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Movement growing to push trans people ‘out of public space’: expert

A Kelowna mom is urging others to step up and speak out after two people attending a school track and field meet last week demanded she somehow prove her daughter's gender. Kier Junos has the story.

An expert says more needs to be done to address a movement they say is trying to push trans people “out of public space.”

It’s been days since a Kelowna mom says a man demanded she somehow prove her daughter’s gender at a track meet in the Okanagan city, but according to Simon Fraser University Sociology professor Travers, these kinds of incidents are not uncommon.

They tell CityNews when someone targets a person they believe to be a trans girl or woman, it “reinforces an existing suspicion … that if a girl or a woman is too good at sports, she is somehow masculine.”

“So if you are communicating that trans girls and women are a threat to girls and women in sports — which [they] aren’t — then the girls and women who are a little bit gender non-conforming or who are particularly good at sport, who in some way look muscular or something, they’re going to be scrutinized even more than normal,” they explained.

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On Tuesday, Heidi Starr described the moments her daughter was targeted by a spectator at the school sporting event her girl was taking part in last week.

Starr says a grandparent of one of the other children walked up to officials and questioned the girl’s gender.

“After the gentleman said, ‘If they’re not boys, then they’re definitely trans,’ his wife then started shouting … that myself and parents who support trans kids are ‘genital mutilators’ — specifically said ‘genital mutilators’ — and that we were groomers,” Starr explained.

“My daughter was so shaken up. She has gay parents, she’s had trans coaches, she’s got a trans cousin — she’s well aware of the gender spectrum and orientation, but we have never, ever exposed her to the hate and the vitriol. It’s the first time she’s ever seen anything like that. It shook her to the core, she was visibly shaking, she was sobbing, she cried, she was in and out of sobbing tears all night.”

At one point, the mother said the man “demanded to see a certificate” proving her daughter is a girl.

“To subject a child to this kind of harassment – it’s really horrifying,” Travers said.

Travers notes, right now, there is an organized movement that is trying to push trans people out. This often affects cisgender people, too, they explain.

“There are more people who are becoming emboldened, who are being encouraged to drive trans kids out of sports, to drive trans kids, really, out of existence. And those kinds of campaigns have a negative impact on girls and women, cisgender, as well as trans, as we can see – this is a perfect example,” Travers said.

“For a while, it felt like some progress was being made that being anti-gay at least publicly or anti trans, at least publicly, was something that was going to, you know, produce a lot of criticism, but there was a very organized well funded movement aimed at pushing queer and trans people out of public space. We’ve managed to get into public space a bit. We’ve had some successes, and there’s a very organized movement is trying to push us back out of public space. And people like the guy who was harassing the girl at the track meet are feeding on this energy and are, you know, enacting it in daily life in a way that’s unbelievably damaging.”

While Travers feels there has been progress when it comes to official rules and policies to accept and support queer and trans kids in schools, they say they are “alarmed” by what they describe as a “shift in culture” happening in the U.S. and Canada.

June marks Pride Month across Canada. In May, the country marks the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, which commemorates the 1990 World Health Organization decision to remove the classification of homosexuality from its list of mental disorders.

Advocates told CityNews on May 17, 2022, that while there has been much progress over the years, a long road ahead remains. Despite attitudes and resources for queer youth having improved since the 1990s, many people say they still have fears for their personal safety.

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