A man who questioned a 9 year-old girl’s gender at an athletic event in British Columbia has spurred outrage in Canada after one of the girl’s mothers said the man wrongly insisted her daughter was either a boy or transgender, and demanded proof that she was female.
Heidi Starr said that her daughter was taking part in a shot-put competition in Kelowna, British Columbia, last week, when Josef Tesar, the grandfather of another student, suddenly insisted that her daughter was either a boy or transgender and should be disqualified from the competition.
“My daughter is a girl, was born female, and uses she/her pronouns. She has a pixie cut,” Ms. Starr said by phone.
Mr. Tesar demanded that she provide a certificate proving that her daughter was born female, and refused entreaties to leave the event, she said, adding that “his wife was shouting that supporters of trans kids are groomers and genital mutilators.”
Mr. Tesar has denied that he verbally accosted Ms. Starr or her daughter, telling Castanet, a local online news website, that he was watching his granddaughter compete when he noticed another child, who he thought was a boy, in the competition. He said he then walked over to an official to ask if the event was coed.
“I never yelled toward the girl,” he told Castanet. “I went to the official in private and asked one only question if this a mixed competition,” he said.
In 2017, Canada’s Parliament introduced federal protections for transgender and nonbinary citizens by amending the Canadian Human Rights Act to include “gender identity” or “gender expression” among a list of identifiable groups protected from discrimination.
But some human rights advocates contend that the debate in the United States and legislation targeting transgender people is also stoking transphobia in Canada.
Travers, a professor of sociology at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, who has written a book about transgender children and who goes by one name, said the incident reflected how transphobia in the United States, fanned by, among other things, laws barring transgender girls and women from competing in girls’ and women’s sports, had increasingly crossed the border into Canada.
“Despite Canadian self-congratulatory tendencies about being liberal and progressive, transphobia is something that trans people experience in Canada on a regular basis,” they said. “If someone doesn’t appear consistent with stereotypes you see this policing of gender. It is horrific they would do this to a child,” they added.
The episode has fueled anger on social media and an outpouring of support for the girl, including from the premier of British Columbia, David Eby, who lashed out against transphobia.
“This is awful. This kind of hate is not acceptable or welcome in British Columbia. Let’s keep calling out transphobia when we see it,” he wrote on Twitter. “Hate hurts everyone. And let’s stand with this girl and everyone who is targeted just for being themselves.”
Ms. Starr said her daughter had been deeply shaken by what she called the verbal aggression against her.
“My daughter was physically shaking so hard, she was sobbing. She has never been exposed to queer or trans hate before. It rocked our whole family. It’s shocking. Who does this to a child?”
She added: “We hope that other people will now call out all the hate.”