2SLGBTQIA+ campus groups unite to oppose transphobia

Manitoba 2SLGBTQIA+ Student Action Coalition takes part in counter-protests

When Keegan Vergara was asked as a queer representative on the Social Work Students’ Association to make a statement on the 1 Million March 4 Children (1MM4C), he and the other queer rep decided they needed to do more than just make a statement about it.

Since then, student clubs and 2SLGTBQIA+ groups from the University of Manitoba and the University of Winnipeg have joined forces to oppose anti-trans sentiment in Manitoba.  

Vergara, one of the co-organizers of the Manitoba 2SLGBTQIA+ Student Action Coalition, said the group formed “just within the last month or so.” Vergara proposed the initial idea of a counter-protest that would oppose the statements 1MM4C was making.

“Everything that they’ve been spreading around is built around misinformation, fear-mongering and just general hate speech, to be honest with you,” he said.

Manitoba has seen a number of controversies regarding education on 2SLGTBQIA+ issues in recent months.

Brandon School Division faced a barrage of phone calls, letters and emails in May demanding that books including 2SLGBTQIA+ content be removed from school libraries, though the board of trustees ultimately voted 6-1 against a proposal to form a committee to review books rather than removing them altogether.

Most recently, the Manitoba Progressive Conservative Party ran a series of campaign ads in the recent provincial election promising to expand parental rights in schools, which many critics interpreted as a coded message to those who oppose sexual orientation and gender identity education in schools. 

Vergara said these narratives are “targeting the autonomy of youth within school” and pointed out that “not everyone comes from supportive homes.”

Many 2SLGBTQIA+ youth still face the risk of homelessness, shunning or violence from their families if they are outed.

Vergara said society needs to “ensure that the public school setting remains a safe space for queer and trans youth,” and the idea that parents should be informed if their children come out at school is “putting the lives of so many at risk.” 

A recent Angus Reid institute poll found that 49 per cent of the 252 Manitobans surveyed believe parents should be notified and asked to consent to changes in their child’s gender identity at school and another 27 per cent think they should be informed.

Vergara reached out to other 2SLGTBQIA+ representatives from student groups and 2SLGTBQIA+ groups on campus such as the Rainbow Pride Centre, the UM EngiQueers and the Queer and Trans Health Sciences Graduate Students’ Group. The coalition also includes the U of M Women’s Centre and the Arts Student Body Council.

The coalition helped organize a counter-protest to the 1MM4C protest on Sept. 20 and supported the Rally For Trans Youth on Sept. 24. Following these rallies, its members reached out to student groups at the U of W to organize collectively under the name Manitoba 2SLGBTQIA+ Student Action Coalition.

The group also took part in Saturday’s No Space for Hate “counter-protest party,” organized by the No Space for Hate Collective — which includes a range of community groups and organizations in Winnipeg — in response to another 1MM4C rally. Hundreds of participants gathered at the legislature in an event featuring speakers, music and a drag storybook reading. 

The organizers of the No Space for Hate rally demanded that the new government “take action against the rise of anti-2SLGBTQIA+ hate and extremism in their first 100 days in office.”