A letter from the students of the Porter Creek Secondary School's Gender and Sexuality Alliance
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: email@example.com
Read the Yukon Governments letter below:
A letter from The PCSS Rainbow Room
As some of you may be aware in recent months the United-States has seen a massive spike in violence targeted at Trans and Queer people. This has been happening at the State level through bills being passed to suppress and eliminate Trans youth and at the local level by White Supremacist and “the far right” targeting Pride events. We in Canada are not free of this danger as we have seen throughout Pride month this year; the public spaces where we gather with our community are being attacked by threats of violence. Libraries across the country are reporting countless incidents of receiving threats over the phone and online. While Queer folk have been sounding the alarm for over a year now that Transphobic rhetoric has been on the rise in their communities, our leaders have been notably silent save for some written statements like the one from the Federal government on International day against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia.
As such, we reached out to the Yukon Government and the parties for their comments on this growing issue. Yaroslav Baran, Senior Communications Counsel for the Conservative Party of Canada, forwarded this response regarding the issue:
“It is troubling, disturbing and disheartening to see threats of violence, threats, or hate of any kind targeting the Queer and Trans communities, or, frankly, any communities. Conservatives stand for diversity, respect, and freedom from intimidation and harm of any kind. These are fundamental Canadian values. The Conservative Party believes all Canadians have the fundamental right to dignity, respect, safety, inclusion, and safety from harm and intimidation. Should such expressions of intolerance spread to the Territory, we would support measures for greater awareness, to help change attitudes and perceptions about the Queer and Trans communities. When we need to rely on law enforcement, it means it is already after the fact. Intercepting the seeds of hate and intolerance is always more productive than needing law enforcement to address acts of hate after they have occurred.”
In a letter of solidarity, the Honorable Jeanie McLean, Minister of Education & responsible for the Women and Gender Equity Directorate said:
“With respect to policing, the Minister of Justice identifies policing priorities for the Yukon RCMP on a yearly basis. These are based on recommendations provided by the Yukon Police Council and the Department of Justice. This year, one of the policing priorities set for the Yukon RCMP is to increase public trust. Key primary objectives associated with this priority include: Adopting system-wide and measurable strategies to improve relations with youth; Black, Indigenous, and people of colour (BIPOC); vulnerable populations; and LGBTQ2S+ demographics. Building diversity within the RCMP to ensure that the territorial police service is more representative of the populations served. This includes sustaining a workplace that’s healthy and supportive to all members, as well as implementing processes to increase the recruitment of women; members of the LGBTQ2S+ community; and people who self-identify as BIPOC.”
While we are glad to receive the Conservative party’s support, and that of Minister McLean, we’d also like to draw attention to our stance regarding the police: “Police have a long history of violence against and murder of Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) folk, in Canada and elsewhere. We also remember the violent and discriminatory history of police in dealing with queer and trans people. Too often, we have been disproportionately targeted for enforcement activities, and our experiences of homophobic and transphobic harassment and violence ignored or downplayed. Police continue to overpolice and under-protect many segments of Canadian society, including Indigenous and Black people, People of Colour, trans people, sex workers, people who use drugs, and others.” We do not support solutions involving the police.
The response from the Yukon Liberal Party’s President said: “The Yukon Liberal Party has long supported the LGBTQ2S+ community and worked to improve the rights and services of marginalized Yukoners throughout the territory.” While they did not provide us with a direct response to our questions on this particular issue, they did remind us of their many achievements “to create a more inclusive Yukon for LGBTQ2S+ citizens”. Additionally, you can find the LGBTQ2S+ Action Plan here.
In a conversation with Emily Tredger of the NDP, she had this to say:
“It’s a really hard and scary time and I think something that people within our community have known for a long time is that it feels like we’ve made all this progress but it’s precarious. People who are outside of the community tend to think ‘Okay great we did that. Done!’”...”I have heard when I met with people who are opposed to Bill 304 is that we are sexualizing kids too soon. The question is whether people are scared because they think being queer and trans is the same as being overtly sexual, or if the real issue is that they just don’t like queer and transness. I suspect it’s the latter.”
