Time to tune out transphobic rhetoric


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The trumpet of ignorance sounded clearly this month when the Brandon School Division gave a full hearing to a proposal to ban books.

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The trumpet of ignorance sounded clearly this month when the Brandon School Division gave a full hearing to a proposal to ban books.

Taking its place among several other similar calls in the past year, the hearing offered grandmother and former division trustee Lorraine Hackenschmidt ample time on the microphone to cite her “concern” for the content of several books relating to gender identity and sexual health issues.

The meeting follows a pattern among would-be book banners. Hackenschmidt starts out by admitting she is not a doctor or a psychologist, but insists she has done her “research” into the “LGBT ideology” — clearly poor research, if it failed to instruct her that one’s sexuality and gender identity are not matters of ideology. Among her motivations for her call to establish a committee — which would review and remove any “inappropriate” material — is to “protect our children from sexual grooming.”

(Kyle Darbyson/The Brandon Sun)

The exterior of Brandon School Division’s administration office.

Not only is that fear utterly baseless, it’s also a tell that Hackenschmidt, and others fighting this “battle” alongside her, are merely regurgitating learned talking points.

American cultural creep has been a fact of life in Canada, an inevitable side effect of being neighbours with a global superpower, and one with massive cultural exports.

But less often discussed is the slow drip of its politics into ours, and the way it is quickly and noticeably influencing the national discourse.

Statistics would suggest Canadians are largely pro-trans rights, and LGBTTQ+ rights broadly: a 2016 Angus Reid poll showed 84 per cent of Canadians support transgender rights, and 67 per cent believed trans people should be allowed to use the bathroom of the gender they identify with. In 2021, an Ipsos Reid poll showed 75 per cent supported full marriage rights for gay Canadians.

Homophobia and transphobia are sadly not new phenomena in Canada, any more than they are in the U.S. Even so, why has the rhetoric hit a new fever pitch only recently? Why the concerted push to protest drag queen story events at libraries, and demand the removal of LGBTTQ+ literature? Schools and libraries throughout southern Manitoba are facing pressure for offering these books. A Winnipeg school recently had its Pride flag vandalized and books removed. Why now, and not 10 years ago?

There appears to be a simple answer: in 2023, social media’s power to sow disinformation and fear has provided a vehicle for bigoted beliefs to spread faster than ever. American conservatives are currently in a lather over transgender rights, and their rhetoric is blasted constantly on online platforms. As a result, “grooming” paranoia grown in Florida winds up before a Brandon School Division board meeting in record time.

To repeat: the majority of Canadians support LGBTTQ+ rights, including those of transgender people. The Canadian Human Rights Act was amended in 2016 to include gender identity. As a matter of law, the right for LGBTTQ+ people to exist in the open, free from discrimination, is settled. Thus, their right to publish and circulate books which speak to their experiences is also settled. They are a part of our communities, period.

These attempts to remove or ban books are misguided at best. At their worst, they echo dark times in our history.

Canadian legislators and school trustees should be expected to spend their time on better things than entertaining the histrionic hand-wringing of a movement that boasts bad-faith actors so lazy in their persecution of minorities that they simply lift their rhetoric wholesale from American Twitter personalities.

Like all Canadians, would-be book banners have their right to speak their minds (within the bounds of hate crime legislation).

But it’s high time Canadian leaders do what is in the best interest of all Canadians, and stop listening.

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