Misinformation, tension in the air at anti-queer education protest

Nov 2, 2023 | Canadian News, Headlines, News

It’s been two weeks since Bill 137 became law in Saskatchewan, making parental consent necessary for LGBTQ+ children to change their name or utilize their preferred gender identity at school.

This is the latest decision in a growing anti-LGBTQ+ movement in Canada partially fueled by the grassroots uprising, 1 Million March 4 Children.

1 Million March 4 Children had its second protest rally on Oct. 20 against sex education and the ability for children to identify as genderqueer within schools. Just over two dozen people were present at the event outside Queen’s Park, about half of which were journalists covering the event and five of which were speakers.

In contrast, around 200 to 300 counter-protesters were present.

A speech outside Queen’s Park was led by Scott Newgent, the CEO of SCREAMLouder. Newgent, who wrote an article stating that gender-affirming care is more harmful than conversion therapy, is an American transgender man from Texas who associates himself with American right-wing political commentator and anti-LGBTQ+ activist American commentator Matt Walsh.

Walsh also describes himself as a theocratic fascist on his X bio.

Newgent opened his speech by describing the queer community as “perverts.” One sign in the small crowd stated, “Education Not Deviation!”

A 2022 study showed gender-affirming care reduced depression by 60 per cent and suicidality by 73 per cent among transgender youth.

1 Million March 4 Children protesters used language described as aggressive and offensive to discuss gender-affirming education and the LGBTQ+ community.

Cristina Bairos-Fernandes, a mother of two who identifies as Christian, said that gender-affirming education is a tool of spiritual warfare.

“This is bigger than the schools, this is greater than parental duty,” Bairos-Fernandes said. “This is a force moving to our world that I truly can’t see as being anything other than psychological and spiritual warfare.”

Fernandes ran to be a school board trustee in Waterloo, Ont., in 2022 but lost.

Maureen Sullivan, a member of Our Duty Canada, said educators are planting specific gender-affirming books in libraries to indoctrinate children.

“The time for assuming that educators are putting our children’s education first is over,” Sullivan said. “Clearly, their primary focus is to indoctrinate, not educate.”

A protest sign reading "education not deviation!" in all caps

A protest sign reading "education not deviation!" Photo credit: Asher Klaver

Sullivan said pronoun policies and transgender women are signs that society is heading towards a plan to break down the boundaries of what is acceptable behaviour regarding adults and children interacting.

Counter-protesters came out in full force, surrounding the handful of anti-LGBTQ+ protesters until they left Queen’s Park. Much of the counter-protests were organized by Students for Queer Liberation Toronto, a student-run anarchist group, who engaged in a shouting match with religious protesters.

The counter-protesters shouted several slogans such as “facts not fear,” “we’re here, we’re queer, we will not disappear,” and “protect trans youth” for hours before marching down to Queen’s Park.

At one point, a woman who did not identify herself, was pushed out of the counter-protester’s circle. She then attempted to shove her way in and ripped a sign, leading police to intervene.

She then went to talk to multiple journalists at the scene, stating that there were cat litterboxes in schools and that it was part of the indoctrination of children while complaining that the media doesn’t cover people like her.

Counter-protester David Mitges, a queer rights advocate who’s been active in the community since 1993, said it’s important people in the community advocate since gay kids can’t stand up for themselves.

A sign held by counter protesters reading "Children are not property" in all capitals

A sign held by counter-protesters reading "Children are not property." Photo credit: Asher Klaver

“It’s nice to see a lot of counter-protesters show up,” Mitges said. “It’s reassuring because a lot of gay kids in school in Canada can’t stand up for themselves. It’s the same with trans youth.”

Mitges said the movement was sparked by far-right rhetoric in the United States.

“It’s a catchy phrase, parental rights. Everyone wants parental rights,” Mitges said. “But children are people, and they have rights, too. They have the right to be educated to things that are important to them.”

Mitges reacted to Newgent’s claim that being gay or lesbian is only about sex.

“It has as much to do as being as straight has to do with sex,” Mitges said. “We’re all humans, we all like to interact, we all have jobs, we read, we sleep, we brush our teeth. It’s a silly, prodigious comment.”