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Hi, Sam! A gender critical eye on gender creative kids

Updated: Sep 16, 2021

by Cincy Kem - September 2021

Move over, Genderbread Person and step aside, Gender Unicorn - there’s a new kid in town.

Meet Sam. The world’s first “transgender educational tool.”

Sam is the star of The You Inside - an award-winning, multi-component educational project by Gender Creative Kids (Jeunes identités créatives) based in Montreal, Quebec.

Sam was, as their tear-jerking animated backstory film reveals, born female but identified as male as soon as they could stand up in their crib. Sam’s preference for toy cars over dolls and hoodies over dresses is presented as proof positive that Samantha was just not meant to be. But Sam has sad feelings and difficulties making friends and fitting in at school. Sam wants to play with the boys but they shun and ridicule them. Frustrated and hurt, Sam attacks and fights with the boys. Later, Sam cuts their own hair short. Sam’s parents are concerned - they just don't know what is wrong with or what to do about their daughter. Then one day, at the wise old age of 10, it all magically comes together when Sam finally comes out to their parents who immediately and unconditionally affirm them as the true and only boy they always was. A happy, Disney-fied ending - and all just in time for Sam to be referred to the gender doctors and prescribed puberty blockers, as the affirmation story goes.

Gender Creative Kids is a community organization that promotes gender ideology and supports medical and surgical transition of young people who believe they were born in the wrong body. Provincially funded by the Quebec Ministry of Justice, corporately funded by TD Bank and Bell Canada, and overseen by the Canada Research Chair on Transgender Children and their Families, Gender Creative Kids launched Hi Sam: Sensitizing Youth Through Play in 2020.

The centerpiece of the sensitization program is the wide-eyed and appealing Sam doll. Cleverly fashioned after classic Russian nesting dolls, Sam’s transition - from female to trans-identified male is illustrated through the years of Sam’s growth from infant girl to gender-creative pre-teen.

Spokespersons for Gender Creative Kids explain that the Hi, Sam program serves to create a safe space in which to discuss the journeys of trans and gender-creative children and youth. “The main goal is to help teachers who have to address issues surrounding gender identity, roles, stereotypes and norms.” The program has been developed for elementary schools to support the Quebec Ministry of Education’s sexual education program which requires that gender norms and stereotypes be discussed as early as the first year of elementary school.

For its pilot project, Gender Creative Kids distributed 250 Sams to Canadian schools.

Three short videos introduce educators to the sensitization program. They set the scene, review gender theory terms and vocabulary, and introduce Sam - the first transgender teaching tool. They also issue a call to action for teachers as “agents of change” against bullying and transphobia.

The video spokespersons are engaging and perfectly bilingual (all materials are available in both official languages). Spokesperson One is a sex educator who introduces themself as a “non-binary trans-masculine person with they/them he/him pronouns.” Spokesperson Two is a transactivist and an artist who identifies as gender-fluid, non-binary trans-masculine and who uses he/him pronouns (no mention of they/them, in his case).

They explain that for all students, “cis” students included, there are as many developmental pathways in the gender identity development process “as there are stars in the sky.”

They emphasize that “the only reliable indicator of a person’s gender identity is their self-identification.”

And they encourage educators to “Be the teacher I would have wanted to have. Little things can go a long way.”

Upon review of the Hi, Sam sensitization guide, such little things might include removing a child’s given name in their records and replacing it with a new name that the child has come up with via their very own gender-development process:

“It is possible that certain students in your educational institution may not be eligible for a name change or a sex designation change because of one or several eligibility requirements ... However, according to the Québec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, the educational institution is bound to respect the identities and the gender expressions of its students, and therefore to use their chosen names and pronouns. Under no circumstance should the students be required to make legal changes in order to be able to exercise their right to be recognized and respected in their school environment.

It is therefore the educational institution’s duty to make the necessary changes in the students’ administrative records. Acknowledging these obstacles and fostering a space where children can authentically express their gender identities is an act of advocacy and a significant contribution to the empowerment of these children.”

