Hundreds of people gathered outside Calgary City Hall on Saturday in opposition to the Alberta government’s proposed transgender policies.
The central theme of the rally was the rights of transgender children, particularly those undergoing, or planning to undergo, gender reassignment surgery and hormone therapy.
Policies proposed by the UCP government last Thursday would ban gender reassignment surgery for those under 17 and hormone therapy for children 15 and under.
“The community is very scared, there are open discussions about the possibility of having to flee the province,” said Victoria Bughholtz, organizer of the demonstration.
She says there are also fears that this is the start of a larger-scale attack on transgender communities.
“The UCP is following a very well-established manual, which we have seen in the United States, Great Britain and other countries,” Bughholtz continued, “it is unlikely that they will stop doing so. “So it’s a major warning sign that things are probably going to get worse here for trans people.”
Also within the proposed policies, adolescents aged 16 and 17 will only be able to undergo hormone therapy or gender reassignment surgeries with the approval of parents, doctors and psychologists. Parental consent would also be required for children 15 years old and younger to modify their name or pronouns used by school teachers, administration and educational staff.
Parents of 16- or 17-year-old children would also be required to be notified by school staff if they wish to change their name or pronoun.
At a news conference Thursday, Prime Minister Danielle Smith said the new policies are a way to protect children from making irreversible decisions that would affect their biological development. Smith said she believes the policies strike the right balance.
Calgary-Foothills NDP MLA Court Ellingson said the policies threaten the well-being of transgender teens.
“The requirement that parents be notified puts trans youth at risk,” Ellingson said. “We know that some of those young people will be expelled from their homes and excommunicated from their biological families.”
He also said the policies would put additional pressures on teachers, who are already overwhelmed by increasingly complex and growing classrooms.
Bughholtz mentioned that the policies also create additional red tape, and that hormone therapy and gender reassignment surgeries are already strictly regulated and controlled by the medical profession.
“There are already professional medical guidelines that govern all of these things,” Bughholtz said, “Danielle Smith is not a doctor, she is not a physician, and she needs to stay out of this.
“The queer community is completely opposed to this, this will harm trans youth in our province.
Bughholtz says they want all proposed policies abandoned and suggested a panel of medical scientists be formed, along with representatives from the transgender community.
“Let us make our recommendations, about what we need and what is medically possible, and then implement them,” he said.
Ellingson added: “We’re in this together, it’s about sending a message to trans and queer youth who aren’t here today that they’re not alone.”
– With Postmedia files
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