• Fri
  • Aug 29, 2014
  • Updated: 1:03pm

School transgender policy angers Vancouver’s Chinese Christians

Chinese Christians in Vancouver are leading the campaign against an 'inappropriate' proposal

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 21 May, 2014, 9:15pm
UPDATED : Friday, 23 May, 2014, 1:11pm

Vancouver's Chinese Christian community is at the forefront of a campaign against a policy on transgender students in public schools in the city, long regarded as a bastion of progressive values.

The proposed policy being debated by the Vancouver School Board advises teachers to protect transgender students' rights to decide who gets to know about their status, to use whichever bathroom they choose and to dress as they feel appropriate. Schools are also advised to reduce sex-segregated activities, such as some sports.

But Cheryl Chang, an advocate against the proposals, said they represented an attempt to usurp parental rights, and there had been inadequate efforts to explain the plan.

"We did not send our children to public schools to be indoctrinated with the teachers' ideology … Parents are primary caregivers and they need to be involved in decisions about what their children are being told and how they are acting out," said Chang. "For a school to say, 'no, we are going to take these kids and tell them what's right and wrong and if [the students] want to do something we'll go along with it and not tell your parents', then that is completely inappropriate."

Chang, a lawyer married to a prominent Chinese-Canadian doctor, spoke at a May 14 board meeting where some parents waved placards denouncing the policy. Cantonese-speaking opponents of the plan urged Chang to speak on their behalf.

"I think this goes to Chinese family values," said Chang on Monday. "Many [opponents of the plan] are Christian, but many are not, and so this is about family values, and the ability of parents to parent their children and not have that disturbed by the school system. The only reason more Caucasian parents haven't been involved is because they haven't even heard about it. The word has gotten out in the Chinese community faster because those were people at the forefront."

She said the issue was a secular one, and "the other side is trying to say that this is a religious issue, it's a homophobic issue in order to shut down rational and reasonable debate".

However, Chang has acted as chancellor and legal counsel for the Anglican Network in Canada. Another prominent opponent of the plans is Charter Lau, who formerly co-chaired the Christian Social Concern Fellowship.

Chang wrote a widely distributed open letter to the board urging it to conduct more consultation, and then reject the plan. The plan was originally intended to go to a vote this week, but opponents succeeded in pushing that back. A second public meeting is scheduled for today, with the board expected to vote in June.

Dr Justin Tse, who has studied the political activities of Chinese Christians in Vancouver, said: "This is not really a debate about homophobia. It's a debate about parental rights … and this has been the long-standing theme in these debates in Vancouver."

Tse, an expert in religious and ethnic studies and a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Washington, said: "Chinese Christians have this vision for a rational orderly society. A particular reading of the Bible may inform this, a particular reading of the Chinese classics may inform this. But at the heart of it, it's about a rational orderly society, where parents are the primary educators for their children. What they are seeing instead with this kind of stuff [the board's proposals] is that this is irrational and disorderly. That's why there is such a strong pushback."

In January, Truth Monthly, a leading Chinese Christian newspaper, published an editorial lambasting the Vancouver School Board and Patti Bacchus who chairs the board, over the transgender issue. It listed supposedly cautionary tales about transgender people, including Nathan Verhelst, who was euthanised in Belgium last year after botched sex-change surgery.

Tse said political activities of Chinese Christians in Vancouver were not a "church effort" but involved churchgoers in a secular way, "through Chinese Christian e-mail chains, informal conversation and assorted Chinese Christian media".


