Rise of Anti-transgender Rhetoric in Canada Makes 2SLGBTQIA+ Youth Unsafe

In recent weeks, several federal and provincial politicians have made public statements that signal potential policy changes that will adversely affect the rights and safety of 2SLGBTQ+, transgender, or gender non-conforming youth.  Minister of Education Stephen Lecce opined that transgender youth should be outed against their wishes if they make a personal decision to use their chosen name or pronouns; Premier Doug Ford then repeated the point at his Kitchener Fordfest; and the Conservative Party of Canada adopted anti-transgender policies at their recent convention.

It is NEVER okay to out someone – of any age – without their consent.  In making such suggestions, Canadian politicians are parroting right-wing extremists whose goals are to make life more difficult for trans people, especially trans youth, for whom life is, frankly, hard enough without transphobic comments from politicians.

This issue is being variously and disingenuously framed by conservative proponents as “parental rights,” or “protecting children,” or even more bizarre, “women’s rights.” It is none of those things.  It is, first and foremost, an attempt to demonize a marginalized group for political gain – typical “look over here” scare tactics to distract from government scandals.  This odious rhetoric has no place in Canadian politics or society.  Moreover, if such policies became law, they would actually make many youths LESS safe.

Outing students to their parents is an egregious attack on their privacy rights (even children have rights!) and could put them at grave risk.  Supportive parents are a true gift for transgender kids – something as simple as a parent using their trans child’s chosen name and pronouns can decrease suicidal ideation by up to 50%. But unfortunately, many parents aren’t supportive, and policies such as those being discussed do not help parents understand and help their children.  Outing transgender or questioning youth to unsupportive parents can be especially dangerous, in some cases leading to children being forced out of their homes. By some estimates, 2SLGBTQIA+ youth make up between 25% and 40% of homeless youth in Canada.

Homelessness, suicide, and other harm would be the result if these misguided notions about transgender youth become policy.  The Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto (MCC Toronto), which I have the honour to serve as Acting Senior Pastor, has been actively working with at-risk 2SLGBTQIA+ students for over 28 years.  As a place of worship and a place of action, MCC Toronto is a vibrant and progressive church rooted in the Christian tradition.  We are equally rooted in the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, and we are open and welcoming to everyone.

Since 1995, in partnership with the Toronto District School Board, MCC Toronto has housed and supported the Triangle Program, Canada’s first high school for at-risk 2SLGBTQIA+ youth. These are young people who would likely not otherwise have been able to complete their education because of bullying and violence. We know from long and painful experience the risks 2SLGBTQIA+ youth can face at home and in their schools, and we know how important it is to protect transgender kids – even sometimes to protect them from unsupportive parents – and definitely to protect them from ill-informed lawmakers who would endanger them and erode their rights.

As a leader in a Christian Church, I am appalled that much of the hateful rhetoric against transgender people is coming from churches.  Churches have become bullies, spreading hate and bigotry.  And if they assume that all Christians are against transgender folks, they are clearly wrong.  The church does not speak with one voice on this issue, and at MCC Toronto speak against the hate.  Some Christians understand that following God’s call to love our neighbour as ourselves means we should be advocating for MORE love and MORE justice for marginalized people – not making their lives more difficult and trying to take away their basic human rights.   Since 1973, the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto, has been helping shape Canadian values of inclusion, diversity, and equality.  The current climate of transphobic persecution – particularly from churches – goes against those cherished Canadian values, and it has to stop.

– Rev. Deana Dudley(she/her),
Acting Senior Pastor and CEO


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