On the heels of back-to-back rallies in Edmonton and Calgary Saturday, hundreds of people joined a rally at the Alberta legislature Sunday in support of trans rights.
The rally was organized just days after Alberta Premier Danielle Smith proposed policy changes regarding transgender youth, gender-affirming care, sex education and parental notification.
“I really don’t feel that our government has the right to impose the policy that they’re putting in for schools, safe spaces save lives and as far as I’m concerned that starts in our schools,” said Nancy Dodsworth, who attended the rally. “This sends a message that we’re here for you and there’s support for you.”
“It’s really encouraging to see the turnout here, it gives me hope and optimism,” said Kevin McBean, a teacher at McNally High School in Edmonton. “I work with the (Gay-straight alliance) and a lot of trans kids. They’re really fearful about what’s coming with this, and they are scared about what it means for them, and the ability to be themselves.”
I hope the government is listening when we say this is not ok for trans kids.”
Liberal MP and Edmonton Centre representative Randy Boissonnault addressed the crowd, offering his support.
“I want to say to every transgender, questioning, gender diverse, queer person and their families and friends in this plaza who love them, we see you, we love you and we are there to defend and stand up with you,” Boissonnault said.
“Your children know, my children knew,” said Dodsworth. “They know who they are and they know where they are going, that’s why as a parent you have to support them. If you’re not able to support your child then you need to ask yourself why, not take it out on the school system or go to the government to impose that for you.”
Last week, Smith said the government will require parental notification and consent if a child 15 years or younger changes their name and pronouns at school.
She said parents of children aged 16 and 17 will not need to consent to the changes but will need to be notified.
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Parents will also be given the choice to opt their children into classroom discussions and instruction on gender identity, sexual orientation or human sexuality. All third-party materials regarding these subjects must be pre-approved by the Ministry of Education.
The policy also prohibits anyone under 18 from getting gender affirmation surgeries. Puberty blockers and hormone therapy will not be allowed for kids 15 and under unless they’ve already started treatment.
In a statement to Global News on Sunday, a spokesperson for the Alberta government said, “Some of the policies will be implemented through regulation and ministerial orders, while others may need legislation. In addition, some policy implementation will require consultation and feedback from various stakeholders. The Premier and cabinet will work together through this process with the goal of having these policies fully implemented by the end of the year.”
More than 40 groups across Alberta demanded the province to halt the proposed policy changes in a joint statement issued on Saturday, saying the policy will disproportionately harm the transgender community.
The statement, signed by 47 advocacy organizations and businesses across Alberta, called for an immediate halt to the policy. The groups also called on the province to consult with the transgender community and for the creation of new regulations based on established medical practices and evidence. Hundreds of people protested the proposed policy in Edmonton and Calgary on Saturday.
“The premier did a very good job of striking a balance,” said David Oulton, television host on Out TV. “These are very complicated, nuanced topics. People were asking for policy and asking for some kind of regulation to be implemented- and so I think she’s managed to strike an appropriate balance.”
“I think the nice thing that will come out of the policy, especially around teachers having to inform and get consent around pronouns, I think the beautiful thing that will come out of this is that it will force the conversation,” Oulton continued. “It kind of makes sure that everyone in that child’s village, so to speak, is there to support them and is there to uplift them. The premier did a really good job in that seven-minute video of reiterating that you are loved, you are supported and we are here for you.”
Tiffany Gillis, a transgender Calgarian, appeared on the Roy Green Show Sunday and said she supports the new policy and consulted with the premier on it.
“We went through each line of the draft policy as it existed at the time, which was very similar to what was released last week, and just went over whether there were any potential issues or things that could have been worded better. I was generally supportive of all of it,” Gillis said.
“I don’t think it’s playing politics. It’s a serious thing to go through. I struggled with gender dysphoria for a long time before I got help for it. But I know sometimes younger people aren’t sure of who they are going to end up becoming.
“I’ve explained it a couple of times this way, if you could promise me that this 13-year-old who is identifying as trans will grow up to be a trans adult, then they would benefit from starting treatment earlier. The issue is that we really don’t know for sure who is going to persist in their trans identity into adulthood and there’s a lot of harm in treating people who turn out not to be trans and then de-transition later on and go to regret it later on.”
Gillis, who works in Alberta’s oil and gas sector, said the majority of Albertans she’s run into are supportive of trans people.
“I’ve found that people are wholly supportive,” Gillis added. “Alberta and the oil industry are things that get a bad rap. I meet with a lot of people in the industry as part of my job. I travel to small towns around the province. I’ve never felt unwelcomed or threatened for being trans.”
–With files from Paula Tran, Global News.
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