An anti-trans epidemic has been sweeping across the landscape, and it is targeting transgender youth. What better way to kill off a generation of trans kids than implementing sweeping laws to remove their healthcare, prohibit them from participating in school sports, and generally creating an atmosphere of hate toward them.
Emboldened by Trumpism, lawmakers in the US are working overtime on passing bills that will lead to mental health issues, suicide, and suicide idealization by trans youth. Nothing would please the extreme right more than to have LGBTQ people legislated out of existence. They have tried and failed to a large extent. However, transphobia has been proven to be an effective political wedge. We have our own brand of this in Canada, with right-wing politicians talking of implementing ‘freedom of conscience’ laws around providing trans healthcare.
Other entrants in this war on trans are evangelicals. Their moral clad crusades have nothing more attractive to offer as a rallying cry than those against LGBTQ rights. After losing traction in their fight against marriage equality, they see trans rights as a soft underbelly open for attack.
One of the tactics in this warfare is the propagation of misinformation and lies. One lie is that it is part of the gay agenda to convert children to what is incorrectly labeled as ‘transgenderism.’ This has been a key tactic of groups who oppose SOGI 123 in schools.
The term mutilation is also used in reference to false claims of gender affirmation surgery on children. Medical misinformation about transgender treatments for youth, including the use of hormone treatments and puberty blockers, is prevalent. Dramatic talking points are created to instill fear in parents about what governments and schools will do to their children. The fact is, parents are very involved in medical decisions concerning their children, and medical professionals who treat trans youth are highly trained in performing psychological evaluations before any treatments commence.
Another talking point is transgender females having an unfair advantage competing in sports with cisgender females. There are no objective scientific studies that prove this theory. School sports are intended to be about well-being, inclusivity, goal setting, and teamwork, versus obliterating the competition. Nevertheless, the seeds of misinformation and scaremongering on this topic get propagated by those who are happy to click and share rather than do the homework to be properly informed.
What can we do to stand up for our trans youth and ensure they know they are loved and supported? It is of primary importance that our schools are safe spaces. This is one place where they are most vulnerable. School boards create policies for their schools, and parents have the democratic prerogative to ensure these policies support LGBTQ youth.
According to Dr. Kristopher Wells, Associate Professor and Canada Research Chair for the Public Understanding of Sexual and Gender Minority Youth at MacEwan University, in a recent interview with Global News, there are four important points for creating inclusive schools. First, Inclusive curriculum – LGBTQ2 young people need to see themselves positively reflected in their classrooms and textbooks. Second, finding supportive teachers, trusted allies that help create the safe spaces they need. Third, comprehensive standalone sexual orientation and gender identity policies, which set clear roles and responsibilities to support and protect LGBTQ2 students, staff, and families. Fourth, visibility and inclusion - using inclusive language, recognizing pronouns, and supporting student clubs like Gay-Straight Alliances. See the fact sheet.
Youth will follow the cues provided by adults. We can all do our part to be educated and ensure trans youth experience being valued and supported.
Wilbur Turner, who identifies as gay and queer, is a Kelowna-based writer and advocate who has contributed on many levels to LGBTQ rights, both locally and internationally.