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Trans rights under attack in Alberta

Alex Adams

February 9, 2024
Alberta premier Danielle Smith has announced new policies for the province around trans youth and their ability to consent for their own medical treatment, as well as their choices around how they wish to be addressed in the classroom. The announcement represents a bow to the pressure of the far right and other "anti-woke" forces - pressure that has been building since the far right convoy in Ottawa in 2021, which we have discussed in previous articles.
Smith has put trans youth in the crosshairs of the UCP for the usual cynical reasons: pander to the demands of a vocal minority within the party to assuage them, while sacrificing a marginalized group in the process. Her proposal is to ban any hormonal or surgical options for gender reassignment for anyone under 18, including both hormones and puberty blockers. It also would require parental consent for anyone under 15 wishing to change their pronouns or preferred name within the school system, and the parents of 16 and 17 year olds would be notified of such changes although their consent would not be required.
These policies put the lives of some trans and non-binary young people at risk, a group that has higher rates of suicide and suffers from more violence and harassment from all directions. When the state passes policies or laws that dictate control of personal autonomy over one's own body, it is a manifestation of oppression that reinforces sexism and transphobia. In an Orwellian attempt at spin doctoring, Smith claims to be protecting children from making decisions they may regret later.
This claim is as invalid as the protective claims made by anti-choicers against women's right to control their bodies. For anyone under 18, there is already an extensive vetting process to gain access to any medical treatment if they wish to transition. If trans youth want to have hormone therapy, puberty blockers are used to delay changes that would otherwise happen, while the process of counselling, etc continues. If they decide not to proceed, puberty will happen once the medications are stopped.
Similarly, access to gender reassignment surgeries also requires an approval process. It's worth noting that health care in general now requires providers to get informed consent for any treatment from the patient (or a substitute decision maker if the patient is unable to consent). At the moment in Alberta, genital reconstruction surgery is only available to persons over 18, and chest masculinization surgery is available to anyone 16 and over. Most surgeons also require a letter from a mental health professional to access these procedures.
Smith did not stop there with her transphobic and homophobic attacks, also requiring parental consent for children to receive education about sexuality, sexual orientation and gender identity in the schools, and banning transgender female athletes from competing in women's and girl's sports. These two issues have long been a key focus for the far right and religious right, in Canada and around the world.
There has been a response to these attacks, with sizable demonstrations happening  across the province after the announcement. LGBTQ advocacy groups are preparing legal challenges to the new rules. Even mainstream politicians like Justin Trudeau have denounced the move, but Smith has not ruled out using the 'notwithstanding clause' in the Charter of Rights to escape any legal challenges to her bigotry. The only way forward is to continue to build the movement to defend trans rights in Alberta, and everywhere else that trans rights are under attack.
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