thumb-2023-011-07-wyatt-claypool-pierre-poilievre This article is more than 7 months old

Safety of Gay and Trans School Children is ‘Fringe’ Issue, Conservative Candidate Says

2SLGBTQ+ advocates say candidate’s video downplaying concerns about safety of gay and trans children is ‘misinformed’ and ‘dangerous’

As Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre faces criticism from 2SLGBTQIA+ groups in response to a homophobic and transphobic speech, one aspiring Conservative MP is running to his leader’s defence.

Poilievre was condemned by several 2SLGBTQIA+ groups last week after delivering a speech accusing Justin Trudeau of imposing “radical gender ideology” on children.

Rhetoric around “radical gender ideology”  is tied to conspiratorial, far-right narratives about gender and sexuality that seek to demonize and roll back LGBTQ+ and women’s rights. The rhetoric is prominent in American right-wing culture war politics.

Wyatt Claypool, who is seeking the Conservative nomination in Calgary–Signal Hill, not only argues Poilievre’s remarks were “eminently reasonable,” but he also says the 2SLGBTQIA+ groups that condemned Poilievre are “idiots.”

According to Claypool, gay and trans students face no realistic safety concerns, aside from “left-wing” teachers who are manipulating children into changing genders.

But 2SLGBTQ+ advocates say Claypool’s comments “downplaying” the safety of school children are deeply “misinformed” and “dangerous.”

The Conservative nomination candidate, who is also a right-wing blogger and former People’s Party supporter,  made his opinions on the subject clear in a YouTube video this week titled: “Pierre Poilievre is right about gender theory.”

The video, which is presented as a direct response to PressProgress‘ earlier reporting, makes a number of inflammatory statements about gender and sexuality.

At one point in the video, Claypool shrugs off concerns that gay and trans children are at special risk of harm and abuse, describing this as a “fringe hypothetical” concern.

“There’s a one-in-a-million chance that a parent is going to be deeply mean and hurtful to a child who’s gay or something,” Claypool says. “Obviously that’s not a scenario that commonly happens.”

“When I say the crazy hypotheticals — and I’ve even heard this from people who are supposedly conservative, very small group of people in Canada who believe this — but they’ll say that, well, ‘parental rights is a dog whistle for people wanting to harm or oppress gay kids’ or something like that or ‘trans kids’. Obviously, that’s not it. It’s a fringe hypothetical saying that someone could get harmed if a parent is informed to what’s going on the classroom. Now, what do you think is the worst modus operandi going on here? That parents should, when they drop off their kids, the shutters come down around the schools, they’re not allowed to know what’s going on? Or is it that parents, there’s a one-in-a-million chance that a parent is going to be deeply mean and hurtful to a child who’s gay or something like that? Obviously that is not a scenario that commonly happens.”

In a statement to PressProgress, Claypool said he stood behind his statements about gay and trans school children.

“I deny that parental rights result in the abuse of gay or trans kids,” Claypool said. “Any implication that I am ‘denying’ that abuse happens is insane.”

Dr. Kristopher Wells, a professor at MacEwan University and the Canada Research Chair for the Public Understanding of Sexual and Gender Minority Youth, says Claypool’s statements are “not only misinformed, but also transphobic.”

“So-called ‘gender ideology’ is a made-up concept designed to target and demean transgender people,” Wells told PressProgress. “To perpetuate this false narrative continues to place vulnerable transgender and nonbinary youth at risk for violence and discrimination.”

“2SLGBTQ+ youth are one of the most at-risk groups of students in our schools,” Wells noted. “The scientific evidence is very clear on this issue.”

“Research estimates that up to 40% of all homeless youth identify as 2SLGBTQ+,” Wells said, noting “parental rejection is one of the leading causes of homelessness for 2SLGBTQ+ youth.”

Donna Battaglia, a board member with the Trans Equality Society of Alberta, adds that she personally knows many people raised in hardline religious households who were “kicked out of their homes at 13-years-old or younger for coming out as gay or non-binary or transgender.”

“I’m personal friends with two trans women that went through conversion therapy,” Battaglia told PressProgress. “Or their parents tried and their churches tried — the horror stories of that. Oh God.”

