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It might not be policy, but gender identity motion will still 'hurt people,' says trans advocate

A London sexual educator who is also a trans advocate says a controversial motion on gender identity introduced at a weekend Progressive Conservative party convention is going to "hurt people" despite Ontario Premier Doug Ford's assurances the government is "not moving forward" with it.

The Ontario government has moved quickly, saying the motion to debate gender identity is not policy

'This is going to hurt people for sure' 0:45

A London sexual educator who is also a trans advocate says a controversial motion on gender identity introduced at a weekend Progressive Conservative party convention is going to "hurt people" despite Ontario Premier Doug Ford's assurances the government is "not moving forward" with it. 

The resolution, brought forward by parental rights advocate Tanya Granic Allen, declares gender identity a "Liberal ideology" and asks that references to it be removed from Ontario's sex-education curriculum.

"I'm not moving forward with that," Ford told reporters at a news conference on Monday, attempting to sweep the controversy aside. "It's done."

Still, the fact it was debated by the Progressive Conservative party at all and during transgender week, just a few days before the International Transgender Day of Remembrance, has rubbed salt in the wound for many people in Ontario's LGBTQ community. 

When asked whether the Ontario government would adopt the Progressive Conservative motion to debate gender identity, Premier Doug Ford answered, 'I'm not moving forward with that.' (Christopher Katsarov/Canadian Press)

"It was weird timing," said sexual educator and trans advocate Victor Feunekes. "I'm not sure if that was intentional or not. I'm really hoping that it wasn't." 

"I was also sick to my stomach," they said. "This is going to hurt people for sure. There's a group of people ... that is essentially debating whether a whole group of people exist and they do exist." 

Similar rhetoric from U.S. President Donald Trump south of the border, whose administration has sought to bar transgender people from military service and challenge their civil rights recognition and protection, has had a negative effect on the community.

Trans Lifeline, a non-profit organization that offers support to the trans gender community in both Canada and the U.S., said in October that it received four times the number of calls than normal after the Trump administration moved to define gender as solely male or female. 

While the Ontario government has distanced itself from the party motion by making assurances that it would not become government policy, many in the trans community worry the party's motion for a debate on gender identity could embolden the kind of discrimination and violence that sometimes plagues the transgender community. 

"A lot of people will just blindly follow along with that without thinking critically or doing their own research," Feuenekes  said. 

About the Author

Colin Butler

Video Journalist

Colin Butler is a veteran CBC reporter who's worked in Moncton, Saint John, Fredericton, Toronto, Kitchener-Waterloo, Hamilton and London, Ont. Email: colin.butler@cbc.ca