After anti-SOGI activists announced they would rally on the lawn of the B.C. legislature next week, members of Victoria’s LGBTQ and education communities have countered with plans for a rally of their own.
Kelli Kraft, a teacher with School District 23 in the Central Okanagan who taught in Victoria last year said people reached out to her to help organize an event to counter the anti-SOGI rally scheduled for Sept. 29.
Kraft designed handouts with information about SOGI – an online based resource tool designed for inclusive learning, open to any B.C. teachers who choose to use it – to disperse to the crowd the last time Smith and Thompson held a similar event at the legislature in April.
“I thought it was really important that people [are] informed,” Kraft says, because so much of the anti-SOGI rhetoric is false.
“I’ve heard a lot of people calling it a curriculum or a sex-ed policy,” she continues. “That is not at all what SOGI is about. It’s more education-based and student-centred.”
The Sept. 29 event, called “Free B.C. from SOGI 123” has been organized by transgender speaker Jenn Smith and includes Laura-Lynn Tyler Thompson, a parent, blogger, author and former co-host of The 700 Club Canada with former ties to Culture Guard, a right-wing Christian group.
Smith and Thompson were among a crowd of protesters who took to the legislature lawn in April in protest of SOGI. Hundreds of LGBTQ people and their allies showed up as well, and the peaceful protest ended in a dance party.
It’s heartbreaking, Kraft says, to watch as the kids who SOGI is designed to support, experience this kind of hate. “Having to defend your existence frequently can absolutely bring about trauma.”
As for the misinformation circulating province-wide, Kraft remains confused as to the purpose of events like the planned rally because SOGI is already in place.
Thompson, who is running for a school trustee position in School District 41 in Burnaby, told local media “the most important issue facing schools is that parents are highly alarmed and very upset that children are being taught gender-fluid ideology.”
“It’s interesting that it’s a platform now,” says Kraft, who is unable to attend the event Sept. 29 but is sending her support along with other SD23 teachers making the trek to the Island to show solidarity.
On the Pro SOGI 123 Rally Facebook event page, it reads:
“Once again, while we recognize that it is so incredibly not fun to be around these folks while they’re saying hateful things, we think it is so important to have a presence there that celebrates all genders, orientations, sexualities, and family/relationship configurations, in order to show this group (and our city, and our students/children!) that we stand for equality.”
“No matter what you think about these policies,” Kraft says, “they’re going to save some kids’ lives.”