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This article is now closed to comments

Canada should not be Chinada
go back to china
I am a mother of a gender nonconforming child and I spoke at the first VSB meeting. One of the opposing Chinese parents came to me after the 2nd meeting. She told me she felt sorry for me after she heard my talk at the 1st meeting. I would have much more appreciation if she did not say the following: She said that I am the parent of the 1% and she is the 99%. Therefore she wanted me to understand that the majority should have the priority. In addition, she said no wonder I have a gender nonconforming child after I told her I accepted LGBT people long before my son was born. I thought about it all night and it seems to me that it require a much bigger heart and more opened mind to understand the predicament that LGBT people are in.
you are so kind
but the mainlander is so evil
a very kind society should accept the minority
but not by bigger no.
bigger no. KO others = hitler
As a student who transitioned IN high school, I am deeply frustrated with this issue. The protection of these students is not only protecting their safety physically but more importantly, mentally. Obviously you can't just let a boy into a girls bathroom or a girl into a boys for no reason BUT, these children need a safe space to go to the washroom and change if necassary. I felt so uncomfortable throughout highschool going to a washroom and changing in the places I was "supposed" to be in. With the support of my ENTIRE school I was able to transition late in high school. These kids need to feel that they can feel protected and safe at school because it is hard enough to attend school. They do not need other insecurities other than normal hormonal changes to hinder their learning environment.
I am one of the parents who testified to the school board in favour of this matter. I am a transgender parent with two children in public school in Vancouver.
I urge everyone to read the website ****bcsaferschools.com for the point of view of the proponents of the proposed policy changes. Our reasoning is sound, and our evidence is clear.
For more in-depth understanding, I urge you to review what was actually said at the August 14 Vancouver School Board Trustees.
the first three hours of testimony, including Ms Chang's and my testimonies, can be found here: ****www.youtube.com/watch?v=DIXQfTPY3Lg
The writing in this article garbled/incomprehensible. The journalist needs an editor.
Here is the guts of the issue:
Some children are claiming that they are trans-gender, therefore they can go to the toilet of their choice. These particular children are backed by particularly vocal parents. In reaction, school boards in British Columbia (a Province of Canada) have developed policy on how teachers should protect these children.
Many Chinese parents are upset because they were given no voice in the discussion and there is ne particular parent who claims to speak on behalf of the Chinese community because her ethnicity is Chinese; she was not elected to this position or ratified by any public process. This is called "issue-hi-kjacking."
Quite naturally, fundamentalist Christian groups have picked up on this issue and have joined the protest with their sign-boards.
There has been no public definition of how many children this self-perception of trans-genderism, and similarly no medical/psychological definition if these kids are truly what they claim to be.
Similarly, there is no discussion about how girls feel about letting a boy who thinks he is a girl into the toilet.
Vancouver has seen this kind of discussion in other contexts: the transgender person on City Council who want the city to spend inordinate amounts of money to turn the public toilet system into a uni-sex system.
Hi ******: I'm not sure which aspects of the story you had trouble understanding, but I should correct some of your points. Firstly, the toilet issue mentioned in the story is but one of the issues under debate, a point that both sides make. Secondly Ms Chang's ethnicity is Caucasian, which is alluded to in the story via the reference to her otherwise-irrelevant marital status; she has however been asked to speak on behalf of some Chinese Christians, including at the May 14 meeting. Also, the Chinese Christian community did not join the protest after it became a prominently discussed issue; they were actively opposed to the VSB's attitude towards transgender kids from the earliest stage...well before Ms Chang became involved, and well before the English-language media in Vancouver had reported on this particular issue.
How come the journalist has to reply to comments?
Is he a journalist or a self-defensive blogger with a lot of time on his hands?
Hi ******: For clarification, I'll generally comment when factual errors are introduced to a discussion, or when the accuracy or nature of the reporting itself is challenged
This way of presenting the issue is highly problematic in the way that it names one single demographic ("Chinese Canadian Christians") as the opponent to a school policy designed to protect students, which is not the case. Opposition is as diverse as support for the policy and equality overall. Narrowing opposition to one group distracts us from the magnitude of the work that still needs to be done over all. Also, the article has failed to identify Ms. Cheryl Chang as Caucasian who adopted her Chinese husband's family name. With that in mind, I am highly disappointed that SCMP still chose to frame the issue as "Chinese Canadians" oppose VSB school policy, thus inviting all the racists "Chinese people can take their homophobia back to China" ...etc type comments.




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