We are alarmed and dismayed by the growing surge of anti-trans and anti-queer organizing in Canada, including calls for a protest against sexual orientation- and gender-inclusive (SOGI) education on September 20th both nationally and here in Whitehorse.
Inclusive educational spaces are vital to the safety and wellbeing of youth of every gender and sexual orientation. Seeing themselves, their friends and their families reflected in the curriculum has been shown to improve youth mental health, drastically reduce suicide risk and improve educational outcomes. This is true for 2SLGBTQIA+ youth, but also for their peers and for every child, teen and young adult who learns that they will be supported no matter who they turn out to be.
In the Yukon, we are lucky to have strong youth leadership and supportive educators creating safe Gender/Sexuality Alliances and Rainbow Rooms across the territory. The Yukon Government has enshrined protections for 2SLGBTQIA+ youth through Bill 304, adopted last year, and the Department of Education affirmed their commitment to inclusive schools with an updated SOGI policy this fall. Nearly 500 of you marched in this year’s Pride parades, with many local businesses and organizations stepping up to sponsor and support the events.
However, we cannot be complacent. Supporting youth requires ongoing action, and we call on our political leadership, local business and nonprofit partners, neighbours, friends and allies to take action now to show support for trans and queer youth and the educational environments they need.
Here’s how you can show up next week:
The Porter Creek Secondary School's Gender and Sexuality Alliance Responds to Protest Against SOGI Policies and Affirms Commitment to Child Rights
The Porter Creek Gender and Sexuality Alliance on September 19, 2023
PCSS Rainbow Room, Whitehorse – The students of Porter Creek Secondary School's Gender and Sexuality Alliance (PCSS GSA), wish to address the upcoming protest scheduled for September 20th by parents opposing Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) policies and curriculum in schools. As students who have been at the forefront of advocating for the rights and well-being of 2SLGBTQIA+ youth, we are deeply concerned about the impact of this protest on our community.
The PCSS GSA was formed in 2019 in response to the urgent need for support and safety for 2SLGBTQIA+ students who felt marginalized and unsafe, both at home and at school. Many of these students had experienced discrimination, bullying, and even violence, leaving them feeling dehumanized. In response, we established the Yukon Territory's first Rainbow Room, recognizing that a safe and inclusive environment is essential for effective learning.
Our journey for equal rights began when we advocated for the modernization and full implementation of the Department of Education's Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity policy. The completion of phase 1 of this policy update in the 2023/24 school year marked a significant milestone in ensuring safer and more inclusive schools for all students.
We also joined forces with the F.H. Collins Secondary School GSA to successfully petition the territorial government to ban conversion therapy, a practice we view as torture. Bill No. 9, The Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Protection Act, was passed unanimously in 2020.
Our commitment to promoting the importance of respecting youth's unique identities and ensuring their safety in schools led us to propose Bill No. 304, which was passed into law in 2022. This landmark legislation mandates that 2SLGBTQIA+ youth in Yukon schools are supported with safe spaces, activities and organizations, marking a pivotal change for students like us.
The AIDS crisis and the lost generation it tragically claimed within the 2SLGBTQIA+ community underscore the critical importance of SOGI inclusion in policy and curriculum in schools. This devastating chapter in history serves as a stark reminder of the consequences of discrimination, stigmatization, and a lack of education around sexual health. Including SOGI topics in education not only honors the memory of those lost but also ensures that future generations have access to comprehensive, inclusive knowledge that can prevent further suffering and discrimination. Parents who protest SOGI education often unknowingly perpetuate the same barriers to understanding and empathy that contributed to the AIDS crisis, emphasizing the need for compassionate and informed dialogue to promote a more inclusive and accepting society.
In addition to the pressing issues surrounding SOGI policies and curriculum, it's essential to acknowledge the alarming suicide rates among marginalized youth, particularly 2SLGBTQIA+ individuals. Studies have shown that these young people face a significantly higher risk of suicidal ideation and attempts due to the discrimination, bullying, and lack of acceptance they often encounter. Addressing these disparities in mental health and well-being is an integral part of our mission to create safer and more inclusive schools for all students. We believe that promoting understanding, empathy, and support for 2SLGBTQIA+ youth is not just a matter of policy but a matter of life and death.
We invite our local leaders in politics, religion, and other organizations to speak out against intolerance and ensure that our hard-won protections continue to save the lives of rainbow youth.
In response to the protest, the PCSS GSA will attend Child Rights Impact Assessment (CRIA) Training at the invitation of Yukon' Child and Youth Advocate Office (YCAO) and Communities Building Youth Futures (CBYF) Yukon. We will work with government, First Nations, and private organizations to ensure that children's perspectives are included in policymaking, aligning with the principles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which was ratified by the Government of Canada in 1991. The CRC emphasizes the rights of all children to be treated without discrimination and to receive an education that promotes tolerance, respect for diversity, and human rights.
We want to express our gratitude to our community members and allies for their unwavering support. Your presence today is a testament to the importance of standing up against adversity and discrimination. We thank Queer Yukon for its support of our group and the Two-Spirit, Trans, and Queer community at large.
We also extend our appreciation to those who have visited and supported the Rainbow Room, the PCSS Administration and staff for their ongoing support, educators from around the territory, and the Department of Education for increasing its focus on SOGI issues.
As youth leaders, we are aware of the growing polarization in the national dialogue surrounding 2SLGBTQIA+ rights. We call on all of you to rise up and speak out because, as we know, lives are at stake. We are committed to drowning out ignorance and hate with knowledge and understanding.
To those who are planning to protest against SOGI policies, we know that change can be hard. We've been in a place where it felt like the world was against us. But we found strength in each other, in our GSA, and in our shared belief that everyone deserves safety and acceptance. We transformed our own lives by advocating for change in our schools and our territory. Our journey wasn't easy, but it proved that coming together, fostering understanding, and embracing diversity can create positive change. Our story is a testament to the power of love, acceptance, and unity.
We want you to know that what we're advocating for is not a threat, but an opportunity for growth and progress. We're here to say that, from our perspective, the policies we're championing are the right path. They're the path to safer, more inclusive schools where every child can thrive without fear. We invite you to reconsider and join us in creating a brighter future for all children. Let's prove that love and acceptance can triumph over fear and prejudice.
Silence = Death
Students of the PCSS GSA
Yukon Students Take a Stand Against Transphobia: Calls for Safe Spaces and Factual Information
The Porter Creek Gender and Sexuality Alliance on May 3, 2023
PCSS Rainbow Room, Whitehorse, Yukon - The students of the Porter Creek Secondary School’s Gender and Sexuality Alliance (PCSS GSA) in Whitehorse, Yukon, are calling for increased support and safety for queer youth in the territory. The call comes in response to news that the public library of Whitehorse platformed the book "Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters" by Abigail Shrier.
"We were disappointed to hear about the platforming of this book, which contributes to a culture of fear and intolerance towards transgender people," said the students of the PCSS Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA). "This can make it difficult for queer youth to feel safe and supported in public spaces."
The students emphasized that safety and security are basic human rights that should be guaranteed for everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. They also noted that queer youth often experience discrimination, harassment, and violence in public spaces due to their sexual orientation or gender identity, which can have a significant impact on their physical and mental health.
"Experiences such as verbal or physical harassment, threats, and assault can lead to feelings of fear, anxiety, and isolation, and can have long-term effects on queer youth's well-being and their ability to participate fully in society," said the students.
The students emphasized that everyone has the right to access public spaces without fear of harm or discrimination, including schools, public transportation, parks, community centers, and libraries. They also noted that when queer youth are denied the right to feel safe in public spaces, they are effectively being excluded from participating fully in society, which is a violation of their human rights.
Since 2019, the PCSS GSA students have been advocating for safer and more inclusive schools in Yukon. They opened the PCSS Rainbow Room, a safe space for students, and successfully petitioned the Yukon Government to ban conversion therapy in the territory. The students worked with Lane Tredger, the Yukon's first non-binary member of the Legislative Assembly, to champion the passage of Bill No. 304. This critical legislation mandates that all schools in the Yukon have safe spaces for 2SLGBTQIA+ students through student-led activities and organizations. They are committed to advocating for policies that prioritize the safety and well-being of all students, regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation.
