British Columbia

'People just don't understand': parent of transgender teen hoping to open debate on gender identity

A parent of a transgender teenager says he's willing to have discussions with those who are against B.C.'s sexual orientation and gender resource program (SOGI) .

Chilliwack parent says there's lots of misconception around sexual orientation and gender identity

A Chilliwack parent wants to try and help eliminate misunderstandings people might have about gender identity. ( Purple Sherbet Photography, Flickr)

Darren Kennedy's daughter was in Grade 10 when she began her transition from male to female.

His biggest worry was how his community in Chilliwack would react. 

"What are they going to think? All I could relate to was when I was in high school in the 80s," he said, worried his child would get harassed. 

"She's going to get teased, bullied, beaten, hurt. You have these visions in your head that someone is going to put her in the hospital or worse," he said. 

But he says none of those things happened.

"[Because] the kids understand, the kids were cool with it ... Kids, nowadays, understand what's going on. It's the older people that have the problem," he said. 

Chilliwack parent Darren Kennedy is hoping to open debate and discussion around gender identity in the wake of the recent controversy over sexual orientation and gender identity. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

Kennedy says he's willing to to talk to those who are against the B.C. sexual orientation and gender identity resource material (SOGI) available in the classroom, including long-serving Chilliwack school trustee Barry Neufeld who has since apolgized for the way in which he denounced it in a Facebook post.

"I think the biggest problem is that people just don't understand and how do we solve that? Through debate and communication.

Neufeld says he's against implementing SOGI without a review that engages parents and teachers.

Trinity Western University education professor Matthew Etherington believes both sides need to be heard and understood, without being ignored or ridiculed. 

But he says there needs to be an understanding that both sides will never fully agree on the topic. 

"We will never [entirely] agree on this, ever. This will never be a topic we will all agree on, because it is an ethical issue," said Etherington. 

However, Etherington says both sides share similar principles. 

"Both believe in children's rights and believe in justice and care of the child — believe in all the same things but just look at it very,very differently," he said.

Neither side, he says, is advocating for hate, but yet, each side sees the other as the enemy. 

"There is a winner and loser."

He says the divisiveness and name calling need to end.