Renfrew: A protest organized by a high school student on Friday afternoon intended to prevent transgender people from using the bathroom of their choice was met by a group of anti-protesters that nearly tripled the number of protesters gathered outside St. Joseph’s High. School in Renfrew.
As of noon, approximately 30 people lined the median on Barnet Boulevard and carried large Canadian flags. Some protesters held up handwritten signs with various Biblical quotes or signs saying that the toilets are designated for men and women and that entry to those facilities is based on their anatomy. Other signs included the words “FAKE NEWS” and two people carried flags reading “F**K Trudeau.”
Although it was designed as a student protest, there were at least 25 middle-aged men and women leading the chants of varying degrees in support of the men and women using the designated toilets. With at least four Ontario Provincial Police vehicles visible within 200 feet of the main assembly area, a counter-protest made up of people of all ages began to take shape.
With less than 40 feet separating them from the organizers, about 100 anti-protesters, including 50 bused in from Ottawa, lined the north side of the street, most carrying rainbow banners, Pride flags or handwritten signs with messages of universal love and tolerance for all individuals.
The student protest/walkout was organized by Josh Alexander, an 11th grader who recently transferred to a Catholic high school in September, and its message was simple and to the point.
“The idea for the protest started about two weeks ago when the principal refused to take any action regarding allowing the men to use the girls’ bathroom,” she said. “Men do not belong in women’s restrooms is our message. So, I put out a post on social media and it all led up to today.”
“Time to expose the perverted agenda in our education system,” her post read. “Men don’t belong in women’s bathrooms. 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’.”
When asked if rescheduling the protest was considered in light of the murders of five people at a Colorado Springs LBGTQ nightclub who were victims of a hate crime because they attended a drag show where transgender people make up the majority of customers, Josh indicated that it was not considered.
“Considering that this demonstration had nothing to do with transphobia, it really has nothing to do with our message,” he said. “This demonstration is about male students in the girls’ restrooms at our high school. The girls at this high school don’t want that to happen and are persecuted if they dare to speak out.”
He said he only knew of two male students using a female bathroom, but he was confident there were others doing the same. He said that, to his knowledge, there have never been any physical altercations in the bathroom, but there have been “disruptions.”
Sophie Smith-Dore, chapter leader of Arnprior Pflag (Pflag Canada is a national charity, founded by parents who wanted to help themselves and their families understand and accept their LGBTQ2S children) and co-founder of Arnprior Pride, said she was overwhelmed. and proud of the number of people who showed up to express their support for gender diverse students.
“My daughter attends this school and the support shown here today and for young people around the world shows that ordinary people are ready to stand up to bigotry and those who try to deny these young people a basic human right that every Canadian has. . to,” she said.
Ms. Smith-Dore withdrew her daughter from classes at St. Joe’s four days before the protest because she did not want her to sit in a classroom with other people who openly oppose her daughter’s right to use a bathroom where you feel most comfortable.
“My daughter sent me the poster that was going around the school and I met with the school administration and then I decided to get her out,” she said. “I can’t be sure that she, or any other gender diverse child, won’t be forced to sit next to the students who are openly advocating for her removal.”
She said about 50 people were bused in from Ottawa. They were sponsored by groups in Ottawa that support gender diverse students and were joined by local residents, many waving banners in support of high school students.
“Our message here today was to show support for trans children because we didn’t want them to just see firsthand or through the media the messages of bigotry and hate that these kinds of protests attract,” she said. “We wanted them to see a large number of people supporting them and waving signs of love and affirmation and that they are accepted and we love them no matter what they hear or read.”
When asked the same question about the timing of the event in light of the mass shooting a week earlier that was a hate crime targeting the LBGTQ community, she said she wasn’t surprised the event took place.
“I’m not surprised it hasn’t been rescheduled because they preach bigotry and don’t care about anyone’s feelings but their own,” he said. “They don’t understand the sensitivity of the recent murders of transgender people, so no, we weren’t surprised at all.”
The protest ended peacefully shortly after 1 a.m. Ms Smith-Dore said that the large turnout will force local schools to examine their policies and that the conversation about human rights and gender diversity has only just begun.
Bruce McIntyre, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader