Ontario Catholic schools cancel play about boy who cross-dresses

A person holds a candle during "Kingston stands in Solidarity with Orlando" in Kingston, Ont., on June 13, 2016.
A person holds a candle during "Kingston stands in Solidarity with Orlando" in Kingston, Ont., on June 13, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Lars Hagberg

Several Catholic schools in Ontario have canceled performances of a children’s play about a boy who cross-dresses, drawing accusations of transphobia in the liberal province.

Performances of the play that explores gender identity were suddenly called off by six elementary schools – five of them with Catholic affiliations – over the last week or so, according to the theater company behind the show.

“Boys, Girls, And Other Mythological Creatures” tells the story of 8-year-old Simon, who dreams of becoming a princess and feels boxed in gender stereotypes.

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Several parents complained about the content of the play being inappropriate at a recent public meeting, said Jessica Carmichael, Carousel Players’ artistic director, in a phone interview.

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The play was due to be performed in schools in and around the Niagara Falls region.

The cancellations showed intolerance towards transgender people, said Carmichael.

“I believe these cancellations are due to transphobia, homophobia and misogyny,” she said. “Our society isn’t as tolerant as we think we are.”

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In emailed comments, the Catholic school board overseeing five of the schools that decided not to put on the play said it was “fully inclusive” but that it was concerned the play sent a message that went beyond the targeted students’ comprehension.

“Following the first performance of the play, it was brought to (our) attention … that the play was not age-appropriate,” said a Niagara Catholic District School Board spokeswoman.

A bill that would amend the country’s Human Rights Act to include explicit protection for transgender people against discrimination is being debated in Canada‘s parliament, said Noa Mendelsohn Aviv, a spokeswoman of the Toronto-based Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

READ MORE: Parents of transgender youth urge Senate to back Bill C-16

An emailed request for comment to the remaining school that called off the performance was not returned.

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Jackie Hansen, a spokeswoman for Amnesty International Canada, said there was an “astounding” rate of harassment of transgender children in Canadian schools.

A 2011 survey by LGBT rights advocacy groups Egale Canada found that nine in 10 transgender Canadian youth heard transphobic comments daily or weekly from other students.

“What has happened in those schools is a shame,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in a phone interview.

“As a society as a whole we need to be doing more to protect trans folks, and that certainly includes schools.”

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