Transgender student opts for home-schooling to avoid being called a girl

Transgender teen David James Lazure decided last week that he was better off being home-schooled, to avoid the stress and anxiety of being identified as a girl.

‘People kept misgendering me. I felt like I wasn’t valid,’ says David James Lazure, 14

David James Lazure, 14, came out as transgender last summer. (Radio-Canada)

David James Lazure announced to family and friends that he was a boy last summer.

The 14-year-old was born a girl, but when reading up on gender identity, he knew he identified as a boy.

"I spent a lot of months thinking about my identity and questioning who I was. A few months later, I talked about it with my mom. My mom was really open, and she accepted me," Lazure said.

After confiding in his mother for nine months, Lazure felt ready to come out to his father, brothers and friends.

He announced his gender identity to his friends on Facebook last summer, hoping to start the new school year in September with a clean slate.

"My coming out went really well, and everyone really accepted me, so I wasn't really worried about school."

Lazure says his peers at his international school in McMasterville, about 30 kilometres east of Montreal, were accepting of him.

Inflexible administration

It was bureaucratic red tape that caused him grief.

"The principal had told me that she couldn't change the name on the list, so whenever a teacher would call out the name on the list, there would be my birth name. So I really didn't know what to say," Lazure said.

Odette Plante, the mother of a transgender teen, says school boards are not equipped to deal with the issue. (Radio-Canada)
His mother, Odette Plante, said she went to speak to school officials at the start of the school year to ensure a smooth transition.

"He's had some teachers who, when they called him by the wrong name, said, 'It's not my fault if you chose to be transgender," Plante said. "But you don't choose to be transgender." 

"I think it's a lack of training. People are not equipped, so we should give guidelines to schools and school boards to help them react better in these situations."

When someone misgenders me, it feels like verbal assault.- Transgender teen David James Lazure

For Lazure, every time someone referred to him as "she," he said he was hurt and became anxious.

"To trans people like myself, to me at least, when someone misgenders me, it feels like verbal assault. It feels like someone is stabbing me with a knife, honestly," he explained.

"I do forgive the people who will misgender me, but I can't say that I don't mind because it does have an impact on me and how I feel."

Lazure began hormone-blocking treatment before Christmas, and as the school year went on, he says he became anxious and depressed.

"I felt that whenever I would participate in class – ask questions or answer questions – the teachers would always misgender me. So at one point I just told myself, 'OK, well, if that's how things are going to go, I might as well stop participating' ... because I don't want to be misgendered every time I raise my hand."

His mother noticed a change in her teenager.

"I saw his deterioration. David was very sad. In the morning, he would barely talk to me. He was getting more and more depressed ... He had recurring suicidal thoughts," Plante said. "It was very worrying."

The family decided last week that the best option was for Lazure to be home-schooled for the remainder of the school year.

"It got to a point where I had to stop school," Lazure says. "I had too much anxiety and too much depression because there were people misgendering me all the time."

Provincial law on sex change

Quebec's Education Ministry has a permanent code for every student, which represents the student's name and sex. It can only be modified by the ministry – not by a school.

Also, while the province allows minors to change their name, they can only change their sex at the age of 18.

In other provinces such as British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador, it is possible for minors to change their sex.

Plante would like to see this happen in Quebec soon.

"It has an unimaginable impact. My son got his new birth certificate, with his new name, but there is an 'F' next to his name. He has to wait four years before he can get an 'M'," Plante said.

"We knew what his name would be, and yet, at the administrative level, it was not possible to go into a computer system to change the name for the internal team at school. It created a big problem," she said.

The office of Quebec Justice Minister Stéphanie Vallée told Radio-Canada that the minister is aware of this issue and a bill modifying the provincial law will be tabled eventually.

With files from Radio-Canada journalist Pasquale Harrison-Julien