Leaders in Kelowna’s community have noticed a rise in hate speech against marginalized people, and want to urge people of privilege to stand up against the negativity.
“I don’t want you to stand behind me. I want you to stand beside me and sometimes, you will need to stand in front of me,” said Darrien McWatters, a business manager, prominent hockey coach and referee, parent and transgender woman.
McWatters is speaking out after a recent incident when a young girl was publicly misgendered at a track and field competition and is calling on allies of diverse people to stand up and speak out against hate. She explained that straight, white people should not expect marginalized communities to bear the burden of addressing hate on their own.
McWatters said that when she says that cis-gendered, heterosexual men have inherent privileged, she is speaking from decades of experience. While she now identifies as a trans woman, McWatters did not come out as transgender until her 40s. She said that she lived with the privilege of presenting as a straight white man for many years.
In an interview with Capital News, Kelowna City Councillor Loyal Wooldridge said that the public needs to start calling out trans-phobic behaviour like what transpired at the track meet.
“This is a strategic movement to target marginalized communities…this is hate,” said Wooldridge.
After speaking out, the councillor was subject to a surge in hate-filled and homo-phobic emails.
Woolridge called on those that are not part of a marginalized group to take a stand and recognize that homophobia is something that queer people experience everyday.
“Use your voice, do not remain silent,” said Wooldridge.
When asked about the backlash that fellow city councillor Wooldridge has received, Kelowna City Councillor Ron Cannan said “we need to treat people with respect.”
Cannan said that the community needs to stand together, but that “unity does not mean uniformity.”
McWatters further commented that everyone should be celebrated for their diversity and uniqueness.
She encourages all people, but particularly youth to “be your authentic self, don’t just fit in, find a place where you feel belonging.”
McWatters explained that having a sense of belonging is important for everyone, but particularly children. When someone singles a child out of a group for being different it can be traumatizing and upsetting.
She urges allies to think about what it would feel like to be excluded from the things that they love, like sports.
“Allow people to have their place in sport,” said McWatters.”We just want to belong somewhere… The alternative to accepting people is excluding them.”
McWatters said that one way that allies can be supportive is by using people’s preferred pronouns and correcting people when they misgender someone.
When faced with hate, McWatters said to remain calm, control your emotions, and “kill them with kindness,” adding the reminder, “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”