My invitation from Barry Neufeld to have dinner with him and the Chilliwack School Board (CSB) last night was a very instructive event, and has provided me with an excellent opportunity to follow-up my recent Op-Ed in the Post Millennial.
Most of those that have followed my increasingly lonely struggles trying to raise awareness about what I believe to be the real dangers of teaching “gender ideology” in our schools, will know that I have taken a bit of an emotional beating recently and have struggled staying positive. The other side of this debate, particularly although not exclusively, has brutalized me continually with personal insults and (ironically) endless attempts to demean me and invalidate my identity. Some of these people have taken unflattering photos of me and made vicious comments about my appearance, one of whom even admitted that he hoped the attacks on me would result in me killing myself (see examples of the viciousness directed against me below).
These are just examples, but I have been buried in countless such attacks without end for almost two years now, all because, like Barry Neufeld, I oppose gender ideology for good and intelligent reasons, many of which are based on my own experiences. I have pretty thick skin, but as somebody that was a perpetually rejected foster child and bullied and insulted in school, such relentless viciousness can occasionally cause a kind of post traumatic stress reaction and send me into a deep depression.
I think Barry knew the pressure I was under (perhaps nobody could understand that pressure better than Barry), sensed my depression, and wanted to make me feel more involved so he invited me to join him. As I work nights it was not actually convenient for me, but I patched myself together and made the effort anyway, and I am glad I did.
The group had gotten together to dine and talk after attending the British Columbia School Trustees Association (BCSTA) conference in Vancouver. I am actually slowly coming to know more and more trustees in BC, particularly on the Lower Mainland. The CSB has become the center of the cyclone in this debate provincially and a lot of the focus has been on my “date” for the evening, Barry Neufeld (purely platonic I can assure you).
My recent request to speak to the CSB on the record as part of a delegation had just been turned down, I think probably because the Chairman, Dan Coulter, misunderstood our delegation’s intentions. Okay, that happens, so our group has resubmitted a request with clearer language. I hope when I talked to Dan that he sensed that I (and those that asked me to speak on their behalf) am just a human being with sincere concerns, and in that light the Board will reconsider a more carefully worded re-submission. We shall see.
HOWEVER, with all that being said, what you will find in a situation like the dinner last night, especially for somebody like myself who is not used to large social gatherings (I usually avoid them like the plague because I do not like being scrutinized), is that if you pay attention certain (shall we say) “firebrands” will stand out (incidentally I did not find Dan Coulter to be a firebrand, he seemed like a decent enough fellow, but perhaps with a misunderstanding of who I am and what I represent).
I think people will find me, and did find me, very mild mannered and polite on an interpersonal level. If you get me onto a topic of knowledge and interest you will find me immediately strong in my views, convictions, and ability to interject those views into a conversation — that was a gift I accidentally discovered I possess when I was still in university; similarly, I did not know I had an ability to present and be convincing in public presentations, but I discovered I was actually quite good at this about a year ago as a result of the combined encouragement of first Barry Neufeld, then others such as Laura-Lynn Tyler Thompson and Chris McCay. People should not get confused though, I was already in this debate and had published essays on the subject even before Barry spoke out, so Barry did not recruit me, but, rather, discovered me already in the debate. When I saw him under siege I felt I had to go speak out in his defense, and he has been encouraging me ever since. So I have come to know that I am an effective natural firebrand, but even then I am still always human, respectful and polite, except when I am egregiously disrespected, then I can get a little cranky.
There are, unfortunately, firebrands that have a certain sneer and “holier than thou” condescending attitude to their interactions. These are the ones that cause most of the trouble in debates. If just the strongest most focused firebrands were to have it out in an open debate (which is why I have repeatedly challenged Glen Hansman and Rob Fleming to public debates), the superior ideas would emerge. It is that dismissive sneer of condescension, that dismissing of the other side before they even speak, that causes all the problems.
I encountered this attitude at the dinner with the CSB in the guise of a brief exchange with trustee Willow Reichelt. As I was leaving the dinner, I mentioned to Dan Coulter, who was very polite and told me to email him, that our delegation was sending a new reworded request. When I made this statement, Reichelt (the woman on the far right side of the title photo) immediately thrust herself into the conversation. I had already identified her as a “firebrand,” but she was about to betray herself as one of those firebrands that is dismissive, condescending, and (ironically) intolerant of other views.
On my way out I stopped and said to Dan that I wanted him to understand that I am just a human being with sincere concerns about what is going on, and I hoped that he would reconsider our delegation’s application. At that point Reichelt said, “if we were going to have somebody speaking on transgender issues I think we would have somebody more representative of the transgender community.” My initial reaction to this comment was to assume she was insulting me by suggesting I was not “the right kind of transgender” and thus should not be heard. I have encountered such comments before in this struggle and always find them ironic as the pro-SOGI 123 forces claim to be about respecting diversity and identity, and not demeaning or belittling the views of others. Ms. Reichelt seemed oblivious to the fact that I was not speaking on behalf of the transgender community; I was speaking on behalf of a delegation of concerned citizens, none of whom suggested my allegedly “unrepresentative” status disqualified me as a speaker.
Despite the temptation, I decided to ignore Reichelt’s comment and spoke again to Dan saying, “if you look at my history you will note that I do not give up easily and as such I hope you will not spend enormous amounts of time trying to deny my delegation ten minutes to speak.”