Indeed, the practice of using the chosen name of a student who only lives by their transgender-identified status at school, and modifying their school records accordingly, has been documented in a high-profile but under-reported case in British Columbia. Parents across Canada should be aware of this case in which the father of a 15-year-old girl was imprisoned for failing to adhere to a court order that he refrain from speaking out against the gender medicalization of his daughter. He was sent to jail for trying to preserve his daughter’s healthy body even while Trans Care BC, an information service of the British Columbia Health Authority, stated on its website (until it was changed on August 31, 2021) that the criteria for getting a prescription for puberty blockers includes the “parents having given consent and being involved in supporting the adolescent throughout the treatment process.”

Here’s what the Hi, Sam sensitization guide says about puberty blockers:

“Puberty/hormone blockers are generally prescribed to adolescents at a certain stage of puberty (Tanner stage 2) to delay the development of undesired secondary sex characteristics (for example, breasts or menstruation for transmasculine youth, and facial hair or the Adam’s apple for transfeminine youth). These hormone blockers are not prescribed to prepubescent youth.

Tanner stage 2 marks the beginning of puberty, which, for girls starts between ages 9 and 11. For boys, puberty generally starts at 11. The Hi, Sam program, targeted specifically at third and fourth grade students, raises awareness among teachers that their students will soon be old enough to be prescribed puberty blockers as a first step in changing the course of their maturation to better align with the identity they have been encouraged to explore and develop at school.

Nowhere in the guide does it refer to the negative impacts and side-effects that result from placing a pre-teen child on a pharmaceutical regime that denies them their natural physical and mental development. There is no footnote, reference or update in the guide or on the Gender Creative Kids website to advise that in December 2020, the UK High Court determined that the provision of puberty blocking medications (GnRHa) to stop normally-timed puberty in gender dysphoric young people is experimental. The High Court furthermore ruled that persons under age 16 are unlikely to be able to provide valid informed consent to take puberty blockers as they “lack the capacity to properly comprehend and evaluate the profound and life-long impacts of these interventions.”

The Hi, Sam sensitization guide also provides this disclaimer: “Please also note that no gender-affirming surgical interventions are performed on trans children.” And yet, in another British Columbia court case under publication ban, a mother lost her bid to delay a double mastectomy on her 17-year-old trans-identified child. In Canada, one must be at least 18 years old to be recognized as an adult. But this person, who was cleared by the BC courts to receive their euphemistically re-labelled “chest reconstruction operation” in spite of their mother’s protestations, was a child.

Despite these reports and untruths, the guide exclaims that by sensitizing students and staff to gender issues, the Hi, Sam project is a “huge step towards safety in schools.”

Surely, a different outcome may be forecast when Canadian educators and students are told they must believe that people may actually transform into something they are not. Just how is safety defined? And what of the parent’s role and responsibility in providing said safety when their children’s gender identities are being “developed” behind their backs? Note the guidance: ”Unless you have the child’s free and informed consent, you should never disclose a student’s trans identity (or anyone’s trans identity) to their parent(s), to other students or their parent(s), or to your colleagues.”

The sensitization guide again suggests educators exercise the code of secrecy when it recommends teachers of trans and gender-creative youth “reach out and get support from a resource person or from community organizations (like Gender Creative Kids Canada) in order to support and guide the child through this process (while maintaining confidentiality, of course!).”

A series of suggested activities using the Sam doll and backstory film are included in the program. The activities are aligned with themes set out in the provincial sex ed curriculum with an emphasis on respect and acceptance. One of the activities suggests its educational intention is to Encourage self-affirmation through authentic gender expression and encourage respect for the diversity and the uniqueness of people around us.”

Nowhere in the sensitization guide does it address how to manage sensitivities or conflicts that may arise when the sex-based privacy and safety considerations of students may be impacted by a gender-neutral policy for washrooms or change rooms.

In spite of the pandemic, 2021 started off well for Gender Creative Kids. Provided with a new $364K federal grant from Women and Gender Equality Canada, Gender Creative Kids is positioned to “grow its organization and to strengthen national networks through a Canada-wide community networking campaign.”

And with “Project Sam 2.0,” to distribute more Sams to more Canadian schools.

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