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'It's terrifying': Advocates say new gender policies will hurt vulnerable youth


Jasper Cervo knew he was trans at eight years old.

Despite being fully supported by his parents, seeking gender-affirming care has been difficult.

Now, Cervo and other LGBTQ2S+ community members are worried about how much harder the process will get under proposed laws limiting when and how young trans people can begin their transition.

On Wednesday, Premier Danielle Smith posted a video on social media outlining the proposed legislation, including age limits on pronoun changes in schools and gender-affirming care.

Smith said the rules aim to prevent trans and non-binary youth from altering their bodies before they've reached adulthood.

April Friesen, president of the Trans Equality Society of Alberta said there are already rigorous processes in place around gender-affirming care.

"We hear very few people who de-transition [or] wish they wouldn't have, because of the stops that are in place," Friesen said. "You can't just walk into a [gender reassignment surgery] doctor and get hormones, you can't just walk in and get surgery."

Cervo came out as trans at 11 years old. 

He has been on a waiting list for the University of Alberta's gender program for two years, and he's been waiting three years for hormone-blocking medication.

Legally, he cannot get his bottom gender-affirming surgery until 18 years old.

"We don't need a law. It's already there," his mother Danielle Barnsley said. "The wait limit is another two years after that, so Jasper's not even looking at surgery as an option for him until he's like 20.

"So, getting this process started now is what's more important, and making sure that he has that specialized care in these moments so he's avoiding the risks that come with being trans."

Cervo said the long waits for care are hard on trans people, even those with supportive families.

"That can cause things like possible self-harm, like suicidal ideations, self hatred," he said. "I live in a body where I don't want to be myself."

Cervo and his mom are concerned about rules that would require students 15 years old and under to get parental consent to change their name or pronouns.

While older students wouldn't need consent, the new rules would require schools to notify their parents.

"There are a significant number of children that are not out at home and for good reason," Barnsley said. "It's terrifying for me to think about what's going to happen to those kids when the schools have to intervene … we're outing kids and that could be potentially very fatal."

Cervo said he personally knows kids who will be hurt by the rules, because their families don't accept them.

"Their lives would be impacted severely, and they wouldn't be safe at home," Cervo said. "And I don't think that we should put these kids in that kind of danger."

Edmonton MP Randy Boissonnault said it's the government's role to protect citizens, and these new rules would hurt children and families.

"I know because I see the stats. If you take a look at the youth population that are on the streets right now, over 50 per cent are from the 2SLGBTQ community," he added.

Boissonnault said Egale Canada, a national organization for the LGBTQ2S+ community, has indicated there will be a legal challenge coming.

He said there will be a rally at the Alberta Legislature Sunday to protest the proposed legislation.

"This is a time for the entire community to rise up and say, 'Enough is enough,'" Boissonnault said. "Kids have rights, and they have the ability to grow into the adults they're meant to be."

Smith's announcement also included mandatory parental consent for coursework on gender identity, human sexuality and sexual orientation.

Smith said she also wants to see trans athletes banned from competing in women's sports divisions, saying their participation should be limited to co-ed or gender-neutral divisions.

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Miriam Valdes-Carletti and the Canadian Press Top Stories

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