Trans youth offered support in community

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BY THE DAISSI BOARD

We on the board of Diverse and Inclusive Salt Spring Island, our island’s LGBTQ2SIA+ community organization, wish to publicly respond to discussions going on across our island about some very public incidents which have been deeply disturbing for those of us who are trans, and our allies, within the queer community and beyond it.  

We have no desire to repeat and address in a detailed way the deeply upsetting content, nor to make this about calling out individual people, when the more troubling fact is that incidents of transphobia are all-too-widespread on Salt Spring, and insidious transphobic beliefs are present in all parts of our community.

We must have a zero tolerance policy for transphobia. In saying that, we are all painfully familiar with the inevitable responses, with hand-wringing concern about free speech and the honest debate of ideas. There are, indeed, interesting conversations to be had about gender and the construction of biological sex, but they do not begin with the assertion of a fixed hierarchy, unscientific statements about the nature of human biology, and sentimental appeals for a return to the way things used to be — and, in fact, never really were.

Those whose gender and sexual biology varies from the norm have always been present in society, and throughout the natural world, but our existence is routinely denied, minimized or pathologized.  What is different now from the world some of us grew up in is that the attempts to suppress our existence and limit our behaviour to uphold a false reality are failing. We are, all of us, confronted with new possibilities for what gender, sex and sexuality might mean, and the possibility that things could have been different all along. This is destabilizing, and can feel rightly unsettling, but that calls for us to develop and learn, not to retreat into what we were raised to believe, and to condemn those who stir up cognitive dissonance for us about the truths we thought we knew.

Too often we see our children and youth being named as a cause for concern and caution, even as those who claim to be speaking to protect them put them in harm’s way, deny their lived experience, and seek to work against their self-exploration, self-expression and liberation — and even against their safety in our community. Demanding that younger generations constrain their existence so that we can maintain our illusions about the world is unacceptable, and when this is done in a way that makes children vulnerable, subjects them to bullying or makes them feel unsafe when around adults in positions of leadership in our community, that is destructive. It is destructive for those children, and it diminishes those adults who are deprived of the opportunity to learn from those who are growing up in a world full of more possibility than many of us ever dreamt possible.

The pandemic has frayed all of our nerves, and stretched our resources thin, but if we are the community we claim to be, we will work to be kinder and gentler with our youth, and to give less airtime to reactionary, hateful views which deny the lived experience of our trans and queer population, young and old. 

There is so much to be learned here, and DAISSI is interested in facilitated conversations where all members of the community can have opportunities to have deep conversations about challenging realities. There are very real discussions to be had about how our ideas about social gender and biological sex have been shaped by colonialism, by our political systems and by patriarchy.

We want to provide a forum for those conversations — which are not conversations about whether trans people should be “allowed” to transition, or to exist in public, or any of the other absurd and hateful conversations that mask themselves as intellectual discourse, but are nothing more than hate. We want to experience our collective awakening to the wideness and the wildness of the natural world, and to have the opportunity to listen to the voices of our youth who are experiencing and creating a new world. It is a gift to glimpse the wonder of the world as it really is, and not as we imagine it to be, and it is invigorating to see the future through the eyes of those who will make it. We hope that once the post-pandemic normal emerges, you will join us for some conversations and talks in which we can all share a deeper experience of the bigger picture.

Until then, and always, we want trans individuals across the island, of all ages but particularly our youth, to know that there are many of us who are committed to walking this journey together. We do it clumsily at times, but we make efforts to do our best, and we begin always from a place of honouring, respecting, and loving one another, and our lived experience. If you feel alone, you are not. If you fear that the world is turning against you, and that those who work for your extermination are winning, it is not so, and we will not let it be so. Hateful speech may make a lot of noise, and it always bears more heat than light, but the truth of your existence, of our existence, will not be erased.

And to our trans youth especially, know that we stand with you. We are committed to the transformation of our community, and we will have your back as you speak and live your truth. Tell us what you need from us, and know that we will continue to work to transform this community, and to reject transphobia in all its guises as it so often — too often — appears in our community.

May we walk together into a better world than the one we have known.

DAISSI board members are Jean Burgess, Karen Cunningham, Juli Mallett, Shellyse Szakac and Bill Turner.

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