PCSS GSA students are taking action on Thursday by visiting the Whitehorse Public Library. They will be submitting review forms for Abigail Shrier's "Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters" book, which they believe promotes discrimination and transphobia. They believe the book also invalidates the transgender experience, misrepresents medical science, endangers transgender youth, and hinders understanding and acceptance in the community. The students are committed to creating safe and inclusive spaces for all and encourage others to join them in promoting factual and respectful literature.
The students of the PCSS GSA are calling on the Yukon Government to work with community partners to ensure 2SLGBTQIA+ Youth and their families are adequately supported, ensure all public spaces are safe for 2SLGBTQIA+ Youth and their families, and ensure that books in public libraries are factual and do not lead to the harm of 2SLGBTQIA+ Youth.
“Using trans kids for political gain is unfair exploitation, “said the students. “Many kids don’t even have a supportive home to return to after a day at school, so we need to ensure that everyone is doing their part to support and protect queer youth in the territory.”
Students of the PCSS GSA
Porter Creek Secondary School Gender and Sexuality Alliance Website:
The Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity:
Resources for Transgender, Intersex & Two Spirit People
Rainbow Health Ontario:
Families in TRANSition: A Resource Guide for Parents of Trans Youth
This afternoon the Yukon Government announced they had made the necessary regulatory changes to allow territorial health insurance to cover gender-affirming care in private facilities. They shared this letter with us for distribution to the 2SLGBTQIA+ community.
We're looking forward to developing a healthcare navigator position supported by YG to help people access this care.
The letters reads:
"To the 2SLGBTQIA+ community,
This letter is being sent to Queer Yukon Society, and I ask that it be shared widely with the 2SLGBTQIA+ community to increase transparency, awareness and understanding around access to gender-affirming care in the Yukon.
As of today, the Yukon government has made the regulatory amendments needed for gender- affirming care in private facilities to be covered under the Yukon’s Health Care Insurance Plan.
I want to acknowledge how uncertain the past few months have been, particularly for the transgender and gender-diverse Yukoners who have been directly affected by the delay in access to some gender-affirming care. Our commitment to increasing access to gender-affirming care has never wavered and we’ve worked to resolve the issues we were facing as quickly as possible."
Read the full letter here:
QYS has been hearing concerns from community members about delays and cancellations to gender affirming care for Trans, Two-Spirit, Non-binary and Intersex people. Earlier this week, Mona (our Executive Director) and Mira (our Health and Education Manager) met with YG's Director of Insured Health and Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services to bring up these concerns. We made it very clear to Health and Social Services that the delays and uncertainty caused by this move have huge negative impacts on people's mental health, and we asked them to communicate directly and transparently with community members who are affected.
Today, we received the attached letter. We are disappointed that YG chose to notify service providers before community members, and to address the letter to Queer Yukon rather than to the Trans, Two-Sprit, Non-binary and Intersex people affected by the change. But we are glad to be able to provide some clarity and transparency to community members and we will continue to make your concerns heard and share any information we learn.
Based on our conversation on Tuesday, we understand that:
YG is currently unable to pay for any services in private clinics (except for voice training), including surgery or hair removal. Access to hormones, and surgeries at Vancouver General Hospital, are unaffected.
This is a temporary pause, and there is a "written in stone" commitment to have a legal fix in place by the end of December 2022 and restart payment in January.
People who already have referrals in for surgery can work with their healthcare provider and YG to make sure they don't lose their position in line.
We've made it very clear to Health and Social Services that the delays and uncertainty caused by this move have huge negative impacts on people's mental health. We're pushing to have the wait times at Mental Wellness waived for members of our community who need support, and we'll let you know when we hear back.
Please take care of yourselves and each other, and get in touch if there's any support QYS can offer.
For questions & concerns email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Read the Yukon Governments letter below:
About queer yukon society
Queer Yukon Society supports, promotes, and organizes events for the LGBTQ2S+ community and our allies in Whitehorse, Yukon. Officially incorporated in 2018, Queer Yukon has been organizing Yukon Pride since 2013, as well as many other events to bring together LGBTQ2S+ and allied Yukoners to build a strong and vibrant community.