Transgender child wins use of girls washroom in Catholic school

The mother of a seven-year-old transgender girl says her child’s school has agreed to let her use whatever bathroom she wants.

Catholic school board said it will develop washroom policy after consultation

Transgender activist Marni Panas embraces the mother of a seven-year-old transgender child who has won access to the girls washroom at her Catholic school in Edmonton. (Emily Fitzpatrick/CBC)

The mother of a seven-year-old transgender girl says her child's school has agreed to let her use whatever bathroom she wants.

"For the first time in quite some time, she was able to use the bathroom alone and so that made her feel wonderful," said the woman, who CBC has agreed not to identify to protect her daughter from discrimination.

However the mother said she is ambivalent with the decision.

"Is this a today solution and then next year it's a different solution? I'm very torn."

The woman came forward after the Catholic school board banned the child, who was born a boy but identifies as a girl, from using the girls washroom.

The mother credits school trustee Patricia Grell who publicly criticized the board's decision contrary to board policy.

"No parent wants to have the conversation with their child about encouraging them wanting to live, and encouraging them that they are not a disgrace to God," she said. "So you go and you pray in your own sanctuary and here comes Patricia Grell. The answer to my prayers."

The board said in a news release it will create a new policy for washroom use in consultation with the Archdiocese of Edmonton, medical specialists, parents and educational experts.

For now though every case will be decided on a case-by-case basis, it said.

"In keeping with Catholic theology and philosophy, the board considers that this individual circumstance is best addressed on an interim basis at the school level," the board said in a news release.

Critics not optimistic

At least one observer is not optimistic.

"Given this non-decision today, I don't know how seriously we can take them at their word," said Kristopher Wells, with the Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services at the University of Alberta.

Wells and transgender activist Marni Panas questions the willingness of the board to move forward. 

"What saddens me in all of this though, is it took this much public pressure for that statement to be made," Panas said. 

"I can't imagine a child being brave enough to come out and share what they have to share given all the stuff that's happened over the last few months."

Grell now faces an uncertain future for speaking out in support of the child.

The Catholic board scheduled a special meeting Tuesday afternoon to deal with "the public nature of board business," but abruptly cancelled it when "the mover of the intended motion advised that she wished to withdraw that single item," a news release said.

The mother said she will keep her human rights complaint open until the board states in writing that a her child will have access to the girls washroom throughout her schooling. 

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