CAMPBELL RIVER, B.C- A well-known anti-SOGI activist came to the North Island last night.
Jenn Smith is a highly visible speaker among people opposed to SOGI 123 in British Columbia, and previously visited Campbell River for a rally against the LGBTQ education resource in 2018.
RELATED: Anti-SOGI rally draws small crowd at local community centre
He believes that the resource is “brainwashing” students and destroying parental rights.
On Sunday evening, Smith gave a talk entitled “The Erosion of Freedom: How Transgender Politics in School and Society is Undermining Our Freedom and Harming Women and Children.”
It was described as an information session, with a room at the Sportsplex rented for the event by a Campbell River resident who has ties to the Canadian Christian Lobby.
At the last event in 2018, turnout had been low. Sunday’s event had a full turnout, though a smaller space.
Roughly 20 to 25 protestors were outside the sports complex and spoke with other attendees of the event as they came in, which sparked a few animated discussions, though no angry confrontations.
Most of the protestors stayed for Smith’s event.
During the event, he ran through similar talking points that had been presented at the last Campbell River rally.
When he did touch on parts of SOGI 123, he used examples of literature and videos included in the resource that he believed could influence children.
Another recurring theme was the belief that experts who support medical treatment for gender affirmation are financially compromised.
When an attendee who disagreed with his view on that matter, and raised the views of the American Medical Association (AMA) on transgender individuals, Smith dismissed them as “funded by Big Pharma”.
According to their web page, the AMA supports the equal rights, privileges and freedom of all individuals and opposes discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, race, religion, disability, ethnic origin, national origin or age.
The MyCampbellRiverNow.com newsroom spoke with Smith after the end of the event in the interest of fair representation of the viewpoints at the event.
Asked about what he would say to an LGBTQ student that came to him and said his words, or a policy he was advocating for, hurt them personally or affected their life in a negative way, Smith said he “would have to know exactly what they were talking about”, and described the question as a pretty general statement.
“First of all, in my talk page there, I have a statement that this is not for kids, and anybody who has serious gender dysphoria should stay away,” said Smith.
“That’s my warning. If somebody here…what are they going to say, here? It’s such a hypothetical. What are they going to say that I said, that’s going to result in hatred? They say that a man is not a woman? Is that it? That’s not a statement of hate, as far as I’m concerned. That’s a statement of reality.”
He said he didn’t want to be mean, and didn’t try to be mean, when it came to his non-use of preferred pronouns.
“All this peripheral stuff, talking about hypotheticals about what come out of my talk, is ancillary,” said Smith.
“I believe that we need to stop teaching this stuff in schools. Bullying will go down if we stop teaching it in schools. Leave it to the parents at home.”
Asked what he would replace SOGI 123 with if the goal of removing it from the school system was achieved, and whether or not he wanted to see kids taught about LGBTQ people in school, Smith indicated that he wanted it out of the physical classroom.
“My personal opinion would be that this is a subject, when you’re talking about sexual orientation and stuff, this is an adult subject, or at least post-pubescent,” said Smith.
“My idea for sex education, and I’ve said this before, is that I believe that it’s something that should be something online. There’s no reason to teach it in schools. You can have different types of online sex education courses, and parents could choose which level they want. A Christian could choose one that’s not offensive to their beliefs and values, and somebody who’s gung-ho Pride Parade and whatever, they can choose one that corresponds with their values.”
He believed it needed to be out of the classroom, and into the “domain of parents” to avoid “trampling” parental rights.
Asked about the possibility of him erasing people’s identities by pushing these views forward, Smith said he didn’t have that power.
“People’s identity is an internal construct,” said Smith.
“I can respect people’s identity, and as an adult, I respect all adult’s identity. I will express to the world any way I want, and I would respect the right of any adult to do that, as they see fit. My concern is confusing children, and I can’t erase anybody’s identity, certainly not with adults. As far as kids, how you express to the world, whatever, it doesn’t matter to me.”
