FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — The Trans Alliance Friends, Family & Youth Society (TAFFY) is holding a “peaceful presence” in response to an anti-SOGI rally that’s expected to take place in Fort St. John.
The 1 Million March 4 Children, organized by Hands Off Our Kids, will walk from city hall to Centennial Park on Wednesday.
According to the Hands Off Our Kids website, they aim to “safeguard children from gender ideology teachings, sexual indoctrination, exposure to explicit sexual content.”
TAFFY told Energeticcity.ca that they will be holding a separate event to provide information to those who are unaware of the importance of inclusivity and safe spaces. The group decided not to call their event a counter-protest as they aren’t looking to start conflict, they just want to peacefully inform those who are interested in learning more.
If supporters or allies want to join the peaceful presence, they are asked to contact them directly for the meeting time and place.
TAFFY’s president, Paige Turrtel, said she and all of TAFFY found it heartbreaking to hear what was being said and what the march was directed toward.
“It seems like it’s directed at rolling back rights. We are disgusted at the idea of trans youth and children who are questioning their identities losing a safe space,” Turrtel said.
“To speak on myself, I tried to come out when I was quite young, I knew back then, but I was met with conversion therapy, abuse and abandonment from my family.”
She said she didn’t have a safe space and ended up dealing with substance abuse and self-harm.
“If someone today had the safe space from a teacher because they didn’t have it at home, that can mean the difference between life and death,” Turrtel said.
TAFFY’s president said in the short time they’ve been around, they have had situations where they were called to the hospital to be with people in crisis because they didn’t have anywhere else to turn.
Turrtel said the group has given youth a safe space to talk as well as given children and parents access to supports and resources.
“Given that we’re in a fairly conservative town, a lot of it is still being directed at us, or some people are just having a difficult time coming out in general because they don’t know where to turn,” she said.
The march is a protest against sexual orientation and gender ideology (SOGI) in schools.
The rally is expected to take place in 70 other communities.
The SOGI 123 website says it is not its own curriculum, it is one of the aspects of diversity that is embedded across grades and subject areas. SOGI-inclusive education means discussing diversity and learning the importance of treating everyone with dignity and respect.
British Columbia’s Human Rights Commissioner also weighed in on the rallies taking place on Wednesday.
In a statement, Kasari Govender said peaceful demonstration protects democracy and generates debate, but the human rights of the trans and LGBTQ community “is not up for debate.”
An inquiry by her office showed nearly two-thirds of LGBTQIA2S students don’t feel safe at school, while 11 per cent of heterosexual students feel unsafe at school.
She said those who want to protect their children by removing school-based supports for gay, bisexual, trans and other students are misinformed.
“As a parent, I plead with those who may think they are protecting their children: Erasing LGBTQ2SAI+ people from our curriculum will not change your child’s identity, but it will make schools, and the LGBTQ2SAI+ people in them, less safe,” Govender said in a statement.
With files from the Canadian Press.