Once again Reichelt interjected suggesting it would be pointless to hear us. I responded to her saying, “the Board should be open to hearing a diversity of views.” Reichelt responded by saying, “I am just saying it won’t do any good and will be a waste of time.” At that point Dan respectfully suggested I should send him an email
Now this last comment from Reichelt I found very curious. Reichelt had not heard our delegation’s presentation or seen our sources, thus her summary dismissal and declaration that it would “be pointless” was not only dismissive of my voice particularly, but made me wonder why she would be presuming to be speaking on behalf of the entire board. Perhaps when trustees like Jared Mumford and David Swankey, both of whom seemed very friendly and reasonable, saw my evidence and heard our concerns, they might actually find it convincing. For Reichelt to summarily speak on behalf of other trustees was somewhat disturbing.
School Boards are constructed to function as democratic bodies, and that cannot happen if one trustee is dictating to others. Her previous comment that I am somehow “not representative” of the majority of the transgender community and thus apparently not worthy of a voice is also very dangerous. In democratic societies where rights are valued, elected officials are tasked with the duty of representing all of the electorate, not just those that voted for them or one particular group. Minorities would never be protected in a situation where minority voices are silenced because they are “not representative.” I may be a minority in the transgender community, but my voice matters and it is possible that I am actually right. Giordano Bruno had almost the entire world saying he was wrong, but in the end he was proven right. So dissident voices matter and should be heard.
I found Reichelt’s attitude once again highly ironic coming from the mouth of a pro-SOGI 123 advocate that claims to be defending minorities. While we do not want minority voices trampling the rights of the majority, it is clear to me that their voices should be heard and respected, because sometimes they have important points that need to be considered. Sometimes they are wrong, sometimes their views are incompatible with the functioning of a diverse and secular state, but that does not mean they should not be heard. The only caveat I would add to all this is that democratic societies do not let children make decisions for adults, which many of the pro-SOGI 123 activists have been doing, for reasons that should be obvious to any intelligent and mature person.
Ultimately I must admit that I found Reichelt’s comments implying I was not the “right kind of transgender” or a “waste of time” very insulting and as it was done during a Chilliwack School Board gathering, I will be asking for an official apology from the members of the Board. I did not treat anybody with hostility or disrespect during the gathering, thus I found such a dismissive and disrespectful attitude very offensive. In public settings I am always polite and respectful and thus expect to be treated the same by others.
My encounter with Reichelt was reminiscent of my presentation to the Maple Ridge School Board during which one of the pro-SOGI 123 trustees actually turned her head and looked away from me for an extended time while I was still presenting. I was highly offended when I saw that and distracted, but I kept on going and saved my outrage for a couple parting comments as I was leaving. I want people to imagine for a moment what would have happened if a pro-SOGI 123 transgender person had presented to, for instance, the Chilliwack School Board, and Barry Neufeld had deliberately turned his head away from the presenter? I would suggest the popular outrage would still be echoing in the farthest regions of space, and yet because they do not agree with me and say I am “not representative” thus unworthy to be heard, it is apparently okay to disrespect me. This kind of blatant disrespect should be alarming to the public when coming from people that claim to be all about respect.
In the end, I want it to be clear that pretty much everybody at the dinner, including the Chairman Dan Coulter, were very polite and respectful. Reichelt was the only one that treated me poorly. This should not be surprising since she was responsible for organizing a pre-election noisy protest that called for Barry’s resignation. But my hope is that her domineering voice will not be allowed to sway the other trustees, who, as I said in my words to the Chilliwack School Board a year ago (my first ever public speech) must be guided not by popular or internal pressure and bullying, but by their own conscience and intelligence, coupled with a respectful dedication to the electorate and the children over which they have been given a trust. At this stage I have no reason to believe the other trustees on the Board will operate in any other way. I hope they will collectively at least decide to hear my delegation’s sincere and respectful concerns regarding certain materials children are being exposed to. This is what happened in Abbotsford recently when the Board there offered no resistance to the delegation I was speaking for. They welcomed us, listened with interest, treated me with respect, and then thanked me for my (in the Chairman’s words) “respectful presentation.” That is how it should be in every School Board where citizens express sincere concerns about the well-being of students. In fact, I would go so far as to suggest the CSB should adopt a policy similar to Abbotsford and make every effort to be responsive and receptive to all voices of concern in the community.
Let me just end on this note: we need more than anything truth. And there have been suggestions recently that Barry Neufeld is somehow “dangerous” to kids and should not be allowed to step inside schools. Okay, back to truth: the truth is that this suggestion is utter rubbish. Barry has been a trustee for 23 years without a single complaint against him until he spoke out against SOGI 123. He has never been accused of any improper behavior towards any student in Chilliwack in all that time. He has intelligent objections to SOGI 123, but saying he is a danger to anybody is ridiculous. He may be a danger to the ideology of Glen Hansman et al, but on a personal level he is not a danger to anybody. I have found myself to be in great danger of laughing when Barry is around because he is a constant comedian, but I have never sensed even a modicum of animosity or hatred towards me.
To suggest Barry is dangerous to anybody, let alone children, is dishonesty on stilts and an example of political posturing at its most egregiously irresponsible. Anybody that would attempt to perpetuate this lie should be regarded as utterly deceptive and unreliable. If Barry is a danger to anybody, he is a danger to himself by constantly standing up strong for what he believes to be true and good against a dishonest system bent on demonizing and destroying him.
Today is Barry Neufeld’s birthday. I am proud to call him a friend. I hope this article will serve as a truthful and sincere present to my new friend who has treated me with nothing but respect in the year I have known him, unlike some of those that claim to be the “champions” of respect and inclusion. Happy Birthday Barry.