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Deputy Mayor Jennifer McKelvie, centre, and other City of Toronto council members officially proclaim June as Pride Month in Toronto and raise the Progress Pride flag at City Hall in Toronto on June 1.Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press

This Friday, anti-trans activist Chris Elston (”Billboard Chris”) will demonstrate in front of an Ottawa school, accompanied by supporters.

“We have children who are being indoctrinated … to believe that it is stereotypes that determine their sex or their gender,” he says in a video online. Mr. Elston carries around a sign that reads, “Children are never born in the wrong body.”

This is vile.

Unable to force women to surrender control over their bodies, unable to force gay men and women back into the closet, unable to force their perversion of Christianity onto the rest of us, the far right has decided to go after trans people.

Those who are transgender or non-binary make up about 10 per cent of the one million LGBTQ+ people in Canada, according to Statistics Canada. That they are relatively few in number makes it even more important that we stand with them against Billboard Chris and his ilk.

In the United States, social conservatives thought they had scored a huge political win in 2022 when the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade, which protected a woman’s right to an abortion.

But it turned out that most Americans support that right, and many anti-abortion Republicans did poorly in last fall’s midterm elections. Needing another imaginary villain, the far right ramped up its persecution of the trans community.

The warped thinking goes something like this: Everyone belongs to the gender they were born with, but woke ideologists, preying on some young minds, insist that people can change their gender. They “groom” these confused children, persuading them to take puberty-blocking drugs and undergo life-altering surgery.

“They’re literally chopping off the private parts of young kids, and that’s wrong,” says Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who is seeking the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.

When challenged last August by the fact-checking site Politifact, the Governor’s office was able to produce two cases of teens in the U.S., one 15 and one 17, who had received gender transition-related surgeries.

If the transgender community represents only a fraction of the LGBTQ+ community, if surgical or chemical intervention in young children is not medically approved, if interventions are exceedingly rare at the adolescent stage – and then only for teens who truly need such treatment – then why is the far right flogging this issue?

When seeking to stoke social divisions, “you target the Other,” says Kristopher Wells, Canada Research Chair for the Public Understanding of Sexual and Gender Minority Youth at Edmonton’s MacEwan University. “And who is most Other right now? Those who are trans, gender diverse, because they are also the least understood.”

This campaign is hatefully reminiscent of a not-so-recent past when homosexual teachers lived in fear and the closet because bigots thought they were grooming children to become queer.

It preys on understandable confusion among parents who fully support the rights of sexual minorities, but who wonder about trans athletes competing against their daughters in sports and using their locker rooms.

And it stokes divisions within the LGBTQ+ community. Middle-class gay folk have largely secured legal protection and, especially in large cities, social acceptance. It can be tempting to seek distance from trans-rights activists, some of whom do push boundaries, stoke confrontation and reject societal norms.

“It’s cleaving the gender identity, gender expression, the trans community off from the lesbian, gay, bisexual community,” Prof. Wells says.

This is a dangerous trap. All queer people remain at risk from social conservatives. Florida has completely banned lessons on sexual or gender identity from the state’s sexual-education curriculum for all grades. Some states are banning drag shows.

In both the U.S. and Canada, parents seek to ban books with LGBTQ+ themes or characters from libraries and to ban schools from flying the Pride flag. People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier, who is running for a seat in the Portage–Lisgar by-election, spouts transphobic rhetoric.

Things are starting to turn violent. In California on Tuesday, fights broke out after hundreds of pro- and anti-LGBTQ+ rights activists protested outside school-board offices.

Trans rights are human rights. Disagreements within the LGBTQ+ community must never overshadow unity against those who despise all sexual and gender minorities.

Everything that has been gained could be lost if the Ron DeSantises and the Billboard Chrises have their way.

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