On Sept. 20, 2023, a crowd of hundreds gathered in the Carl Zehr Square. On the side closer to Kitchener City Hall and lined up along the building’s balcony, were protestors demanding the exclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity education in school curricula across Canada.
Across the splash pad, hundreds of counter-protestors supporting queer and trans rights lined up along King St.
The protest was organized by the 1 Million March 4 Children, which also called for students to walk out of classrooms on the day of the protest.
“Uniting diverse backgrounds and faiths, we share a resolute purpose: advocating for the elimination of the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) curriculum, pronouns, gender ideology and mixed bathrooms in schools,” their website states.
“Together, we stand united to safeguard the well-being and innocence of our children,” it states.
Counter-protestors showed support for trans youth and 2SLGBTQIA+ commnunity members. Children were present on both sides.
Alicia and Brooke, a mother-daughter duo, showed up to the counter-protest. Alicia said that 2SLGBTQIA+ children may feel trapped. As schools become more open, children might feel more comfortable talking to someone about their identities.
“I just believe in freedom for all and we should to live our lives the way we choose,” she said.
Brooke, who attends middle school in Kitchener, said that as schools become more open and talk about 2SLGBTQIA+ identities, it is easier for students to open up.
“Now that…more people are joining the community and supporting it and allying–I think it’s just more easy to open up and like be yourself now, especially for the students,” she said.
Monica van Schaik is a counsellor at Out of the Box Counselling & Collaborations. They said it is important for community members to know that support for trans folks extends beyond the trans community.
“I’m here to stand up for trans rights, I think that trans kids and youth and adults still face a ton of marginalization and barriers and hate in our communities,” they said.
van Schaik said if school is a safe space for trans youth to explore and express their gender identities, especially when home is not, it is important to maintain the safety of that space.
“We know, through a ton of data, that trans kids and youth are at an [especially high] risk of suicide, of self-harm, of depression, of all kinds of horrible mental health struggles and I think it’s so important just for the health and literally the survival of trans kids that they can explore themselves and be in affirming spaces,” they said.
A parent who requested to remain anonymous spoke about the need to protect children and the right to their gender. This right, the protestor said, is a God-given one.
“Everybody has the right to their own gender,” they said. “If the boys are boys, let them be boys; if the girls are girls, let them be girls.”
Protestors shouted slogans including: “Leave our kids alone!”; “Parents know the best!”; and “No secrets from parents!”
On the other side, counter-protestors chanted, “No more hate!”
Following the event, Aashay Dalvi, founder of Rad Riot Books, made a statement on their Instagram story. They expressed frustration at having to constantly having to uphold a white supremacist, colonial and hetero-patriarchal institution of gender.
“My identity is more than my biology. My humanity is more than my anatomy,” they wrote.
Another protest by 1 Million March 4 Children is planned for October.