By Brendan Miller on February 8, 2024.
Medicine Hat students took part in a province-wide walkout, protesting policies geared toward trans youth put forward by Premier Danielle Smith.
The proposed guidelines would ban gender-affirming surgeries for anyone under the age of 17, as well as puberty blockers and hormone therapies for those under the age of 15. This announcement has prompted protest from Alberta’s youth, exiting schools at 10 a.m. on Wednesday morning.
Among the students protesting was Crescent Heights High School’s True Colours Club, where member Sofie Plattnersnale said she doesn’t believe forcing teachers to notify parents if their child is using a different name or pronouns at school is the best option for the student.
“I, personally, am not trans but I have friends who are. And I know that it’s really important for them to be able to feel safe at school,” said Plattersnale. “A lot of those friends aren’t out to their parents yet. And that’d be really bad for them if their parents don’t necessarily support that. If they were outed by a teacher, that’s not the right way for that to happen.”
Medicine Hat Public High School student Callie Wagner said her fundamental rights and freedoms are being threatened by the incoming policy changes, and had come out with her schoolmates in order to “try and rise up against that and fight for who we are.”
“We just want to be happy people going through school, and aren’t being allowed that?” said Wagner. “This is who we are, this is what we believe. And we’re not going to let people treat us this way.”
Wagner echoes statements that relaying information on student’s gender identity could be dangerous for students who may live in households that are unsupportive, and that it’s the student’s place to tell their families when they feel safe to do so.
She further expressed that the suggestion the policy was to prevent youth from limiting future options was “foolish.”
“It feels like (Smith) just hates us for no reason,” said Wagner.
After the walkout itself, said Crescent Heights student Katie Jackson, the True Colours Club is matching their walkout with work to educate and support their fellow students.
“We’re planning to make a bulletin board full of things like how to use proper pronouns,” said Jackson, who is gender fluid. They added that it can be difficult for them, as some people chose to only use she/her pronouns for them, despite the fact they use multiple sets, but they overall feel safe among their peers.
“During the group we talk and discuss about, like, how we could make school more of a protective environment,” said Jackson. “It’s nice that the school is really accepting, and we’re bringing that in so that we can share it with the entire school so that everybody can be a little bit more welcoming to other students.”
— with files from Brendan Miller