Edmonton Journal

Leduc teens organize their own walkout to oppose gender policies


LEDUC Sixteen-year-old Aspen Cervo says he began thinking about a student walkout over the Alberta government's planned policies around transgende­r youth right after Premier Danielle Smith announced them last week.

The Grade 10 student at Leduc Composite High School says his 13-year-old brother is transgende­r and the walkout is meant to show him and others they're supported.

Smith has said the fall sitting of the legislatur­e would bring new rules, including restrictio­ns on youth changing their names or pronouns at school and getting hormone therapy or gender reassignme­nt surgery.

She has said the goal of the policies is to ensure children are “fully informed” about the decisions they are making because they might regret them later in life.

The policies have spurred several days of protest — both at the grassroots level and from groups like the Alberta Medical Associatio­n.

The walkout at his school lasted about a half-hour, and he's in touch with students at other schools who say they're planning to do the same to oppose the proposed changes.

“I'm lucky to grow up in a household where it's safe to be whoever I want to be, but not all kids are lucky like that,” Cervo said.

“Some get rejected or kicked out, and it really hurts you when your own parents basically tell you you're not their kid anymore.”

Cervo says he used to be transgende­r but now considers himself gender-fluid. He says he goes by “he,” mostly, but it sometimes changes.

When asked whether his fluidity could support arguments that youth who receive gender-affirming care could later change their minds, Cervo points out that no one in Alberta is getting genital reconstruc­tion surgery before 18 because it's such a big change.

Other types of gender-affirming care, such as hormone therapy that his brother has been waiting for to change his voice, are decisions that Cervo feels his brother and others his age are old enough to make.

“He's been waiting for gender-affirming care for two years now and these policies are going to have to make him wait until he's at least 16,” Cervo said. “He's been waiting for so long and now he's going to have to wait longer.”

Smith has said gender reassignme­nt surgery would be banned for those 17 and under. And there would be no puberty blockers or hormone therapies for the purpose of gender reassignme­nt or affirmatio­n for anyone 15 and under, unless they've already begun such treatments.

Parental consent would be required for students 15 and under who want to change their names or pronouns at school.

Students 16 and 17 would not need consent, but parents would have to be notified.

Smith, in defending her proposals during a trip to Ottawa on Monday, said there is no “single voice” that can speak on behalf of the entire transgende­r community. She said she has spoken to some transgende­r people who expressed concerns about the ability of children to transition at a young age.

Cervo said the protests over the weekend against the proposed changes gave him hope.

“It made me happy that other people are standing up, too.”

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