Support is pouring in for an Okanagan elementary school student who was allegedly the focal point of anti-trans attack while she was competing in a district track meet.
“This is awful. This kind of hate is not acceptable or welcome in British Columbia,” Premier David Eby said Tuesday.
“Let’s keep calling out transphobia when we see it. Hate hurts everyone. And let’s stand with this girl and everyone who is targeted just for being themselves.”
The nine-year-old girl, whose name is being withheld, was competing in the shotput event when she was allegedly verbally accosted by a couple who were at the track meet, purportedly, to support their grandchild
“(The man) proceeded to say that if my daughter was not a boy, then she was definitely trans, and should be disqualified from competing. In the meantime, his wife was shouting that I was a genital mutilator, a groomer and a pedophile,” the girl’s mom, Heidi Starr outlined in a Facebook post that travelled far and wide in recent days.
The couple then demanded a certificate proving the child’s gender, she said.
Witnesses to the onslaught near the shotput competition intervened immediately but the comments didn’t escape the girl’s ears, who was both shocked and hurt.
“She was quite hurt, couldn’t compete at her best and just crying,” her other mom Kari Starr said. “The girls in line like had some distractions for her.”
Since then, she’s relied on some of the things she’d already talked about with her parents to get past the episode.
“She has a video that we had been watching about diversity and standing above all the hate and as soon as she got home she said to Heidi, ‘I want to show you this video; this is how I feel,'” Kari, said.
Days later, following thousands of comments and a flood of support, she’s feeling a bit better. Though, Kari said she’s feeling sensitive about her new short haircut, a style chosen for how it doesn’t impede her while she plays sports.
“She’s also got a lot of other distractions, which I think have helped a lot,” she said.
“I really think the school district, especially our principal, helped… he was involved from minute one, dealing with it. He walked both Heidi and me out and he’s called both of us since. They’ve been amazing and supportive.”
Kevin Kaardal, superintendent of Central Okanagan Public Schools, has been working toward ensuring the couple, whose grandchild is believed to be in another school, can’t do this kind of thing again.
“The persons who accosted the student and family were not from one of our Central Okanagan public schools,” he said.
“We took steps through the school act. We will be serving them with a (letter) which prevents them from being on any district property or any district events.”
The district and the school are also planning to continue their support of the children affected and their parents.
“We’re checking in,” Kaardal said. “We have a number of supports that are available.”
There are many other students who weren’t involved and won’t get intervention, but Kaardal said that the isolated nature of the incident doesn’t diminish its importance.
“It’s just absolutely not acceptable. Adults have to govern their behaviour and remain civil,” he said.
“It’s our expectation of our kids and we expect to have any adults at our events as well.”
He pointed out that school staff acted in an exemplary manner.
“They took action to make it safe,” he said.
“Unfortunately, the persons involved didn’t respond the way one would hope and de-escalate the circumstance.”
While the child who was allegedly attacked is not trans, uses she/her pronouns and simply was the focus of an attack based on her appearance, it’s not unheard of that young people have become the focal point of this kind of attention.
Wayne Broughton, school trustee and well-known advocate of safe and inclusive schools, indicated it’s an off-base notion that motivated the behaviour.
“It was based on, essentially, their desire just to not have transgender people,” Broughton said.
“That’s really what all this comes down to. People put on this façade of protecting children and whatever but really they’re trying to take away children’s freedom to be who they are because they just don’t want to have transgender people.”
The Kelowna Regional RCMP Detachment has started a file though they can’t offer much information.
“We can confirm that the Kelowna RCMP have received a report and created an investigative file, but, due to the Privacy Act, we cannot share further details regarding the incident or the investigation at this time,” Const. Mike Della Paolera said.
“However, we want to encourage you to continue to be a strong voice and to show your ally ship, support, public positions and commitment to diversity and inclusion. It is important to our community to speak out against discriminatory behaviours, and research shows that social support is an important protective factor for those experiencing marginalization, racism, or discrimination.”
There are a number of services and programs available at Kelowna Community Resources.