As Emily T. mentions above, one of the main talking points that is being used is this idea that Queer folk are inherently sexualized. That simply being in our presence is “grooming” children to grow up Queer & Trans.This narrative of “protecting the children'' has been a call to action for far right radicals for a very long time. This is notably one of QAnon’s central indoctrinating beliefs. By centering their conversation around children’s safety they have effectively created a moral imperative amongst themselves. However, decades of research has shown that kids are not made to be Trans, they simply are, and that providing them with access to resources and affirming care greatly increases their mental health and wellbeing. This article by the Scientific American not only illustrates that fact clearly but provides links to its sources.
Recently the Whitehorse Star published a letter to the editor from Jonas Smith. In his letter, Mr. Smith draws upon the very same talking points mentioned above. It’s a clear dog whistle to garner the support of a radicalized far right voting base that is moving on from protesting against mandates to a new social issue. When a platform is provided to hate and bigotry it helps normalize that discourse. This is part of the problem we are seeing with the rise in Far-Right radicalization. One of their goals is to raise the Overton window so as to allow for Anti Trans and Queer rhetoric to be publicly acceptable. Everyone is entitled to their opinion but they are not entitled to a platform. Even though they tend to exclaim that they are being censored or canceled, Transphobia continues to be given a lot of space by the media and politicians across the world, while our voices are the ones often being muted or going unheard. Regarding this letter in particular, Emily Tredger says:
“I think that’s actually why it’s important in this question of ‘do we directly respond to things or not?’ and why I was really happy to see that letter, that the response was ‘people need to know this is happening’, this is real, this is not something we can just imagine is happening somewhere else.”
Countless studies on youth have shown that children as young as four years old have developed an understanding of socialized gender norms and identity. As for sexuality; heterosexuality is the social norm in our society and kids are surrounded by representations of this throughout childhood. From Disney movies showing romances between a Cis Male & Female, to more intimate depictions in other media. However we only see an outcry when romance and sexuality is depicted outside of cisheteronomativity. Being visibly Queer & Trans is not inherently sexual just as being visibly Cis & Straight. Presenting a child with representation allows them the possibility of understanding themselves better. Though for some, sex is inseparable from a Queer expression of Gender and Sexuality. When a youth or child expresses interest that falls outside of their cishetero understanding they believe it to be sexual in nature though they can recall their own innocent crushes fondly and free of sexual urgency from a similar age. Jules Gill-Peterson, Trans historian and author of “Histories of the Transgender Child”, put it so eloquently:
“When you weave a moral panic, you substitute for reality an invented fantasy. Often it is one that perverts reality to satisfy deeply rooted anxious and aggressive feelings about how the world really is. This is why so much transphobia is made up of hypothetical scenarios and easily falsifiable claims. Grandiose What Ifs and What Abouts replace what is actually happening and disavow who is actually in power and responsible for harm … Anti-trans political violence uses moral pretence because it is an ideological organ in the procedure of class warfare: shrinking the state’s investment in redistributing the resources of life while amplifying its role as the police. If you take away, say, access to health care and the legal concept of rights held in the body by claiming the harm is meant to protect us from a dangerous and immoral minority, the slide towards material misery is much easier to popularize.”
We urge you all to be an ally to the Queer & Trans community. Speak out, hold these people to account, and help protect our community from the rising tide of Anti Trans & Queer violence. As Minister McLean said in her letter:
“As allies, we have the responsibility to protect the LGBTQ2S+ community by standing up against all forms of violence and to anti-LGBTQ2S+ rhetoric. The Government of Yukon is committed to supporting everyone to live a healthy and safe life in whatever community they choose. We will continue to work with our community partners to be responsive to existing and emerging concerns.”
And to everyone within the 2SLGBTQIA+, QTBIPOC, and Queer community, take care and be safe. We will always advocate for health, safety, and dignity, but not just for us, for all people experiencing systemic injustice and marginalization.
Below are some links to some sources and helpful learning:
For media inquiries, please contact:
Mira Sirois (they/them)
Communications Manager // Chef des Communications
Queer Yukon Society // Société Queer Yukon
(867) 393-1344 - firstname.lastname@example.org
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.