LGBTQ+ advocates showed up in strong numbers to counter-demonstrate an anti-transgender protest organized near a Catholic high school in Ontario.
In late November, a protest was held adjacent to St. Joseph’s Catholic High School, Renfrew, by a student seeking to stop trans-inclusive restroom practices at the school. According to CTV, St. Joseph’s seemingly allows trans students to use restrooms aligned with their gender. The protest, organized by student Josh Alexander, was attended by approximately 30 individuals who carried signs with messages such as “males do not belong in female washrooms” and “fake news.”
Alexander, who transferred to the school this fall, denied the protest was anti-trans despite the subterfuge of concern about men in women’s restrooms being a standard anti-trans argument. According to Ottawa CityNews, Alexander stated in a social media post about the protest:
“It is time to expose the perverted agenda in our educated system. Males do not belong in female washrooms. Protect the girls from this evil narrative. Stop depriving our students of a healthy and natural environment. ‘God made them male and female: Mark 10:6.’”
In response to Alexander’s demonstration, a group of approximately 100 counter-protesters lined the north side of the road near St. Joseph’s, carrying rainbow banners and Pride flags, and expressing messages of universal love and tolerance. Sophie Smith-Dore, the Arnprior PFLAG Chapter Lead and a co-founder of Arnprior Pride, said that the counter-protesters were there to show support for gender-diverse students and to stand up against intolerance:
“Our message here today was to show support for trans kids because we didn’t want them just to see first-hand or through the media the messages of intolerance and hatred that these types of protests attract. We wanted them to see a large number of people in support of them and waving signs of love and affirmation and that they are accepted and we love them no matter what they may hear or read.”
Smith-Dore noted that about 50 people were transported by bus from Ottawa, sponsored by groups there that support gender-diverse students. The counter-protestors were also joined by local residents, many of them waving banners in support of the high school students.
According to Smith-Dore, a number of students had been withdrawn from classes at the school due to concerns about the protest and the views of those participating in it. Smith-Dore withdrew her daughter from classes at St. Joseph’s four days before the protest as she did not want her daughter sitting in a classroom with others who were vocally opposed to her daughter’s right to use a washroom where she feels most comfortable:
“The support shown here today and for young people everywhere goes to show that ordinary people are willing to stand up to intolerance and those who would try to deny these young people of a basic human right that every Canadian is entitled to.”
CTV News reported that the Renfrew County Catholic District School Board made clear the protest was not sanctioned by the school or the board. In a statement sent to parents and released online, the school board condemned transphobia:
“It is important to note that St. Joseph’s High School has had no part in the planning of this demonstration. We want to make it clear that the Renfrew County Catholic District School Board strongly condemns transphobia and all forms of hate.”
Today is the last chance to vote for what you think are the worst and the best of Catholic LGBTQ+ news events in 2022. Later this week, Bondings 2.0 will reveal the vote results to close out the year. Voting closes Wednesday, December 28th at 5:00 p.m. Eastern U.S. Time. Vote now by clicking here.
—Bobby Nichols (he/him), New Ways Ministry, December 28, 2022