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Transgender activists hold a banner at the 8th Annual Trans Day of Action on June 22, 2012 in New York City. Glynnis Jones / Shutterstock.com
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‘Xe, xem’: Vancouver school board pushes genderless pronouns

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Vancouver School Board trustees voted Monday to adopt a controversial update to the board’s ‘gender identity’ policy, despite backlash from concerned parents and ratepayers.

The new “Sexual Orientation and Gender Identities” policy, opposed by only two of the board’s nine trustees, grants students confidentiality in how they identify their gender at school, bars staff from referring students for counseling that would “change [their] sexual orientation or gender identity,” and allows students to choose which bathroom they use.

A last minute amendment to the policy stipulated that the new pronouns “xe, xem and xyr” should be used in place of “he/she” or “him/her” for students who prefer a genderless reference.

Columnist Kelly McParland, in an opinion piece in the National Post, criticized the VSB for turning its schools into “petri dishes for social experimentation in which teachers are lab technicians with unwitting children as their mice.”

Protecting All Children In School, a local parents’ group, warned that the policy usurps parental authority and could potentially harm children. They created a petition against the update that was signed by over 8,000 people.

The concerned parents, led by lawyer Cheryl Chang, who chairs the Parent Advisory Council at a local high school in the school board, were labeled as “homophobes” for raising concerns over the proposed revisions.

Chang is concerned the policy may actually harm children in prohibiting staff from seeking medical help for students struggling with their gender identity. The policy explicitly states staff may “not refer students to programs or services that attempt to change a student’s sexual orientation or gender identity.”

“Any parent knows that children often have desires that they outgrow. To support a child only in what they want, when they want it, is not good parenting nor good teaching, and will set our children up for a life of suffering,” she wrote in an open letter to trustees April 22.

The policy requires that schools “reduce or eliminate the practice of segregating students by sex,” leaving parents wondering what will become of team sports such as an all-girls basketball team where a boy who identifies as a girl would now be allowed to join the team.

Vancouver School Board chair Patti Bacchus said the policy change is necessary to combat what she said was bias and discrimination faced by transgender students, reported CBC.    

McParland was not impressed with the school board’s direction. 

“Schools used to be relatively straightforward operations: you sent your children and they came back with an education. That hasn’t been the case for some years, but the extent to which ‘progressive’ politics has intruded on the actual learning process can’t help but alarm many parents who would prefer to remain free of whatever social preoccupation board members feel the desire to dabble in,” he wrote.

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