Rally in March 2023 at the U.S. Consulate in Toronto. Photos: Gru.
Rally in March 2023 at the U.S. Consulate in Toronto. Photos: Gru.

Attacks on Trans Rights Are Only the Beginning

I came out in 2017 or so, which makes me part of the 1-in-23 Gen Zs (born late 1990s to early 2010s) who identify as transgender, as opposed to 1-in-1000 Boomers (born 1946 to 1964). Obviously, there’s a large difference in these numbers.

Some might have you believe a “woke mind virus” is turning all the children trans, but the uptick isn’t too hard to explain; we’ve seen similar phenomena before. My grandparents would tie my left-handed aunt’s hand under the table to force her to write with the right, so obviously her generation has a low rate of left-handedness.

But lo and behold, when people realized we shouldn’t persecute people for being different, the rates of left-handedness spiked then leveled. Similarly, when I and other trans people began to realize that there was some tacit acceptance, even if was just through symbolic Pride flags flown at schools, we realized we didn’t want to hide our true selves.

Every trans person has a different experience with their gender, but at the end of the day, we all want one thing: the power to make our own choices. It’s something I hope everyone would understand. From a six-year-old who wants a new name, to a ninety-year-old who wants to be gendered properly by care staff, we’re only asking the world to trust that we know our bodies and experiences.

When youth are able to access puberty blockers (hormones to delay puberty, already used to treat early-onset puberty), gender-affirming hormones, and surgery when they’re old enough, their rates of suicide drop by a staggering 40 per cent. There is only a one percent regret rate across all trans people of every age, based on studies in the U.S., Canada, and Europe.

We know what we need, and it saves our lives when we get it. We’re not using it to creep around public bathrooms. Like the rest of you, Toronto, I’m just trying to live my life.

Yet, still, right-wing politicians, pundits, ‘edgy’ comedians, and even the nice lady up the street peddle the idea that the scary transgender people want to confuse the children and oppress all women. Everywhere trans people turn, someone is trying to cut us out like a cancer.

In Alberta, former UCP candidate Jennifer Johnson compared trans kids in schools to putting feces into cookie batter, insinuating that the presence of trans youth will taint every other child.

In Ontario, school boards are being flooded with anti-trans candidates, like Mark Paralovos who tries to deny the existence of trans and non-binary genders.

When Fae Johnstone, an Ottawa-based trans activist, was featured on a Hershey bar wrapper, she faced months of media and personal harassment calling her everything from a woman-hater to a pedophile.

Even more terrifying, the people behind these attacks have strategies in motion to change public policy. Republican states in the U.S. are already banning books, outlawing gender-affirming healthcare, and more. Those attacks are underway in Canada, like with the People’s Party of Canada recently announcing their campaign to “fight radical gender ideology.”

In June, New Brunswick changed their education policies so that trans children under 16 cannot change their names and pronouns in school records without parental consent. This is a move straight out of the Republican playbook, and one that asks students to weigh their safety at home against their safety at school.

Trans kids, trans adults, drag performers, gender non-conforming gay folks, women and disabled people who want to control their own bodies, sex workers, and Black, Indigenous, and racialized people across the gender and sexuality spectrum are all considered gender deviants by strict social conservatives who want everyone to conform to a white, Christian ideal of male dominance and female subservience. Attacks on trans people—especially those who already face other oppressions, like Black, Indigenous, or unhoused trans folks—are just a stepping stone on the way to attacking other, larger groups with stronger protections, including women and gay people.

Already in the Toronto streets, fascists are attacking drag queen story hours.

To the cis gay men watching Drag Race at Glad Day in the village: do you think the fascists see the difference between you and trans people? Do you think the war on all bodies will stop after it kills a generation of trans children?

Transgender people represent the diversity, resistance, and joy of bodily freedom. We also make up less than 1 per cent of the population, so we’re an easy target; we can’t fight these attacks alone. We need to stick together to stop this before it goes even further. Remember: if anti-trans bigots are successful, they will come after you soon enough. What is inspiring is that trans people and others are already resisting in Toronto. Students for Queer Liberation rallied for trans rights outside the US Consulate in March. No Pride in Policing Coalition educates on the importance of police abolition in queer movements. Organizations like Friends of Ruby and Supporting Our Youth (SOY) and Youthline support trans youth. There are more trans resistance groups, and there are also actions we can take in our own time.

It’s easy to shake our heads at book bans, but what if we started coordinated campaigns calling school boards and libraries to clearly state that we love their selection, or our elected officials to say trans healthcare needs to stay protected? What if we stood up for our trans neighbours by interrupting transphobic conversations?

And what if we started building strong communities where everyone is cared for and loved? Our fates are all tied, and we can’t afford to wait to see where the tide rolls in next. We need to shore ourselves up now, together.

This article appeared in the 2023 Summer issue.