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  • Katherine Jameson Digby

A Five-Year Gender Journey for the OCDSB: Part Two

Updated: Sep 14, 2023

Kaeden Seburn, In Her Own Words



By Katherine Jameson Digby


This is the second post of an investigative report by a concerned mother with children in the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board.

 

In August 2023, Gender Dissent posted the first installment in a series entitled “A Five-Year Gender Journey of the OCDSB.” The report outlines the significant updates that took place in the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB)’s “Gender Identity and Gender Expression” policy, between 2016 and 2021. The major policy updates included an attempt to link indigenous reconciliation to gender ideology, a confirmation that anyone can identify into any gender at any time, a clarification that males must be given access to female washrooms, and a new commitment on the part of the Board to keep students’ transitioning process a secret from parents.


Most of these changes were in the zeitgeist of the late 2010s, but the OCDSB is particularly indebted to one individual for making them Board policy, and that individual is named Kaeden Seburn. Kaeden identifies as transgender and uses he/they pronouns, from which we can confidently deduce that Kaeden is in fact female.


Kaeden is a graduate of the OCDSB, finishing at Lisgar Collegiate High School in 2017. Kaeden’s bio at a Facebook account named “Youth Ottawa”, talks about her being a key member of the student Rainbow Alliance at Lisgar Collegiate. There she is said to have “worked tirelessly on issues of equity and inclusive education in order to educate others on issues of gender & sexuality.” Kaeden’s influence in high school was not limited to her school, as we learn that “Kaeden has also worked at the school district level in organizing LGBTQ+ literary resources for schools, co-presented to school staff meetings, run workshops at the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board Rainbow Youth Forum, and organized guest speakers for schools.”


Upon graduation from high school, Kaeden enrolled in the School of Social Work at Carleton University. The website of the Carleton Faculty of Public Affairs informs us that, still in her first year of university, Kaeden helped to found an organization named Support And Education For Trans Youth (SAEFTY). The article tells us that part of the spirit for founding SAEFTY was to dispense with age limits imposed by “other institutionally run 2SLGBTQ+ groups.” The article states that “SAEFTY is a space for trans kids, youth and their families, but also for young adults.” Kaeden is directly quoted as saying “We really try to make it a space where people can connect across different age groups within the community.”


SAEFTY is currently featured as one of the "Resources for Students" on the OCDSB website entitled 2SLGBTQ+ Supports. Clicking on this link informs you that SAEFTY is currently on hiatus. It is not clear from either website whether any screening was ever done to ensure that the adult volunteers with SAEFTY were qualified to be working with gender-distressed children.


The SAEFTY “MeFund” monthly draw, promoted on Facebook and via this video featuring “Ollie,” offered $150.00 to trans recipients who “identify” as youth (see bottom right panel) to legally change their name.


By May of 2018, with a year of university under her belt, Kaeden then participated in the creation of a pamphlet entitled Stop Assessing Us, which is available under “Resources” at kaedenseburn.com. It is unclear whether anyone commissioned this pamphlet, only that it is meant as “a resource for health and social service providers developed by trans youth.”


The pamphlet informs us that:


Youth should have access to other transition related services such as hormones and surgery when they request it. In Ontario there is no minimum age of consent for health care decisions and youth can make decisions about their own care and their own bodies. Given proper knowledge about a treatment’s outcomes, youth should be able to make informed decisions without the need for thorough assessment.



As we will see, through the summer of 2018, Kaeden continued to advocate for unfettered access to hormones and surgery for all Ottawa children and teens who requested them.

The SAEFTY website offers a document called The CHEO Report, (Youth and Family Experiences of the CHEO Gender Diversity Clinic: Report and Recommendations). It is credited to Kaeden Seburn with Jason Burns, Emily Clarke, Sam Faulkner, Rowan Garcia, OG Thorne and Dawny Warren, and is dated January 2019. Again, it is not clear whether anyone commissioned this “report” and for what purpose, but given Kaeden’s enrollment at the time in the Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) program, it is reasonable to assume that this was a school project.


The report explains its focus on CHEO thus:


In Ottawa, many General Practitioners are uncomfortable treating transgender youth and/or do not have the resources to do so. If trans youth need medical intervention, the most common practice is to refer them to the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) (page 4, The CHEO Report).