Asked how he would handle education on LGBTQ people for his own children, if he had them, Smith didn’t answer the question in detail, instead referencing protests from religious groups in Canada and the United Kingdom.
“Because we have all these different people who don’t want this stuff taught to their kids, and they should be respected in their rights, I believe that it should be taken out of the classroom and provided as an online resource,” said Smith.
Part of Smith’s event featured a pitch for funding of the tour by Campbell River resident Christian Michael McKay, as well as a pitch for the Canadian Christian Lobby.
The question and answer session also led to a short argument between Vanessa MacLean-Webber, who unsuccessfully ran for the local schoolboard on an anti-SOGI platform, and Zvithen Osiris Graham-McGregor, a transgender man.
During that argument, MacLean-Webber mentioned that she brought a Bible to one of the local schoolboard meetings, and read out the passages suggesting that homosexuality was an abomination, according to the Bible.
When Smith was asked if he felt tokenized or co-opted by Christians opposed to LGBTQ people, he indicated he didn’t feel that way.
“Christians are very concerned that their parental rights are being trampled, and they’re right,” said Smith.
“There’s no question that their rights are being trampled in this issue, and they naturally gravitate towards somebody like me, who is saying that their rights need to be respected.”
He also said there was no reason for Webber to be at the event complaining, if “all this stuff” was out of schools.
“In this age of technology, why can’t we do that? Why do we have to trample her rights?”
Graham-McGregor was one of multiple protestors who attended throughout most of Smith’s info session.
Speaking after the conclusion of the event, he indicated he had done research on Smith before coming, and when he learned about how Smith presented himself, he was curious about what viewpoints would be brought up.
“I definitely don’t agree with largely a lot of what was said, pertaining to trans issues, and being trans, especially with trans kids in schools, because those policies are there, and do keep kids safe, especially in situations of abuse,” said Graham-McGregor.
“It’s really important to realize there is a big difference, and even using the correct pronouns can help, so much, and alleviate a lot of hurt.”
The event had contrasted with last year’s, given the mix of supporters of Smith’s views and the people opposed to them. Asked if that might have been productive, Graham-McGregor was hopeful.
“I really hope that us being there, to present more of a counter argument, and different bits of information, will help maybe some of them do their own research into it, and see where we’re coming from as well, though I do agree that a lot of the points that were presented were extreme views, and were not an accurate representation of even the Christian populace,” said Graham-McGregor.
“I know many Christians who do not preach those same values, and don’t use it to advocate harm.”
He also touched on what he hoped Campbell River residents took from the event.
“I really hope that if anything they take it out of it is looking in to what supporting the queer community is like, and queer kids, why it’s important to support those queer kids, and what that support looks like,” said Graham-McGregor.
“Again, if you’re talking about keeping these kids safe, and making sure that they feel valid and accepted, that was not what this talk would do. There was again, a big point of it being around protecting those kids, but there was no talk about what happened if the opposite were to happen. The event itself, on the presenter’s webpage, said not recommended to bring children, also no photography allowed, censorship which I found very contradictory to the points that they were making. Why wouldn’t you want to include the audience that you are trying to protect? And why wouldn’t you want their opinions and values?”
He believed SOGI 123 would be beneficial in the school system, given his personal experiences.
“Looking at it from a mental health perspective, and going back to safety in schools, I know for myself if I were to have the SOGI 123 policy in place when I were in school, my education would have looked very, very different, in the best possible way,” said Graham-McGregor.
“I don’t want any kid to experience what I experienced when I went to school. Nobody deserves to feel that kind of hate, and that kind of discrimination, in that way. Everybody deserves safety, happiness, and health.”
Smith’s info sessions are expected to attract protest at each location he visits.
Links to support services can be found below:
Vancouver Island Crisis Line: 1‑888-494-3888
The 24-hour Vancouver Island Crisis Line is an Island Health contracted service.
EDITORS NOTE: This story has been changed to reflect MacLean-Webber’s statement that homosexuality is an abomination, not LGBTQ people.