By Eula Mengullo, February 7 2024—
On Feb. 7, the Q Centre and the Students’ Union (SU) at the University of Calgary held a walkout in solidarity with trans youth and Alberta schools in light of Danielle Smith’s newly proposed gender legislation.
A crowd gathered on the pride steps in front of MacEwan Hall where students and members of the Faculty of Education and Social Work showed their support for members of the LGBTQ+ community, chanting “We are not alone.”
Last week, Smith made an announcement in a seven-minute video on social media, outlining the province’s proposed policies and guidelines relating to trans youth. Some of these include the banning of gender reassignment surgeries, puberty blockers and hormone therapy, while also requiring parental consent for minors who have already begun their treatments. These proposed legislations have since sparked protests and demonstrations across the province.
One of the walkout attendees, Dr. Tonya Callaghan — an associate professor in the Werklund School of Education — highlights how these new policies would only further endanger an already vulnerable community.
“Those policies, while trying to purport that they are supportive of trans people are in fact the opposite,” said Callaghan. “It’s really an attack on an already vulnerable community that needs support, not vilification. We’re here to show that we support trans youth and trans adults in Alberta and that trans youth need to feel supported and safe in schools, and we’re protesting these policies which are just really a political dog whistle to [Danielle Smith’s] base.”
“Don’t use trans lives for political purposes,” Callaghan continued.
To make campus a more supportive and inclusive environment for the LGBTQ+ community, Callaghan remarked that it is important to celebrate the kinds of support that the university has to offer, but that gender-neutral washrooms need to be better situated and accessible.
“We also need faculty members to be aware of trans issues and know how to use pronouns and how to be respectful of trans students, and just assume that there are trans students among your classes,” said Callaghan.
“There is support, and even though the government would suggest otherwise, we are here to support them and we also are members of that community.”
This is echoed by Andy Bell, a gender and sexuality studies student, who is also a parent of individuals who identify with the LGBTQ+ community.
“I think these proposed policies are very dangerous for trans children, I think a lot of them are not ready to come out to their parents,” said Bell. “I know people who have come out to their parents and have been treated very badly. It’s not just one or two, it’s very common and these kids are scared to come out to their parents for a reason.”
“We’re putting these children in danger, they’re already at high risk of suicide and self-harm, and we’re telling them that we dont care, by doing this,” she continued.
In particular, Bell expressed that she felt strongly about the hormone and puberty blockers as it allows trans youth the necessary time to deliberate on how they should proceed.
“If you deny children, who know they’re trans, to go on puberty blockers until they’re sixteen, it’s too late. It’s irreversible, the damage has been done,” she said. “I think a lot of our young teens are going to be in crisis when they’re told they must go through puberty even though they have been clear about being trans.”
In her closing message, Bell emphasized that there is support in the community for those who are feeling vulnerable and scared about these upcoming gender policies.
“We love you for who you are, there are a few voices who are saying horrible things, but know that we’re here,” she said. “Do anything you can to reach out. There is help, there is love, there is support, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with you.”
SU Vice-President Student Life Ermia Rezaei-Afsah highlighted the need for the university to take a more proactive approach in offering support for vulnerable members of the LGBTQ+ community on campus.
“There are some [supports] that already exist, mainly the Q Centre, but that’s not the university that funds it, it’s the SU, the university needs to take an active step in combatting transphobia on campus,” he said.
“There’s been some initiatives by the office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion in the past couple of years and with Students Services but they’ve been lacklustre, all in all, there needs to be a more active effort towards it.”
For members of the U of C community needing support, the Q Centre is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday and also offers Peer Support either by walk-in or emailing at firstname.lastname@example.org.