine, which is the maximum fine for each violation of Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act.
(Jenne Vailoces, Photo: Kohl Murdock)
The Story of a Bakery Shop Founded by a Transgender Woman
Jenne Vailoces, a transgender person, immigrated from the Philippines to the United States more than 12 years ago. At first, she worked as a physical therapist, but after reading reports of bakeries denying goods and services to the transgender community, Vailoces revisited her love for baking.
She opened Jennivee’s Bakery in Chicago’s Northalsted neighbourhood in 2016. She did so with the aim of providing visibility and employment for the LGBTQ+ and Filipino communities, inspiring other trans people, and creating a bakery where any person, including the LGBTQ+ community in Chicago, can be proudly served.
The bakery soon became a beloved spot, serving colourful cakes and cookies and creating more than 20 jobs in Chicago’s queer community. Jennivee’s Bakery thrived during the pandemic, with its Instagram page boasting 12K followers, and tons of five-star reviews on online platforms. It also became a place for the Filipino and Asian-American communities to come together.
Some Progress Has Been Made, but It’s Not Enough
Jenne Vailoces is not the only transgender person who has thrived. There are countless others that have managed to reach their goals, despite all the discrimination they faced. For example, Julia Levy of the University of Victoria is Canada’s first trans queer woman to receive the Rhodes Scholar award. She said in a CBC interview that she was convinced she didn’t have a chance. The scholarship is an international postgraduate award for students to study at the University of Oxford.
Quinn, a Canadian soccer player, is another good example. They became the first-ever openly transgender and nonbinary athlete to medal in the Olympic Games. “I feel proud seeing ‘Quinn’ up on the lineup and on my accreditation,” they said. “I feel sad knowing there were Olympians before me unable to live their truth because of the world. I feel optimistic for change, change in the legislature, changes in rules, structures, and mindsets.”
The transgender pride flag has 5 horizontal stripes of 3 colors—light blue, light pink, and white.
Quick Facts About Canada’s Transgender Demographic Profile
Canada is the first country to collect and publish data on gender diversity from a national census. In response to concerns raised by individuals who did not feel represented by the binary male or female options in the previous census, the 2021 census was modified to reflect societal changes toward transgender rights.
The precision of “at birth” was added to the sex question, and a new question on gender was included, allowing all cisgender, transgender, and non-binary individuals to report their gender. This bridged an important information gap on gender diversity while maintaining the historical continuity of the data.
The data released on April 27, 2022, by the Canadian government shows that:
- Of the nearly 30.5 million people in Canada aged 15 and older living in a private household in May 2021, 0.33% were transgender or non-binary (1 in every 300 people)
- These numbers translate into 59,460 people in Canada aged 15 and older who are transgender (0.19%) and 41,355 who are non-binary (0.14%)
- Close to two-thirds (62.0%) of the 100,815 individuals were younger than 35
- Just under 1 in 100 young adults aged 20 to 24 were non-binary or transgender (0.85%).
- Just over half of non-binary people aged 15 and older (52.7%) lived in one of Canada’s six largest urban centres: Toronto (15.3%), Montréal (11.0%), Vancouver (10.8%), Ottawa–Gatineau (5.6%), Edmonton (5.4%) and Calgary (4.5%).
- Nearly 1 in 6 non-binary people aged 15 and older (15.5%) lived in the downtown core of a large urban centre. This share was more than twice that of transgender people (7.0%) and over three times higher than that of cisgender people (4.7%).
Rainbow Cupcakes made by Jennivee’s Bakery (Photo: Chicago Asian Network)
Desserts and the Ongoing Fight for Equal Rights
Many marginalized communities, including trans people, still encounter discrimination in many areas of their lives, including employment, housing, healthcare, and education. In many cases, they struggle to access products or services that are commonly available to the rest of the public. They do not receive respectful language or recognition at work and often face discrimination in job offers or even wrongful termination.
Therefore, it is important to eliminate barriers that prevent these communities from participating fully in society to ensure that all people have access to equal rights, goods, and services: education, healthcare, shelter, and food.
Speaking of food, desserts have long served as tools to mark special occasions, create joy, and bond people together. In this sense, they inherently represent equality, serve as symbols of diversity and inclusivity, and can help raise awareness and visibility regarding topics that are important to address, such as transgender rights.
Everybody Deserves to Have Good Cake
Jennivee’s bakery offers a wide variety of colourful desserts, including ube purple velvet and tres leches cakes by the slice, mango cream cupcakes, brown butter chocolate chip cookies, brownies, and other pastries in a cozy space.
But perhaps her most important achievement is simply being there. As a transgender Filipina, she is a role model and inspiration to many. Anyone is welcome at Jennivee’s, regardless of their identity. After all, “everybody deserves to have good cake,” as she says.