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Anti-SOGI protests are not about kids, says 2SLGBTQIA+ person

Reid Smith (not their real name) stood amongst the counter-protesters near the Coles Building last week for the 1 Million March 4 Children counter-protest.

A child no older than nine approached, swearing at them.

“You’re going to hell.”

The protestors were vocally against sexual orientation and gender identity education (SOGI) in schools, and Smith was one of the many 2SLGBTIA+ people and allies who showed up to counter the march.

“I was shocked at the level of hate and anger at the protests. And I was shocked that anybody saying they wanted to ‘protect kids’ took their children there. It was a scary time."
“These marches are really about transphobic conservatism. The far-right are using ‘moral panic’ to help support their own conservative political agendas. What's worse is that they are using other marginalized communities to help further their cause.”

They worry these public displays will negatively impact trans and other gender diverse children.

“Statistically, we know that trans kids are more likely to contemplate and attempt self-harm than their cis counterparts. The trans community doesn't want your cis kid to be queer. We want your trans kid to stay alive.”

P.E.I. currently has the guidelines for “Respecting, Accommodating and Supporting Gender Identity, Gender Expression and Sexual Orientation in our Schools,” which state that “School staff must respect a student’s right to determine whether, when, how and to whom they come out.”

The guidelines go on to add that students will be encouraged to discuss their gender identity and sexuality at home if/when they feel comfortable doing so.

But New Brunswick and Saskatchewan have recently passed laws obligating schools to ask for parental consent to change a child’s preferred name and pronouns.

Smith said they don’t want to think about what would happen if P.E.I.’s policy was to change.

“Seriously, school can often be the only safe space kids have.”

And it can also be a safe space for adults like Kristopher Crocker, a trans man working in the childcare and education sector as an Inclusion Support Worker at a daycare.

He said his director told him a parent approached them saying it was amazing that they had a trans person working there.

Crocker knew his coworkers would accept him, but with the diverse group of kids – and a diverse group of beliefs – he worried it wouldn’t be the same for parents.

“I didn’t want that to affect my career in any way, which is so stupid that I had to think about that. So just hearing this parent be so happy that I am who I am made me feel so valid and so seen and that I’m allowed to continue to do what I love and be who I am at the same time, I don’t have to pick one or the other.”

In his experience, older kids tend to be more aware of things like gender identity.

“If I were to say like ‘I’m a boy,’ they would be like ‘yes, he’s a boy,’ and if someone made a comment like ‘no, you’re not,’ then I have like a group of four 12-year-old boys ready to defend me.”

On the other hand, the younger kids he usually works with are far less invested in his response to the question of whether he’s a boy or a girl.

“They don’t care. Will I sit down and play LEGOs with them? Yes. Then that’s all they care about.”
MLA Karla Bernard
“I’m always ready to fight.” – MLA Karla Bernard wants politicians to stay firm in their defence of 2SLGBTQIA+ rights on P.E.I. Photo by Ezra Santana.

MLA Karla Bernard said she believes compassion comes in the form of seemingly small changes.

“Something as simple as gender neutral washrooms, it seems so simple but what a difference it makes. It can help students in our school system and it takes down suicidal ideation. So, to go back on that I think would do more damage than had we done nothing in the first place."

The MLA said she doesn’t expect P.E.I. to take a step back on its current policy despite New Brunswick and Saskatchewan’s change.

“I think that is something that we can’t take for granted. I don’t think it’s ever something that we can be completely comfortable that we’re not gonna slide backwards. I think that with the stance that has been taken in P.E.I., I would be very surprised if we went backwards.”

She said politicians who are in the position to make these decisions need to be strong, firm and supporting of 2SLGBTQIA+ rights.

“To reverse those would look terrible on them.”

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My name is Ezra (they/them) and I’m an aspiring storyteller who is half-way through a Journalism and Communications program at Holland College, P.E.I. 

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