CBC, apologize for Barbara Kay's disrespectful LGBTQ2 comments and commit to doing better.
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@BorderlandPride's letter to CBC concerning Barbara Kay’s transphobic comments during a recent broadcast about #SexEd in Ontario has been adapted into a petition. Please sign.
Canadians recently viewed an online video clip which originally appeared as part of one of your news broadcasts on or around July 13, 2018. The clip featured a panel moderated by Sarah Galashan. The panelists were Adam Goldenberg, Brittany Andrew-Amofah, and Barbara Kay. The subject of the discussion was the Ontario government's decision to scrap the 2015 sexual education curriculum and revert to the 1998 version of the curriculum.
The 1998 curriculum has been widely criticized as silent on matters related to LGBTQ2 identities, relationships, families, and equality rights – having been developed before same-sex marriage or the sea change in LGBTQ2 legal recognition which has followed in the decade since.
Ms. Kay's position on the panel was, generally, to defend the government's decision to scrap the 2015 curriculum. She went on at length to liken being transgender to being mentally ill or sick – referring several times to gender dysphoria in her comments. She also attempted to tarnish the curriculum by associating it with a convicted pedophile – despite facts which indicate that it was developed by experts following wide consultations across the province under the previous government.
Ms. Kay’s comments were not based in any legitimate facts, scientific evidence, or expertise. They were simply transphobic vitriol intended to villainize LGBTQ2 people and raise the spectre of trans people as ‘confused’ or – worse – perverts. Her performance could have been called a dog-whistle if it hadn’t been so blatantly offensive.
For her part, Ms. Galashan's interventions were constrained. This had the effect of giving Ms. Kay an unimpeded and legitimized national platform to broadcast hurtful stereotypes about trans-identifying individuals. Her remarks amounted to a homo- and transphobic rant that ignored widely recognized evidence that gender is fluid, and gender identity has the qualities of a spectrum. Her assertion that gender identity is “ideological” is a direct echo of hateful commentators who suggest that presenting information about the diversity of sexual orientation and gender identity is an attempt to groom, convert, or otherwise lead children astray from a preferred heterosexual ‘default’.
Mr. Goldenberg – who self-identified as a gay man during the broadcast – was left to defend and correct the record on his own. As members of the community under attack by Ms. Kay, we found that this amounted to a further form of victimization. The comments he has fielded and shared online since appear to be motivated by, and steeped in, homophobia.
The CBC is Canada’s public broadcaster, and as the recipient of public funding, it ought to uphold Charter values and factual bases as the gold standard of acceptable debate. Both scientific evidence and the law in Canada are relatively settled on the normalcy, worthiness, and entitlement of LGBTQ2 individuals to equal treatment, dignity, and respect. In most contexts, LGBTQ2 relationships and families have equal legal status to heterosexual ones – and whether or not Ontario’s health curriculum acknowledges it – that is the law. Social science evidence is also widely settled on the unique challenges facing LGBTQ2 youth who are not supported during their formative years. As such, these individuals should be respected commensurate to those realities in any debate presented by CBC. Their equality, dignity, and the sincerity of their immutable identities should not be subject to speculation, collateral attacks, and homo- and transphobic insinuations aired by our public broadcaster.
What prevailed in the broadcast in question was an oppressive affront to the dignity of LGBTQ2 people, without appropriate intervention by the CBC’s moderator. Ms. Kay's comments were not within the scope of appropriate public policy debate on this issue, were unbecoming of the CBC, and unworthy of the Canadian public’s attention in this forum.
In our respectful view, Ms. Kay's presentation should have been anticipated, given her previous writings. If ever there was any doubt about her suitability to provide commentary, her performance during this broadcast ought to make clear that she is unfit and unqualified to appear as a panelist on your network.
We would ask that the CBC take steps to clarify for the public that this performance was inappropriate, that it is unrepresentative of the range of respectful debate it intends to extend a platform, that it will not be permitted to take shape again in the future, and that Ms. Kay will not be invited back.
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