Transgender policy prompts mother's plea to Vancouver School Board
"I want to clear the way for my son," said Fiona Chen, whose son was born a girl.
The mother of an 11-year-old transgender child is defending a controversial new transgender policy that is facing opposition from Chinese and Christian parents in the district.
Fiona Chen says her child was born as a girl, but recently decided to come out and identify as a boy. Chen has been helping him through that decision, which include finding acceptance at school.
He's very courageous. He has all the courage I couldn't have. I'm very proud of him.- Parent Fiona Chen, speaking about her 11-year-old son
For the last few weeks, the Vancouver School Board has been discussing a new policy to support transgender students.
The board has had a policy since 2004 to support a positive learning environment for students and staff who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer or transgender.
In the case of transgender students, the proposed changes would allow students to be addressed by the name and pronoun that corresponds to their gender identity
These new guidelines would also discourage sex-segregated activities, and allow transgender students to use whatever washroom they wanted.
At recent public meetings on the matter, dozens of students and parents packed the room to express their opinion on the issue. Concerned parents expressed that the school board may be going too far with this policy and believe students' gender identity is a medical issue that should not be addressed at school.
Many of the opponents come from a Chinese and Christian background, and say the policy is not in line with their traditional values.
Fiona Chen says she understands those concerns because she comes from the same cultural background, and shares many of those traditional values.
But Chen says there is a lot of misinformation about the issue, and better dialogue is necessary and that's why she spoke up in support of the school board's policy at a recent meeting.
On Tuesday morning she also shared her views in an interview with CBC Radio's Rick Cluff on The Early Edition.
Here is a short version of that interview.
Rick Cluff: You spoke at a recent school board meeting on this. Why did you decide to share your story?
Fiona Chen: This world is full of bias and discrimination, and I want to clear the way for my son. He's courageous enough to come out to tell everybody who he really is, so as his mother, I'm here to help him, and to build a better world. And to have people better understand people like him.
Your son was born a girl. At what point in his life did he demonstrate that he wasn't comfortable being a girl?
Since three [years old]. He started showing me that he did not want to wear skirts, period. I had to give away a lot of beautiful dresses we had bought, with the tag on. One time, we were at Toys "R" Us, and I was trying to buy him dolls, so I picked one doll, and he put it away. And then he wandered around, and he ended up in the cars and trucks section, and he picked up a truck he liked.
You're a Christian. Your son is a Christian. Did you face some prejudice from the church [because of his choice to identify as a boy]?
You'll be surprised if I told you...they accept us as human beings. They still disapprove of homosexuality, but they have a full understanding of my son's situation, and they try their best to accept us.
One of my Christian friends even called me, saying, "I heard the news! I'm calling you to let you know you have to support your child."
I told her, "You just made me very very happy."
What has the transition been like so far?
Transition is a major event. At the beginning he was really anxious. Soon that passed, and I notice he's happier and happier.
I'm very happy that he's happy, and that's all that matters.
How are things at school?
There are some very supportive classmates. There are still people who can't quite understand.
But somehow, my child, has more courage to talk about these issues - and to tell them, "I'm born with it, you have to take who I am, and accept me".
He's out there, advocating for himself. He's very courageous. He has all the courage I couldn't have. I'm very proud of him.
How hopeful are you that the Vancouver School Board's proposed policy to support transgender students will pass? What difference will it make for your son?
I truly believe the trustees will vote for it, because it's the right thing to do.
If this policy pass, you will give them [students] more sense of being accepted by the whole society, that will really help them build their confidence, because feeling rejected is terrible thing, right?
A Vancouver School Board committee hearing on the policy is scheduled for June 11.