LGBT activists prepare UBC rally for trans rights to counter talk by controversial anti–SOGI speaker Jenn Smith

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      An ongoing debate about SOGI (sexual orientation and gender identity) issues in B.C. will have yet another public display in Vancouver this coming weekend.

      This past weekend, an anti–SOGI rally purporting to be in support of parental rights and free speech regarding transgender issues was held in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery on June 15. LGBT activists and allies responded by holding a counter-rally at the same time.

      Local LGBT activists and allies are now getting ready again to assemble and counter a forthcoming talk by controversial speaker Jenn Smith, who has been touring B.C. in a campaign against SOGI (sexual orientation and gender identity).

      Smith, who identifies as a bisexual transgender male who has struggled with his gender identity throughout his life, embarked upon a series of speaking engagements entitled “The Erosion of Freedom: How Transgender Politics in School and Society Are Undermining Our Freedom and Harming Women and Children!” that were held across Vancouver Island in April and May.

      The events prompted concerned LGBT communities and allies to organize protests.

      In the Lower Mainland, Smith had scheduled an event at both New Westminster’s Douglas College on June 8 and Langley’s Trinity Western University on June 15. Both schools stated that the bookings were cancelled after they found out about the nature of the talks.

      Smith then scheduled a talk to be held at UBC on June 23.

      UBC confirmed on June 10 that it is aware of the event and will allow it to proceed due to its commitment to free speech.

      UBC provost Andrew Szeri released a statement on June 14 to clarify that this event is not sponsored by UBC and is an external booking.

      “Given the expectations for the June 23rd event, it is important to state unequivocally that the university values and celebrates our transgender and nonbinary students, faculty and staff, and stands behind their work in advancing safety and inclusion,” Szeri stated. “In addition, the Faculty of Education is leading an initiative dedicated to sexual orientation and gender-identity (SOGI) inclusive education.”

      Szeri stated that UBC will be working with RCMP and campus service providers to ensure safety measures are in place.

      He added that as hate speech is governed by the Criminal Code of Canada, anyone with concerns about a speaker engaging in hate speech should contact the University RCMP.

      In response, B.C. Families for Inclusivity is organizing the Rally in Support of Trans Rights on June 23 to be held at UBC’s Point Grey campus.

      “Trans rights and the inclusion of trans youth in our schools is not up for debate,” the organizers state, adding that it is a peaceful demonstration. “We are assembling to show our love and support for the transgender community and their loved ones.”

      Smith states on his website that his talks are co-sponsored by the Canadian Christian Lobby and has also listed that event dates are pending in Burnaby, Chilliwack, New Westminster, and Richmond.

      You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at @cinecraig or on Facebook. You can also follow the Straight's LGBT coverage on Twitter at @StraightLGBT or on Facebook.