October is LGBT History Month in Canada, the USA and Australia. The concept was founded in 1994 and has been celebrated ever since. The month centres on acknowledging the oppression that queer people have faced and the work of previous generations to demand equal rights and respect. The month includes National Coming Out Day on October 11.
Conversations around trans-rights are incredibly important right now, when trans and gender non-conforming individuals are being targeted at a much higher rate than other members of the LGBTQ2SIA+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, 2-Spirit, Intersex, Asexual, plus) community. And transphobia is present in all cisgender-dominated spaces, even queer ones.
One of the prime topics of conversation revolving around LBGTQ2SIA+ people are trans bathroom rights. The fight for trans people to be allowed to choose which bathroom they use is not a new one, but it is one that has seemed to be getting a lot of media attention recently. Trans people should be allowed to use the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity, not what sex was assigned to them at birth.
In high schools, this issue also comes up in the context of change rooms. Trans students should have the right to change where they see fit.
The principal of Huntingdon’s Ecole Arthur Pigeon, Dominic Tremblay, explains that at his school, it is up to each student to decide where they change or use the washroom. The school doesn’t have a blanket statement rule; it allows each individual to choose what is best for them. The school also organizes events throughout the year to encourage the inclusion and acceptance of the LGBTQ2SIA+ community.
Anick Leclerc, principal of Chateauguay Valley Regional High School (CVR), reiterates that the bathrooms that trans and non-binary students use are up to them, and that they should be in an environment where they feel safe and comfortable. There is also the option for students to change in private in a separate room if they do not feel comfortable in a common changing room. Having these options helps to validate trans people’s identities. CVR has a Pride committee to help support its queer students.
Gender diversity in Quebec schools
In June, the Quebec Ministry of Education released a guide for schools, Improved Understanding and Practices for Sexual and Gender Diversity in Schools, which outlines steps to be taken to make school environments safer for both queer students and teachers. This document outlines and defines important terms likes “gender expression” and “self-identification” that help to clarify different elements of being queer.
Among many of the points that are brought up in this document, a highlight is the importance of letting the individual person define their own boundaries and comfort level. It also emphasizes the need to stop separating students based on gender for things like sex education and health classes. A statement from the document that summarizes its overall sentiment is: “Schools must implement concrete measures to ensure that the right to dignity, equality and integrity and the well-being and safety of each student, including trans and non-binary students, is protected.”
Confidentiality and discretion are mentioned as well. Students (and their parents, if they are under the age of 14) have the right to confidentiality for their own safety. The document also stresses that “Support measures for transgender and non-binary students must not be organized in such a way that these students face additional constraints, such as being isolated, marginalized, or penalized.” Trans and non-binary people are to be included in the school’s community, not pushed away from it.
Still a long way
It was only in 2017 that Canada passed Bill C-16 to make it illegal to discriminate against someone based on gender identity and gender expression. This bill also made targeting someone for being transgender a hate crime. Though that is a big step, that was just four years ago. There is still a long way to go.