And the need for a report on CHEO is explained thus:


The [CHEO gender identity clinic] does not meet the needs of trans and gender diverse youth who access it …. Based on information gathered from informal conversations among trans and gender diverse youth and families in Ottawa, SAEFTY Ottawa administered a survey in the summer of 2018 to better understand the experiences of trans and gender diverse youth who have gone through Clinic C5 [the CHEO adolescent health clinic] …. The questionnaire was open to youth and parents or guardians of youth who accessed or attempted to access care at the clinic …. We recorded 53 responses from when the survey opened on August 12, 2018, until the time it closed on October 13 2018. While, there is no public data to indicate the total number of clients who have accessed the clinic since its inception, we would estimate that this represents between 5% and 15% of the population. We feel this is a proficient [sic] sample size to represent client experiences at the clinic (page 5, The CHEO Report).


The CHEO Report sets out to reflect the experiences of youth and their families at the CHEO gender clinic, who were willing to take the time to fill out the survey. “The survey received 53 responses, 73% of which were youth and 27% of which were parents or guardians …. The respondents range in age from 9 to over 19 at the time of response, with most youth being 15 or older” (page 5, The CHEO Report). So, of 53 responses, 14 were from parents or guardians.


The CHEO Report is largely concerned with assessing how well CHEO was carrying out the mandate of providing “gender affirming care,” a model of care where medical practitioners follow the patient’s lead on assessing needed interventions for gender dysphoria. The “Discussion and Potential Solutions” section at the end of the report shows the authors’ commitment to child-led diagnosis at the clinic, concluding that:


Youth should not be required to complete an assessment of their gender identity in order to access hormone blockers, given that this treatment is entirely reversible and that its purpose is to relieve distress and allow additional time for thought and exploration (page 21, The CHEO Report).


And when the time comes for cross-sex hormones, the dosage prescribed should also be a child-led affair:


It is recommended that hormone doses be discussed in collaboration with youth and families and that doses be prescribed that best meet the needs of each client. If a young person expresses a strong need or desire for changes associated with [Hormone Replacement Therapy] in a timely manner, then a higher, more standard starting dose is recommended (page 22, CHEO Report).

As for surgical interventions, the body of the CHEO Report refrains from discussing the topic, but it does allude to surgery in a section entitled “Suggestions for the Future”:


[S]urvey respondents gave a few recommendations of future opportunities for expansion of the clinic that may be helpful to clients and families. These suggestions included: … Working towards making bottom bottom [sic] surgery available in the clinic (page 27, CHEO Report).


The SAEFTY website acknowledges that the legacy of the CHEO Report on the hospital’s practices are unknown:


Some staff in the clinic indicated that the report was helpful for them to improve the care that they provide, however the team was unwilling to continue meeting with us after our second meeting so it is unclear what changes have been made in the clinic since then. (www.saeftyottawa.ca/report)


It is also unclear why CHEO staff stopped meeting with Kaeden and her team but as we will see, Kaeden continued to monitor Ontario hospitals’ commitment to gender-affirming care in the ensuing years.


While working on her undergraduate degree in Social Work, Kaeden built upon her high school activism to land two practicums within the Ottawa Carleton District School Board. The Carleton Faculty of Public Affairs article quoted above tells us that:


Seburn completed both of their practicums for the BSW program with the OCDSB. While the school board has an equity and diversity program that does work related to gender identity and expression, Seburn created the first dedicated position of Trans and Gender Diverse Student Support Coordinator through their first practicum. After their practicum they were hired to continue in the role on contract. (www.Carleton.ca/fpa/story/kaeden-seburn-social-work)


https://www.ocdsb.ca/our_schools/indigenous_equity_human_rights/2slgbtq_supports/gender_identity_and_supports_available


Kaeden’s messaging as Trans and Gender Diverse Student Coordinator can be sampled through the Gender Identity and Supports video available on the OCDSB website. And Kaeden’s magnum opus from her time with the school board is the updating of the “Gender Identity and Gender Expression” guide (2021), where she is listed as lead author.


