Scott Douglas Jacobsen: What were some of the first moments of strange responses from the school and the community, if any, about the young trans student, your child?
Mother of Trans Child: There were no strange responses from the community at all. Her friends thought nothing of her living as her authenticate self and their parents were all very supportive. The strange response was from the school admin itself. We first had a meeting in January where an unnecessary amount of people were in attendance, including a priest.
The biggest resistance we received from the school was that what washroom she would use. I insisted on the female washroom and that was declined. It was then determined by the school that a single stall washroom would be deemed the “everyone washroom” all the kids in the school had the option of using what washroom they wanted the gendered washroom or the “everyone washroom”. My daughter’s choice was taken away and she was required to use the “everyone washroom only”. When I pressed about this, I was given reasons such as:
- It violates the rights of the “real girls.”
- There are no doors on the stalls in some schools, so she wants to gain access to the girls.
- It’s not segregation to force one student into a separate washroom. (Not only was she forced, she required an escort to attend the washroom with her. This was one of two of her closest friends).
This, of course, is the Coles Notes version of event… we could write a book with everything that has transpired over the last three and a half years.
Jacobsen: How did this become a ‘flash-point’ issue with the Catholic school system in that sector of the province?
Mother of Trans Child: After much debate between the school and I, and when they made their decision final to only allow her to use the “everyone washroom,” I went to the media as I was not going to allow my child to be treated differently. This is when one of the trustee’s, Patricia Grell, learned what was really going on in the school system. She came out confirming that my daughter should be able to use the female washroom. The school board and admin’s response was terrible citing such things as ‘God chooses the gender not the person’. After public criticism, my daughter was “granted permission” to use the female washroom. The story really blew up in September of 2015. There was a school board meeting that went astray. The meeting was to implement a policy allowing transgender students to use the washroom of the gender they identify with. This was truly one of the most disgusting displays of human behavior I have ever seen. It was this meeting that made the story international news.
Jacobsen: What were the feelings of your child, if I may ask, as well as yourself based on the reactions of the hierarchs in the school system and the publicity in the media over it? What has been the most hopeful, as well as difficult, part of the situation?
Mother of Trans Child: At the time my daughter was only 6 just turned 7, so her and her friends did not have access to media outlets and were not aware of what was truly happening. She knew that she was not “allowed” to use the female washroom and couldn’t understand why. Here I am trying to tell her, she is normal and there is nothing wrong with her and her response was, ‘Why then am I not allowed to use the girl’s washroom?’. She was confused on that part; when she was ‘granted permission’ to use the female washroom, she was elated. She was getting to truly live as her authenticate self. It’s truly been amazing to witness.
My feelings are a different story, lol. I was sad that a faith-based group would be so quick to judge and discriminate. That sadness turned into disbelief witnessing the corruption in the Catholic faith and listening to the accusations made about myself by the school administration (child abuse, money hungry, being divorced, and wanting a daughter so forcing her to do this). That sadness is now just disgust, how such bigoted individuals are allowed to teach and lead children is beyond me. Time, and time, again, we have seen the arrogance and disregard this system has for LBGTQ children as well as the Education Act. Yet, nothing is being done by our government to correct this.
There have been hopeful parts of this. It has been the people that I have met through this process. Some of my closest friends are my friends because of my amazing daughter. The most difficult part is now I suffer from bad anxiety as a result of the treatment by the school board. I find it hard to socialize and speak to people due to the anxiety I now have as a result of the last three and a half years of dealing with this. I truly understand why we are the first family to have filed a complaint against the Catholic school system in regards to this topic. They will do everything to attempt to beat a person down to the point where they just switch to the public system.
Jacobsen: Who were some faithful allies for the family?
Mother of Trans Child: First and foremost, Patricia Grell, she risked everything for a little girl she had never even met. She embodied what it meant to be a “good Christian.” She saw a person being hurt and accepted that person as they were. She would not and has not stopped fighting for my daughter. I know how difficult it was for me. I cannot even imagine having to work with those people and deal with that day in and day out. Grell truly is my family’s guardian angel.
Thomas Lukaszuk is also another big ally for us; I brought him the situation just before the election happened. While working on his campaign, he still advocated for my child. After the election, and when he had no vested interest, he still continued to advocate for her.
The former director of the Pride Centre Micky Wilson, who is now one of my closest friends, has always been willing speak to anyone who seeks understanding on this topic.
Dr. Justin Petryk and Dr. Lorne Warneke are also huge allies, and then many friends and family as well.
Jacobsen: What do you think should be done moving forward?
Mother of Trans Child: Moving forward, I think the government needs to take a more aggressive approach. To date, they have had consultations and conversations. However, the Catholic system still finds ways to challenge the authority. They truly believe that religion is above basic human rights and have shown that they do not have the best interest of the child at hand. The Minister of Education needs to amend the Education Act to outline any confusion the Catholic school board and any religious figure may have about human rights. One might say well that’s is what the Human Rights Act is for… my response is, “Yes, I agree. However, the school system keeps referencing the School Cannon Law, which is tied into the Education Act. There is no harm in having it (human rights) outlined in more than one place.”
Jacobsen: Any final feelings or thoughts?
Mother of Trans Child: I just truly hope that the NDP step up and act as they promised they would. So far there has been nothing up empty threats by the government. Now, with a new school board and trustees pledging their responsibility to the archbishop rather than the students, we are going to need more than just words. We see the arrogance as recently as this week; after the minister has said, “No,” to a Catholic teaching sexual education program. A release of said program was still leaked. This type of teaching is extremely harmful to an already vulnerable group of children.
Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time to share your story.