Alberta Premier’s promise to support trans youth contradicted by policies limiting gender-affirming care

by | Mar 1, 2024 | Opinion

On January 31st, 2024, Premier Danielle Smith told the transgender youth of Alberta through a video on X that as long as she is premier of Alberta, she will ”ensure [they] are supported and [their] rights are protected.” In the same video, she then introduced several new policies, including ones that restrict gender-affirming care for minors, mandate parental notification and consent for gender and sexual education, and require notification and consent from parents whose child wants to change their name and pronouns at school. These policies are rolled out under the guise of protecting youth, but refusing to educate them on the matters of sex and gender identity may have the opposite effect.

Premier Smith recently stated in a public address that she doesn’t “think [people] go to politicians to get medical advice” and she is “certainly not going to give it.” It seems this view does not extend to marginalized groups such as trans youth, regardless of its conflict with the perspectives of the Alberta Medical Association, Alberta Psychiatric Association and the Canadian Pediatric Society

Smith also proposes concerns towards gender affirming care in her video. One of these concerns is gender reassignment treatments for minors, such as top and bottom surgery, which are already not permitted for persons under the age of 18. In 2023, only 23 Albertans under the age of 18 underwent some sort of top surgery, with no distinction as to whether this was for gender-affirming purposes, cancer treatment or pain-based breast reduction. Moreover, no such restrictions exist for minors wanting cosmetic surgery so long as they have parental consent.

Another of these contradictory instances in the Family Law Act includes the prohibition of puberty blockers and hormone treatments for minors 15 and under. While the Premier states that altering one’s gender as a youth can severely limit that child’s choices in the future, disallowing hormone blockers that are used to prolong a minor’s window of opportunity to make these important decisions also limits their options. By forcing puberty, more permanent changes are made and undergoing gender reassignment becomes more risky and difficult, as well as a potential elevation of depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation.  

Premier Smith also mentions splitting transgender and cisgender women in sports. This will allow women who are assigned female at birth to opt-in to a ‘Women’s Only Division,’ which provides a telling glimpse into the UCP’s opinion on the validity of trans women.

The new bill introduces ‘parental rights’ policies into the school system as well. The first is the requirement to notify and receive consent from children’s parents if that child wishes to change their name and pronouns at school. It is understandable that as a parent, one may want to know what is happening in their child’s life. Instead of relying solely on the teacher to provide information about their child, they might consider whether there are any reasons their child might doubt their ability to love and accept them for who they are. Research indicates that transgender youth with supportive parents are more likely to experience improved health and well-being; every child just wants to belong.

The last is a notification and opt-in requirement for school materials related to gender identity, sexual orientation or human sexuality. This leaves students exempt from this education in the dark about many important issues. In a world of polarizing views on gender identity, it is easy for children to see and emulate transphobic behavior without ever being given an alternative viewpoint. By solely leaving this education to parents, some of whom have harmful views, trans people are endangered. Withholding information on these topics when so many trans youth face bullying is revealing about the UCP’s priorities. Is the goal to protect the comfort of the general population or the lives of these marginalized individuals?

In conclusion, there needs to be more collaboration with professionals and transgender individuals when introducing policies that will directly affect them. It is easy to see how these views come about; we see articles of people having regrets and detransitioning, and there’s the argument that trans women have an unfair advantage in sports. Unfortunately, snap judgments are regularly made on these issues without doing the research to find out if there’s any truth to them. If Premier Smith truly wishes to help transgender people, she should be doing the research and speaking with professionals about these policies’ ramifications. As it stands, these issues are best left in the hands of the professionals, support systems and trans youth themselves to be navigated.

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