On the morning of Sept. 20, a counter-protest to the nationwide 1 Million March 4 Children took place in front of the Alberta Teachers Association building in Edmonton. The counter-protest was held in support of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community in response to the national protests against Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) being taught and accepted in Canadian schools. The sea of rainbow unity flags and trans pride flags were a stark contrast to the protesters standing just across the road. SOGI was implemented in schools with the goal of assisting educators in making schools “safe and inclusive for all sexual orientations and gender identities,” for students, staff, and family members.
Soren Gamble, one of the many people who showed up for the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, said that he is hoping through counter-protests, and discussions in schools that students currently struggling with their gender identity and sexuality will feel more supported than ever. That hope was a common theme throughout the counter-protest despite them being outnumbered by the anti-SOGI protesters by about three to one. Gamble fought back tears as he spoke about his experience as a transgender man in Alberta, and said that he even detransitioned at one point for safety.
“I think it frightens people that just don’t understand,” said Gamble, “and that hatred is really hard to see.”
The 1 Million March 4 Children organization claims not to be against queer and transgender rights, but their lack of support for inclusive environments and education speaks volumes for both members of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community and allies.
“I grew up with a lot of fear, growing up as a gay kid in northern Alberta, and I don’t want that for my kids”
Dee Bonville-Wills, counter-protestor
Dee Bonville-Wills said that he showed up with his husband and three children to fight for the safety and inclusion of his family. “My kids have two dads, and so it’s really important to us for them to feel safe and to learn about where they come from and to have representation of our family,” Bonville-Wills said.
“I think that if we see less inclusion and inclusive attitudes, my children will feel more fear. I grew up with a lot of fear, growing up as a gay kid in northern Alberta, and I don’t want that for my kids.”
As the protest progressed, attitudes started to change and escalate. One counter-protester, Elizabeth Saavedra, said she was hit by a car as she crossed the road to the counter-protest.
“It looked like [the driver] was slowing down to stop, . . . and she kept going.” Saavedra said, “then she sped up a bit, so when she hit me, I fell . . . to the side.” Saavedra suspected t she was hit due to her support of the counter-protest. She was not the only individual targeted due to her support of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community.
Some other counter-protesters had signs of support ripped out of their hands or eggs thrown at them. The 2SLGBTQIA+ community showed up to stand against the anti-SOGI protester’s claims that inclusive education in schools is harmful to children. Counter-protesters rallied to support queer and trans youths’ access to representation and inclusion in the classroom, chanting “Protect Trans Kids.”
Photos by Amanda Erickson