Alberta LGBTQ2 community members meet with cabinet minister on gender policies

Click to play video: 'Alberta LGBTQ2 community members meet with cabinet minister on gender policies'
Alberta LGBTQ2 community members meet with cabinet minister on gender policies
There was a call for a change of heart from LGBTQ2 advocates in Alberta who met with an UCP cabinet minister Tuesday, after community members urged more consultation over the province's parental rights proposals. Morgan Black reports – Feb 6, 2024

Six days after Premier Danielle Smith publicly proposed a number of new policies that will impact transgender youth and others in Alberta, some leaders from the province’s LGBTQ2 community met with a cabinet minister to discuss the development.

“As an organization, we weren’t consulted on the policy, and so we’re just hoping to be able to bring some of the broader concerns from the community forward,” Cheyenne Mihko Kihêw, the executive director of the Edmonton 2 Spirit Society, told Global News on Tuesday.

The organization works to provide programming, services and build community among local “2Spirit,” “IndigiQueer” and/or “Indigenous LGBTQIA+” community members.

Mihko Kihêw spoke to Global News at the Queen Elizabeth II Building (former Federal Building) in Edmonton before Mihko Kihêw and other LGBTQ2 leaders entered a meeting with Arts, Culture and Status of Women Minister Tanya Fir.

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“We just want to be heard,” Mihko Kihêw said, adding that they believe very few people were consulted about the proposed policy before Smith announced it on Wednesday. “The consultation process for this policy, it was done in a very poor way.”

Click to play video: 'How could Danielle Smith’s transgender policy proposals impact Alberta’s UCP?'
How could Danielle Smith’s transgender policy proposals impact Alberta’s UCP?

Smith said last week that her government wants to ban puberty blockers and hormone therapy for children 15 and younger, with exceptions made for those who have already started treatment.

She also wants parental consent to be a requirement for children 15 and under if they want to use a different name or pronoun at school. The proposed policy Smith outlined does not call for teenagers who are 16 or 17 to do the same, but schools would have to notify their guardians about name or pronoun changes.

Smith also indicated she hopes to come up with ways of ensuring cisgender women do not have to compete with transgender women in athletic contests if they do not want to, arguing that in some sports she believes transgender women have a competitive advantage over their cisgender counterparts.

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“As a two-spirit person myself, I myself am personally impacted by the policy,” Mihko Kihêw said. “Our invitation to this meeting feels a little disjointed in that we are not aware of who from the community has been invited to participate in the meeting.

Click to play video: 'Alberta trans woman shares regrets over bottom surgery: ‘What have I done?’'
Alberta trans woman shares regrets over bottom surgery: ‘What have I done?’

“The meeting was originally scheduled for last week prior to the UCP announcement over X. I think two days before the meeting was supposed to happen it was cancelled and then the policy came out shortly thereafter and the meeting was rescheduled for today.”

Mihko Kihêw said many LGBTQ2 leaders “hope that the policy would just be removed and new policies would be put in place that protect our community, not further alienate us.”

“It will cause other individuals in the community to experience greater physical, mental, social, spiritual harm and it will impact their well-being,” Mihko Kihêw said. “There’s a level of anxiety in going into this space.

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“You want to walk in … in a good way (and) meet them with kindness, meet them with compassion — even though they’re not doing the same for us … For me personally, it is my hope that good conversation can come.”

Click to play video: 'Albertans rally in support of trans rights at the legislature Sunday'
Albertans rally in support of trans rights at the legislature Sunday

After Smith announced the suite of proposed policies, she and her government have faced criticism from a number of LGBTQ2 groups and the Alberta NDP. Some of the concerns raised include that human rights may be infringed upon and that the Canada Health Act may be contravened when or if the policy is implemented.

The proposed policies have also prompted protests in Edmonton, Calgary and several other Canadian cities.

Smith said the policies are intended to help young people preserve the opportunity to make choices about their bodies when they are adults, and that she wants to stop youth from making life-changing decisions until they are mature enough to do so.

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“Issues involving kids’ reproductive health are not a political stunt,” she told reporters last week.

“It is essential for us to show leadership in preserving kids’ choices. So if they choose to at some future point … they want to have kids, that they haven’t prematurely made a decision they can’t live with.”

Click to play video: 'How could Danielle Smith’s transgender policy proposals impact Alberta’s UCP?'
How could Danielle Smith’s transgender policy proposals impact Alberta’s UCP?

Alberta’s government has confirmed that the required age for genital reconstruction (bottom) surgery in the province is already 18 while the required age for masculinization of the torso (top) surgery is 16 years of age.

The government says that if Smith’s proposed policy is implemented, moving forward, all gender affirmation surgeries for minors aged 17 and under would be banned.

In 2022-23, the government saw nearly 2,700 claims be submitted for non-surgical interventions or hormone treatments for minors. The government said it did not have data for how many of those claims relate to gender identity.

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After the meeting, Fir indicated she believes there needs to be more consultation on the policies but also said she continues to support the policies as they currently after Tuesday’s conversations.

“I think there’s a wide suite of policies and guidelines that really are balanced and about protecting children,” she said.

Adebayo Katiiti, a transgender man, spoke to Global News after the meeting and indicated he had concerns with what governments are considering when creating policies.

“Our government should come to us and consult us,” he said.

“The people who make these decisions have never lived in a trans body. They don’t know how it feels to wake up and look at yourself in the mirror and hate what you see.”

Katiiti noted there is one of Smith’s new policies that he supports: the plan to try to recruit more medical professionals to Alberta who specialize in gender-affirming care.

LGBTQ2 advocate Eva Kurilova spoke to Global News after the meeting and suggested she and others in the LGBTQ2 community do not oppose the policies.

“We really support them,” she said, adding that she and others met with Smith to discuss the issues in November.

“We think they do a great job in protecting children and preserving their right to grow up and choose for themselves what they want to do when they’re older.”

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However, Kurilova acknowledged that there are other LGBTQ2 leaders who oppose the policies and that more discussion is needed.

“(They) have to be heard, and I think they don’t feel like they are being heard,” she said.

Mihko Kihêw said the meeting with Fir left them with “more questions.”

“We have more concerns and we would like more conversations,” they said.

–with files from Global News’ Morgan Black and The Canadian Press’ Colette Derworiz and Dean Bennett

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