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Local pride societies speak out about the province’s policies on gender reassignment

Members of the Lacombe Pride Society with their Lacombe Days float in 2023. (Photo submitted)

The Lacombe and Ponoka Pride societies are speaking out about the province’s proposed policies regarding gender reassignment surgeries and related issues.

Policies announced earlier this month include a ban on puberty blockers for gender reassignment for anyone 15 and under, and a ban on gender reassignment surgery for those 17 and under unless they’ve already begun treatment.

The province says the policies are meant to preserve the choices children and youth have before potentially making life-altering and often irreversible adult decisions involving the alteration of their biological sex.

Other changes include parental consent for students 15 and under to change their names or pronouns at school; requiring parents to opt in for their child to be taught gender, sexual orientation, and sexuality in schools; and ensuring women and girls do not have to compete against transgender female athletes.

Changes will be rolled out in the fall legislature sitting.

However, a release from the Lacombe and Ponoka Pride societies notes that under Canadian law, no child can receive gender reassignment surgery under the age of 18, and, only in situations where doctors, health care professionals, parents, and a psychological evaluation agree that it is suitable for individuals ages 16-17.

“The Lacombe Pride Society has not been approached by any political party wanting to discuss this new bill. These sentiments are shared by our counterparts at Ponoka Pride Society, who were invited to the Legislature to discuss the struggles and realities that plague the rural queer communities in the summer of last year,” noted the release.

Jonathan Luscombe, director of the Lacombe Pride Society, said he had been expecting some kind of announcement from the province in connection with these issues, but had assumed it wouldn’t be as extensive as it turned out to be.

Luscombe also said that he feels a miscalculation on the part of the province was to announce these plans months ahead of when they will be further discussed in the fall.

This will allow time for pride organizations to work together on how to reverse the course the province is on, he said.

“We know that our voice will not be heard as individual Pride organizations. Our only option is to team together to stand out,” he said.

Meanwhile, Premier Danielle Smith has said that the policies are fundamentally about protecting children until they are mature enough to make these types of decisions.

“To every Albertan who identifies as transgender — I care deeply about your happiness and your well-being. I support you in becoming the person you want to be, or the person that you already are. As premier of this province, I will ensure that your rights are always protected,” she said.

“For children who identify as transgender, I want you to know that these policies are being implemented in order to protect the choices you have regarding altering your physical body until after you have grown mature enough to make such choices safely, and with a full understanding of what that means for the rest of your life.”

But for Luscombe, the policies are a politicization of these issues.

He added that there also hasn’t been nearly the extensive consultation needed with both medical and educational experts on all aspects of the policies put forward and that there is confusion over the role of puberty blockers as well, which are also used for various medical purposes.

“These kids are left in an extremely vulnerable place and could be potentially harmed due to the nature of this bill.”

Mark Weber

About the Author: Mark Weber

I've been a part of the Black Press Media family for about a dozen years now, with stints at the Red Deer Express, the Stettler Independent, and now the Lacombe Express.
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