By now I'm sure you've heard of the Saskatchewan government's attempt to implement a policy that would jeopardize the safety of trans and genderqueer students in schools. Here is a letter I wrote to an MLA about it. If any part of this text is useful to you and you are similarly motivated, please consider it a template and make it your own. I am not a trained political organizer and I may well have made mistakes in describing the legislative process. Any errors or omissions are my own and you are welcome to correct or change them as the situation shifts. I know we are all hurting after the nonsense of that hateful march a few weeks ago, and this is one more thing. I'm very angry about it.
October 4, 2023
Dear Nathaniel Teed,
I am writing in grateful response to your call for letters, in the event that a filibuster is required to stop the use of the "notwithstanding clause" to implement the ludicrously-named "Parental Inclusion and Consent Policy" on October 10th. It is my sincere hope that this letter will contribute to the protection of transgender, gender-diverse, and Two-Spirit youth in this province. Should it serve your efforts, you are more than welcome to read this letter in full, with attribution.
I am a Saskatchewan resident, cisgender lesbian, and writer whose work on gender-based violence against queer and trans young people has been recognized by the American Library Association. In 2016, I won Canada's only prize for emerging LGBTQ2S+ writers. I am deeply concerned about the use of the "notwithstanding clause" to implement Premier Moe's policy for the following reasons:
- it poses, as Justice Megaw has recently suggested, an attack on Charter rights that will enact serious harm;
- it directly contradicts a number of the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action, including #10 iii, which calls for "culturally appropriate curricula in education;" and #62 i, "Make age-appropriate curriculum on residential schools, Treaties, and Aboriginal peoples’ historical and contemporary contributions to Canada a mandatory education requirement for Kindergarten to Grade Twelve students";
- it demonstrates an alignment with far-right trans-antaognist movements on the rise in the United States and the United Kingdom, which often tacitly or overtly intersect with additional conspiracy theories that threaten the safety of the general public, such as antisemitism, and anti-vaccination;
- it reinforces a deeply outmoded, colonial, and heteronormative model of the family that we know does not and has never represented the norm on these territories;
- it presents a deep misunderstanding of the rights of the child and a gross misuse of the notion of "parental rights;" and
- it perpetuates the myth that trans, Two-Spirit, and genderqueer people are not already present in our education system as exceptionally gifted and valued teachers, medical professionals, administrative staff, and loving parents and guardians.
It troubles me deeply that this policy has already come so close to implementation without proper consultation (see the recent response from the Federation of Sovereign Indian Nations), and with zero involvement on the part of the dedicated, hardworking, under-resourced support services that exist in this province for gender-diverse families. Moreover, when so much robust research and documentation already exists on how gender-affirming schools and classrooms save lives, it disturbs me that parents and families of gender-diverse youth may feel required to share their deeply personal, often humiliating and retraumatizing stories of discrimination in public fora to discourage this legislative act of violence. This over-reliance on personal stories of harm puts young people and their families at risk, and is part of why I am motivated to write to you as a cisgender woman who does not experience transphobia.
Nonetheless, in the event that it contributes to our collective struggle, I am motivated to share with you the following: my own experience of the discrimination I faced as a cisgender child, who used pronouns congruent with the sex I was assigned at birth, and was merely suspected to be gay. In the early aughts, my family relocated to Saskatoon from a small town in northeastern Saskatchewan after I experienced repeated acts of homophobic violence in elementary and middle school: the regular use of slurs; physical attacks while alone in the washroom and gym change room; a attempted head injury in full view of adults and other children. This harassment began when I was eight years old, and continued unceasingly. My parents and I relied profoundly on the direct and repeated intervention of teachers to prevent me from permanent bodily harm and alleviate my emotional distress, but ultimately, it was not enough for us to remain in our community. We left when I was thirteen, where I was dismayed to learn that even in the supposedly safer haven of high school in the "big city," there were considerable efforts made among the administration to prevent the formation of our first Gay-Straight Alliance. Nonetheless, our inaugural meeting proceeded thanks to determined and informed educators, and was so well-attended that students had to sit on the floor and on top of desks. Some of those students, and supportive teachers, are no longer alive today, whether by direct or indirect systemic impacts and social determinants of health that will only be emboldened by this proposed policy. I am not interested in losing any more loved ones. Even as a cisgender young person with a supportive family, I think it's also clear that I could have easily been one of those preventable deaths.
I share this with you to demonstrate the critical stakes for youth who do not benefit from the cis privilege and community support that I have had, and what a silencing of teachers as proposed by this policy could produce. It is my most sincere hope that this province will not revert to this echo of its recent colonial past, and drive other marginalized families to relocation elsewhere. As a child of a Saskatchewan teacher, I must add that I hope the supporters of this policy will one day come to understand their gross underestimation of (and deep insult to) the educators of this province.
Today is October 4th, the National Day of Action on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, Two-Spirit, and Gender Diverse Peoples. It is my sincere request that on October 10th the official opposition will act in the spirit of this day by urging this province to take tangible action to prevent suicide, abuse, and violence; re-instate and improve comprehensive and culturally appropriate gender-affirming sexual education in the school system (including third-party resources and a robust curriculum on sexual consent); uphold its Treaty responsibilities; and honour our Charter obligations by using any means necessary to resist the implementation of this policy.
Treaty Six - Saskatoon, SK