Let’s talk about the importance of listening to diverse perspectives.

This video is dedicated to Scott Piatkowski, a trustee at the Waterloo Region District School Board. For those of you who don’t know Scott, He is blessed to have many transgender friends in his life.

Let me give you some background. On March 20th, I provided a delegation to the board questioning their procedure of withholding a child’s gender transition from parents. As someone who is transgender I can 100% appreciate the fear of coming out to parents, and likewise, as a parent I can appreciate the importance of being kept in the loop with something as fundamental as a child’s social transition. There are lots of considerations in this discussion, and I’m not going to repeat them here. I’ll link my delegation where I discussed this matter further. 

Spoiler: I think parents need to know when their child is in transition.

Anyway, after my presentation Scott asked me to acknowledge that I am a minority within a minority. I didn’t provide as good of an answer as I would have liked because I was reeling at the insinuation that my experience was invalid.

So, Scott, now that I’ve gotten over the shock of being asked this invalidating question, I’d like to provide you with a more complete answer.

Yes, other people do feel this way. You’ll notice I said people, and not transgender people. I think delineating those two categories is unhelpful. I do know transgender people who share my concerns, but why is that what we are most concerned with? We are discussing the relationship between parents and children, so I would hope that what’s paramount on our mind is how parents feel about the issue, regardless whether they are transgender or not.

Now I’m sure someone is going to come along and say that the transgender perspective is important because those individuals have lived experience dealing with coming out to their parents.

I have two responses to that:

First… Surprise, I’m transgender. And I make a great case study because I went to great lengths to prevent my parents from knowing anything about my identity when I was in school. But you’ve already made it clear that you don’t want my transgender perspective, you want the majority transgender perspective, whatever that might be.

Which brings me to my second point, which is the dangerous game we play when we accept only trans perspectives on transgender matters. This rationale for this stems from standpoint theory, or the belief that someone who is transgender will understand the interplay of this situation with a level of intimacy that someone who does not live a transitioned life could ever hope to achieve.

But what about the kids who felt dysphoric in the decades gone past, did not transition, and now live a happy and fruitful non-transitioned life? Just this afternoon I spoke with a lovely mother who told me about the dysphoria she had through her childhood. She didn’t transition, and looking back now she’s so thankful that she got to grow up to be a woman and a mother.

See, there’s an implicit assumption in your question that transgender adults are the kindred spirit of this prototypical child who—in his or her adolescence—is scared to share with their parents, but what if that child is amongst those for whom transition may not be the right path at all?

This is why we need ALL perspectives, and it’s insulting to suggest that non-transgender parents can’t possibly have valid insights on their child’s needs. There are many parents who share the concern that I brought forward, some are transgender and some are not. I just happen to be the one who was prepared to attend your four-hour meeting to so kindly raise these concerns.

We also all know the reality that if any non-transgender parent had brought this concern forward, they would have been labelled as transphobic and cancelled. My opinion is no more valid than these other parents, but at least when I speak you can’t just dismiss me as not understanding trans kids struggles. 

Maybe that’s why you instead had to dismiss me as a minority within a minority?

I’ve gotten away from your question Scott, so let me refocus.

Let’s explore why other parents, especially other transgender parents, might not be too keen to put themselves in the spotlight and raise these concerns. I think the answer to that is pretty clear. When you express views against the ‘correct’ transgender narrative, you get harassed, defamed, and cancelled. And then you sometimes have to resort to defamation lawsuits to restore your reputation. This is not new to WRDSB Scott.

Less than twelve hours after my delegation, a local individual (who, by the way, serves on one of your WRDSB committees) had started a campaign to try and oust me from a local board that I serve on. What was my crime? In this particular case I had defended a parent’s right to speak during an OCDSB meeting and had said something kind about an individual whom they considered transphobic.

By the following day, City News Kitchener, which is owned by Rogers Media, had published an article about me that was clear-cut defamation. Their source were the individuals who tried to cancel me.

When I say this defamation was clear-cut, I mean that in the strongest sense possible. I didn’t even need my lawyer to send a proper demand letter to force Roger’s hand: Their journalistic malpractice was so blatant that over the following two days they made four revisions to the article in an attempt to save face. If you look up that article now, you’ll find it is 40% shorter, completely rewritten to say almost nothing about me, and is prefaced with a disclaimer and apology to me and my family.

Of course, none of this is WRDSB’s fault. But I hope you understand that identity politics have become so silly that taking a position against the status-quo can be downright dangerous. Transgender parents who might speak up have to heavily consider the spotlight it places upon them and their family, and many are not prepared to take that risk. The way your board has responded to these concerns and labeled parents as transphobic and hateful makes it even more difficult for diverse perspectives to be heard.

Scott’s question would be inappropriate coming from any trustee, but it’s especially unsettling to hear at WRDSB in 2023. For the last few years, we’ve seen countless examples of this school board emphasizing the importance of diverse voices and marginalized perspectives.  

By the principle this board has championed, should my marginal voice—if it is indeed marginal at all—not be elevated in the name of equity? A tweet from The Village Fool puts it better than I could ever hope to have put it myself.

Julia Malott

Julia Malott is a Canadian based transgender individual who advocates for bridging the gap between diverse viewpoints on gender identity and ideology. Julia is the host of Alotta Thoughts Podcast which features bi-weekly long form discussions exploring the complexity of sex and gender.

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Julia Malott

Julia Malott is a Canadian based transgender individual who advocates for bridging the gap between diverse viewpoints on gender identity and ideology. Julia is the host of Alotta Thoughts Podcast which features bi-weekly long form discussions exploring the complexity of sex and gender.