Should parents be informed about their child changing pronouns?

(Photo by George Becker, Pexels)

During a press conference in late August, Ontario’s Minister of Education Stephen Lecce was asked if the province will create policies requiring parental involvement in student gender identity.

The question refers to the changes made to school board policies in both Saskatchewan and New Brunswick, which bar students under the age of 16 from being formally recognized by their chosen pronouns without parental consent.

Lecce stated, “I think we have to respect the rights of parents and recognize that these can be life-changing decisions, and I think parents want to be involved so that they can support their kids. And I think that’s a really important principle that we must uphold.”

With a recent rise in LGBTQ2S+ hate, and a call on the government for action by activists, there is debate on whether parents should be involved in – and informed about – their child changing pronouns.

Edith Wallflower, a second-year student who identifies as trans believes: “It is the job of a parent to support their child until that child can responsibly support themselves both socially and financially. Unfortunately, due to social stigmas and generational trauma, conversations around gender can be dangerous for children to have with their parents. We cannot always trust that parents have their children’s best interests at heart.”

Although there are many parents who may be accepting of their child’s gender identity, there are many who are not. In a recent survey by Angus Reid, Canadians were asked if they would support their child’s request to undergo hormone therapy. Only 21 per cent stated that they would. 

When it comes to life at home for these students, questions and concerns regarding their safety arise.

Toby Finlay, a PhD student in sociology, references a study by Trans Pulse Canada, citing that one in four trans youth had family that stopped talking to them.

“If family members are informed about a young person’s gender identity or pronouns without their consent this may lead to loss of family support or possibly to physical harm. Research also demonstrates that LGBTQ2S+ young people are overrepresented in studies of homelessness as a result of family rejection and housing discrimination, patterns which stand to be exacerbated by the threatened policy changes,” explains Finlay.

In addition, the aforementioned study states that one in five trans and non-binary youth actively avoid school due to the fear of harassment or being outed. Finlay adds, “Fear and avoidance of school may increase if policies are enacted that limit young people’s ability to feel secure in expressing their gender.” 

A secondary school teacher, who wishes to remain anonymous, states, “As an educator we are not the ones forcing ideas on students; our job is to create a safe and inclusive environment for all of our students.”  

Whether schools remain safe for trans and non-binary students is yet to be determined if the policy does end up being legislated in Ontario.

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By Kieran Lee


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