As It Happens·Q&A

The 1st openly trans Conservative candidate calls out party's new gender policies

The Conservative Party’s newly adopted policies limiting gender-affirming health care for youth will cause “significant damage” to transgender kids, says Hannah Hodson.

Ex-Conservative Hannah Hodson says new motions limiting trans rights will cause 'significant damage'

A woman with long brown hair and glasses sits at picnic table at a park.
Hannah Hodson is a former Conservative Party member who is critical of the party's recent adoption of laws that limit the rights of transgender people. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

The Conservative Party's newly adopted policies limiting gender-affirming health care for youth will cause "significant damage" to transgender kids, says Hannah Hodson.

Hodson ran for the federal Conservatives in Victoria, B.C., during the 2021 election, making her the party's first openly transgender candidate. She has since withdrawn her membership.

She watched in dismay over the weekend as 69 per cent of delegates at the Conservative Party convention voted in favour of a motion that bars children from gender-related "life-altering medicinal or surgical interventions."

The policy aims to prevent minors from accessing some forms of gender-affirming health care, which is treatment that supports a patient's gender identity and expression. Both the Canadian Psychological Association and the Canadian Pediatric Society support a gender-affirming approach to health care for transgender youth. 

In another vote, 87 per cent of members approved a motion saying women should have access to "single-sex spaces" — a policy intended to exclude transgender women from women's prisons, shelters, locker rooms, bathrooms and sports. 

Asked about the policies on Tuesday, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre said: "I'll be studying them carefully and talking with our caucus members on those policies. And when we've had a chance to do our homework, we'll have more to say."

Poilievre is not bound to adopt any of the policies that were passed at the party convention in his election platform. 

Hodson spoke to As It Happens host Nil Köksal. Here is part of their conversation. 

Hannah, 69 per cent of Conservative Party members voted in favour of this. What did you do when you first found out?

I was very sad and disappointed to see that, in the world where we have so many significant challenges facing our society, that one of the main political parties in Canada, one [of] which I used to be a member, would devote time to hurting some of the most vulnerable people in society.

What would you say to those delegates who voted in favour of this?

That we're not dangerous. We're not scary. You know, we're just trying to live our lives. Especially trans youth are just trying to navigate an extremely difficult part of their lives. And putting restrictions and telling them that what they're going through is wrong, is just going to hurt people. It's going to cause significant damage.

You withdrew your membership a few months ago when New Brunswick began requiring students under the age of 16 to get parental consent in order for teachers to use their preferred names or preferred pronouns at school. So did this catch you off guard? 

I think we can all see what's going on in the U.S. And there's a long history of political actors using vulnerable minorities as a tool to raise money or gain power ... and I think that this is just another example of that.

WATCH | Conservative convention votes to limit gender-affirming care for youth: 

Conservatives approve policy to limit transgender health care for minors

22 days ago
Duration 1:34

Pierre Poilievre is ... not obligated to include policies adopted during the convention as part of a party platform when there's an election. So is it possible, in your view, that the party, as hurtful as it was to you to see how that vote went down, that they might move on from this without causing the kind of damage that you're worried about?

I would love to see him come out and say this was bad and admonish it. I suspect that won't happen, but I would love to see it.

I suspect you're right. This policy probably won't be in the platform. But I think that it does speak to the priorities of the members and a potential future private member's bill.

What drew you to the party initially?

I grew up in northern Alberta, and I grew up the child of small business owners, and ideas like entrepreneurship and hard work were instilled in me from an early age. But also the ideal of leaving people alone, letting people make their own mistakes and achieve their own victories and figure out who they are in life.

That's very important to me. And the Conservative Party seemingly used to stand for that, or at least the people said they did. What we can see with these votes and these motions is that I suppose they believe the state does have a place in the bedrooms of the nation.

Even if this doesn't become part of a party platform, the discussion around it — how do you think it impacts young people in particular, or others who are listening?

It is now the official stated policy of the Conservative Party of Canada, at least in that policy menu, to misgender trans women.

Several years ago, if a U.S. state proposed a bathroom bill, it would be an international story. Now, we have ... one of the main political parties in Canada proposing a nationwide bathroom bill, and even more restrictive. 

And we're supposed to stay quiet and get along? I mean, this is a significant reduction in progress. And to all the people here listening who believe that progress is inherently going to continue — not if you don't fight for it.

Talking to voters, door to door, no one wanted to talk about these issues. People want to talk about housing costs. People want to talk about inflation, climate change.- Hannah Hodson, former Conservative Party candidate

When you were running for the party, as … [an] openly trans woman, did you feel supported at that time? Have you seen and felt a shift?

I have felt a shift. I ran in the riding of Victoria, where I lived and went to university and lived and worked for a long time, and ... I felt very supported.

Talking to voters, door to door, no one wanted to talk about these issues. People want to talk about housing costs. People want to talk about inflation, climate change.

Do you envision going back to the party at any time to help turn it into the party you want to see or help talk about the issues that we're talking about here?

If the party is willing to reject this, change course, embrace diversity and embrace LGBTQ people like me and like many in the community, I would love to see that. And it would be great.

I don't think it's bound to happen anytime soon, but I'm open to ... discussing and working with anyone in Canada who wants to make it a better place.

I hear really deep disappointment and sadness in your voice.

I'm very disappointed.

I suspected this would happen. And, historically, the social conservative groups have been very motivated in getting people out for a convention. So the vote wasn't surprising.

What has been surprising is that people that I consider close to have essentially gone along to get along. Because ... partisanship presumably comes first. It doesn't come first for me, and I'm not going to stand and make excuses.

So people who have supported you, or say they've supported you, voted in favour of this?

I can't point to a specific vote. But in terms of, you know, coming out and standing with the trans community … [there's] not many people seemingly coming out. And I've been getting a lot of attention because I think I'm one of the more high-profile ones that's doing so.

With files from The Canadian Press. Interview produced by Morgan Passi

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