“You keep that stuff secret,” Battaglia explained. “These kids that want to go to school and use a preferred pronouns, they’re taking a risk that it gets back to their parents and they end up out on the street.”

Wells says school policies need to prioritize helping vulnerable students. “Policies, curriculum and inclusive resources should be designed to help support these young people, not hurt or alienate them.”

But the Conservative nomination candidate also has opinions about those inclusive educational policies and programs too, claiming they are being pushed by “left-wing” teachers who “actively want children in their class to be trans.”

Claypool claims teachers are also manipulating children into getting onto their “ideological train” by changing their gender:

“…When there’s lack of transparency on sort of what you’re, how your child acts in the classroom and what the lesson plans of the teacher are, that’s concerning parents, because they’re wondering if because of the very left-wing ideology of the teacher, they’re suggesting things to a child and that the child is absorbing it even though you’re not identifying as who they really are. They’re identifying as interesting things that the professor or, not the professor, but the teacher is suggesting that you could be …

It’s fairly dangerous to actually be giving these incredibly high-concept, academic concepts to children who cannot understand them and can also not detect a guile from the person that’s teaching them to understand is this person just trying to get me onto their ideological train or are they legitimately, you know, having some sort of a concern for me because, frankly, a lot of the gender ideologues, and this is why parents oppose them.

It’s not that they’re like trying to be nice to children and see what they identify as and kind of be understanding. It’s that they actively want children in their class to be trans. There’s videos from people like places like Libs of TikTok showing this, that basically teachers favour those children, and they very much do this thing where they put very poured on attention to a child who’s not going to identify as a standard gender and that is obviously a very, very big incentive for a child to sort of act that way at school to get attention from a teacher.”

Claypool told PressProgress it is a “ridiculous notion” to suggest that he thinks school teachers are “making kids trans.”

“I said that kids are susceptible to suggestion,” Claypool insisted.

Wells says Claypool’s comments appear rooted in a “dangerous and unfounded stereotype” depicting homosexuality or gender fluidity as contagious.

“There is absolutely no evidence to suggest that teaching about about 2SLGBTQ+ issues make students gay or trans,” Wells said. “It assumes that talking about 2SLGBTQ+ issues is a virus or contagion that poses a threat or risk to students.”

“2SLGBTQ+ inclusive education benefits all students in the same way that learning about different cultures, religions, and communities helps students to increase understanding and empathy for others who are different than them.”

Battaglia agrees there’s “nothing contagious” about accepting the existence of trans people, adding Claypool’s fears about “teachers and this ideological agenda” sound like American-style “bigot talk.”

Photo: Wyatt Claypool

“I know lots of teachers,” Battaglia said. “They’re underpaid and overworked, they don’t have time to actively hunt out kids that want to change their genders.”

Battaglia notes this kind of rhetoric can incite paranoia, pointing to situations in the United States where anti-trans hysteria is leading to women, including trans, cisgendered and young children, being confronted and harassed in bathrooms.

Earlier this year, a British Columbia man sparked international outrage after confronting a nine-year-old girl about her gender at a track-and-field event.

LibsofTikTok, an account cited approvingly by Claypool in his video, has been linked to targeted harassment and bomb threats against schools and children’s hospitals.

Prior to publication of this story, Claypool released a 12-minute video claiming “PressProgress is trying to cancel me” and mistakenly attacked two 2SLGBTQ+ advocates whom he wrongly assumed would be quoted reacting to his statements.

Claypool described it as an “instructional video on how to deal with the far-left cancel culture mob, because that’s basically what’s happening to me in real-time here.”

Wyatt Claypool (Twitter)

The office of Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre did not respond to questions from PressProgress about whether Claypool’s statements are in alignment with the values of the Conservative Party of Canada and its leader.

Poilievre’s office has repeatedly refused to comment on or clarify his statements about “radical gender ideology.”


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Luke LeBrun
Luke LeBrun is the Editor of PressProgress. His reporting focuses on the federal political scene, right-wing politics as well as issues in technology, media and culture.

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