With her BSW completed, in the fall of 2021, Kaeden enrolled in a Master of Social Work program at York University in Toronto. A website called “YORKSPACE Institutional Repository” lists a practice-based research paper dated April 28 2022, that gives insight into Kaeden’s research interests at York. Entitled ‘I Just Need to Get to Know You’: A Foucauldian Genealogy of Health Care Assessments of Trans and Gender Diverse Youth, the paper picks up on the commitment Kaeden articulated in the CHEO Report: to dismantle any gatekeeping to medical interventions for gender-dysphoric youth. The first and last sentences of the abstract on page v give a good summary of the contents:


Despite the importance of transition related health care (TRHC) for many trans and gender diverse (trans) youth, there are many barriers to accessing this care, including assessment protocols that limit youths’ autonomy. This research seeks to interrogate how and why current assessment practices in pediatric TRHC in Ontario have come to be.… This research is put forward in the hope that, in the future, all trans and gender diverse children and youth will have access to the affirming TRHC that they need and deserve. (page v, “I Just Need to Get to Know You”).


Most of the body of this paper is concerned with citing secondary sources on the importance of patient-led diagnosis and treatment in pediatric gender patients. Kaeden does refer to having done five original clinician interviews for the project:


Drawing on the theories of (trans)normativity and governmentality, the project applied a Foucauldian discourse analysis to analyze interviews with five clinicians currently practicing in TRHC in Ontario.… Findings discuss how these discourses obscure the ways in which power is enacted within the clinic (ibid).


The term “Foucauldian discourse” will be new to any readers fortunate enough to have escaped studying Michel Foucault in university. Foucault was a French literary theorist who helped to found the postmodernist movement that lies at the base of gender ideology and its seeming imperviousness to criticism.


To summarize, Kaeden Seburn was a high school trans activist, founder of an all-ages online youth group dedicated to promoting gender ideology, and, through her personal website, The CHEO Report, and her research at York University, is dedicated to removing barriers for children and youth to access the puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones and surgery that go by the name of “trans-related health care”.


How someone barely out of her teens, with no background in education, medicine or counseling, was put on the front lines of advising OCDSB parents on pediatric gender dysphoria, is a story that still remains to be told. And here are some of the people who should be telling it: Sue Rice, OCDSB Equity Instructional Coach, and Kaeden’s direct supervisor; Carolyn Tanner, OCDSB Human Rights and Equity Advisor; and Camille Williams-Taylor, Director of Education for the OCDSB 2019-2022.


Anyone who watches the video entitled Gender Identity and Supports Available at the OCDSB will acknowledge that Kaeden is an extraordinarily precocious and confident presenter of gender ideology. She took a topic that no one had heard about ten years ago, and deftly embedded it into one of Canada’s largest school boards. Kaeden presents the topic as someone who sincerely believes that she is helping gender dysphoric youth, in a world that is still struggling to accept gender non-conforming people. However, some parents are beginning to ask the OCDSB why children should be told to modify their bodies to better fit a sexist world, rather than the other way around.


How secure is this new ideology within the OCDSB? That remains to be seen. Kaeden lasted four months as the “Trans and Gender Diverse Student Coordinator”. Her successor lasted a year. The next person lasted less than five months, and the position is unfilled as of July 2023.


Kaeden is no longer employed by the OCDSB and has no authority over whether the board maintains or rescinds the ill-digested policies that she helped put in place. Kaeden was only a child herself when she caught the wave of gender ideology and rode its crest with such poise and aplomb. She deserves clemency for her youth and complete lack of “lived experience.”


That said, readers who are constituents of the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board: your homework is to read the 2021 version of the Gender Ideology and Gender Identity guide, and send your questions and concerns to the Office of the Human Rights and Equity Advisor: humanrights@ocdsb.ca. Be sure to copy your Trustee as well as the Superintendent of Instruction attached to your school.


If you are not a constituent of the OCDSB, your homework is the same, only within your own school district. Find out if there is a policy governing gender identity. Read that policy. And find out if your trustee has actually read it, too.


 

Books and resources to help families resist gender identity ideology:







Our Duty Canada offers support and resources to Canadian parents of children experiencing “gender” ideation.









Transgender Trend calls for evidence-based healthcare for children and young people suffering gender dysphoria and for factual, science-based teaching in schools.




Genspect Parent Stories gives a voice to parents who are concerned that their kids are receiving inadequate healthcare.

Gender Dysphoria Support Network is an international group that aims to offer emotional understanding and support to families of individuals affected by gender dysphoria, by meeting regularly in small groups and by providing information, understanding and encouragement.

Parents with Inconvenient Truths about Trans (PITT) is a space for parents that have been impacted by gender ideology to share their uncensored stories, experiences, and thoughts.






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