TORONTO – Across Canada, dozens of cities held anti-trans protests on Sept. 20, arguing against learning about trans identity in schools. But despite being dubbed the “Million March 4 Children,” trans rights counter-protesters far outnumbered them in most cities.
“Go home fascists,” counter-protesters shouted at the original protesters in Toronto, which consisted of a mishmash of Ottawa Convoy anti-vax attendees, as well as religious groups who held up “Jesus Is King” flags and hauled a 10-foot wooden cross to the event.
Despite their chants, they ended up being surrounded by LGBTQ rights activists.
“(It shows) the magnitude of people who will not tolerate erasing our existence and not having those conversations outnumber those people who want us to be silent,” Franki, a trans activist told VICE News at the Toronto rally with tears in their eyes. “If I had known that I could have been educated as a child, I wouldn’t need so much less therapy… especially in a POC community that was Christian-based, it doesn’t tell us that we can exist,” added Franki, who only gave their first name, fearing retaliation from anti-trans groups.
Many of the anti-trans protesters brought their children, instructing them to hold up signs bashing the LGBTQ community.
“Stop forcing your kids to do this,” LGBTQ rights protesters shouted, as the parents on the other side passed out signs reading “Keep Your Hands Off Our Kids” or “There Are Only Two Genders” to their children. While some kids chanted along, others were reluctant, and hid behind their parents during the protests.
“This is so sad. We don’t know our kids’ gender until they tell us,” Lisa DelCol, a proud mother of a trans child told VICE News. “But you bring them to an anti-trans protest before they understand, before they know this about themselves, they know they’ll never be accepted.”
Because of the overwhelming number of counter-protesters at the event, in many instances, far-right protesters waving hateful signs and shouting things like “Jesus hates you” were surrounded by groups of activists who chanted “trans lives matter,” and ended up having to retreat back to their smaller group of demonstrators.
While Canada doesn’t yet have sweeping, blatant laws passed in many U.S. states that bar trans people from accessing health care and resources, transphobia and the lack of access has remained an issue for trans Canadians. Compounded by that, conservatives at the federal and provincial level, have started to take aim at the LGBTQ community, adopting the same hateful rhetoric and policies by Republican lawmakers down south. This month, federal Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre proposed a new policy that would take away trans health care for youth.
Another conservative lawmaker who has begun directly targeting trans youth is Ontario’s Premier Doug Ford who just happens to be currently embroiled in a sweeping scandal about signing contracts to raze environmentally-protected lands with developers. This month, after reaching historically-low ratings, Ford began campaigning on anti-trans rights.
“It’s not up to the teachers, it’s not up to the school boards to indoctrinate our kids,” Ford said, adding that he was working on pushing a policy that would forcibly out trans and queer kids to their parents at schools. Since 2011, the Toronto District School Board, which is the largest in Canada, has implemented a policy not to “out” students out of fear of retaliation.
“I understand politics. I understand the game. But the words that you speak have weight,” DelCol said. “Trans kids are kids. When you use your position for your own personal gain at the expense of the health and safety of this community, to me, it’s immoral.”
Others are questioning why the take down of trans rights is now even being brought into the campaign fold when there are many other crises to worry about.
“We have a housing crisis right now. The number of homeless on the street is rising exponentially.” an activist that goes by “Strawberry” said. “I’ve been paycheck to paycheck, and I have one of the best jobs in the city right now. We should be fighting for something that does matter.”
For counter-protester Abbuddul Masoke, who fled Uganda out of fear of being killed for being queer after the country implemented extreme punishments, including the death penalty for LGBTQ individuals, the large showing of counter protesters makes him feel safe that he can find his new chosen family, despite losing his own.
“Our families, they disown us. Everyone is like an assassin,” Masoke said of his experience back in Uganda. “We came here for safety. So that’s why we are joining the Canadian community, so that we can protect this.”
Just as Toronto saw an overwhelming showing of LGBTQ rights supporters, it was a similar story in other major cities like Ottawa–where anti-trans protesters surrounded complained about being boxed in and unable to march because of the “massive” showing of counter protesters.
In Vancouver, the 100 to 200 protesters were also far outnumbered, Victoria News reported.
“(We are) showing them that we exist and we’re not going to be quiet about it,” Franki, the trans activist in Toronto, said.
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