A trans activist in Montreal said Quebec’s education minister is ignoring the well-being of trans and non-binary students by ruling out having mixed-gender bathrooms in the province’s schools.
Minister Bernard Drainville made it unequivocally clear on Tuesday that he is against the idea. The issue was raised at the National Assembly after a school in Rouyn-Noranda said it planned to offer them.
“So I definitely felt disappointed when I saw his comments because it disregards, in a way, trans and non-binary students’ safety,” said trans activist Celeste Trianon, who runs the Quebec Trans ID Clinic.
“And the consequence of that is that it’s going to lead to othering of trans and non-binary students who are not going to feel safe at school, as would be the case with full-blown gender-neutral washrooms as is being proposed at that school in Abitibi.”
The education minister was reacting to news that the École d’Iberville had started work to provide mixed-gender bathrooms for students for the 2024-2025 school year. The proposed bathrooms would have floor-to-ceiling stalls with a shared sink area.
A petition was launched to oppose the project.
“We don’t think it’s a good idea,” said Drainville in a press scrum on Tuesday, the first day of the parliamentary session resuming in Quebec City. “The school needs to get its act together.”
The minister said he prefers bathrooms for boys and bathrooms for girls but is open to the idea of having individual mixed bathrooms.
“There are already [individual] mixed bathrooms in the schools. I know because I visit them. So I think this could be a reasonable way of showing respect for diversity while ensuring that our boys and girls, men and women, have their intimate space when they go into the bathroom or washroom in any school.”
Trans activist Celeste Trianon is a law student at the Université de Montréal and promotes trans rights in the city. SOURCE: Celeste Trianon/Facebook
Speaking to reporters, he cited privacy concerns among teenage female students going through puberty who could potentially face harassment from male students who share the same bathroom.
“A 12-, 13-, 14-year-old girl who starts menstruating, for example, and comes out of the cubicle, then there are 13-, 14-year-old boys looking at her. Mockery, sarcasm, humiliation: a scenario we don’t want, so I think we need to draw a line and the line is being drawn now.”
Trianon didn’t share the same level of concern, saying that the minister’s comments reinforce her opinion that schools need to ensure adequate sex education is taught in schools to prevent ridicule “of what is a perfectly normal bodily function.” She also said teachers and staff should be equipped to deal with harassment on school property when it occurs.
“Ultimately, many of the demands that trans and non-binary people have in society is to make sure they have an equitable chance at living their best lives, getting employment, be able to complete school, etc. It’s all these factors combined here,” Trianon said.
Earlier in the morning, Parti Québécois leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon called for a parliamentary commission on certain issues up for debate, including gender-neutral bathrooms, the use of pronouns for non-binary people, and young people beginning the transition process to change their gender.
“I see a lot of ideology coming from the radical left being imposed, and then that’s where I have an issue when concepts are imposed, ways of doing new programs in the education system without any prior democratic debate,” he said.
Québec solidaire (QS) spokesman Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois compared his PQ opponent to federal Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre, whose party voted to ban gender transitions for people under 18.
“Trans kids are eight times more likely to commit suicide than other kids,” Nadeau-Dubois argued.
“That’s not the ideology of the radical left, it’s a fact. I think politicians should leave these kids alone. The children I’m talking about this morning are the one in five children in Quebec who don’t get enough to eat in school. I think we need to talk about that.”
With files from The Canadian Press
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