Today, I was watching a recording of Bill Maher (September 23 episode) on YouTube, and just before he went to New Rules, he had a short summary of news on a transgender shop teacher named Kayla Lemieux. This would be a boring story with a hint of spectacle if it were not for the fact that Maher, who is based in Los Angeles, was relating this story about this teacher who works in Oakville, here in Canada. Because the news travelled so far, I thought I would give this another look.
He teaches at Oakville Trafalgar High School (OTHS), a school in a tony neighbourhood located in southeast Oakville, and part of the Halton District Public School Board.
Lemieux has been transitioning over the past year, and since this school year has started, pictures of her sporting large triple-Z prosthetic breasts under a tight shirt along with bike shorts have gone viral on Twitter. Having a tight shirt over large breasts with nipples poking through would normally violate school board dress codes, but in the case of Lemieux, the Director of the Halton District School Board is defending her.
Lemieux has become the poster T-Girl of every right-wing news outlet that appears to exist, right up to Fox News where it surfaced on Tucker Carlson on September 19, where Carlson hyperbolically called the situation “an attack on your children”. It even crossed the Atlantic to Britain’s Daily Mail. About the only thing to come out of the situation is to provide a “red meat” issue for consumers of right wing media. Other media appear to be ignoring it. While Lemieux appears prominently on Know Your Meme, information is lacking as to how much this is trending, exactly. Overall, it doesn’t appear to be a big deal on the internet generally.
I was able to finally find a Canadian article from The Toronto Sun, (still a right-wing publication, I know — and an opinion piece besides) where they report that the anticipated protest which was to happen at OTHS this Monday past was attended by exactly one person who would not give his name to the reporters, but eventually identified himself as a former OTHS student. The Sun columnist admits that the situation really didn’t cause much of a stir other than questions being asked of the board and administators, and that most of what could be called outrage was online. The online people may well be from out of the province and most likely from the States, where the right wing press was foaming at the mouth over it. It still didn’t stop the Sun columnist, Anthony Furey, from trying to hyperbolize it into something outrageous, even though not many people from the actual school experienced any emotion that you could say rose to the level of outrage. There were discussions, there were questions, there were concerns for sure. But it appears that is as far as it’s getting.
Overall, apart from right-wing noise coming mostly from media outlets desparate for spectacle, our culure seems pretty accepting of such people on the whole. It appears to be a lot of noise, signifying nothing. In the final analysis, Lemieux has a right to express herself as she likes, and that right is protected. About all one can accuse her of is poor taste and making a few people feel uncomfortable. The school board — and all school boards that face this situation — have to come to terms with writing a dress code that acknowledges the right for kids to learn without feeling distracted and cringey, while respecting those who lead alternative lifestyles. Where they conflict, the right of kids to learn in a conducive environment should take precedence.
- I take it back. The Toronto Star has been all over this story, but never naming the teacher that was implicated. There seemed to be a later, somewhat louder protest on 23 September in front of the school, but pictures I’ve seen maybe have the number of protestors at no bigger than 12 or so.
- A dozen protestors might be significant for a school, but of course the Star reporter would hopefully like to know who they are, and if they are actually from the region. A voice speaking into a megaphone sounded “right-wing” to the reporter; and some adults that showed up were affiliated with the People’s Party of Canada (PPC), a tiny far right Ottawa-based party whose platform advocates the restricting of immigration, and putting an end to multiculturalism. They also want to loosen the gun laws to legalize 1500 kinds of recently-banned weapons such as the AR-15, and M16, generally the kinds of weapons used at the Sandy Hook, New Zealand, Las Vegas, Orlando, Ecole Poytechnique, and Quebec City Mosque mass shootings. Only a few people at the protest were actual parents of kids at the school. The Star is not clear as to how many of them were there.
- More to the point, the PPC wishes to repeal Bill C-16 which was passed by the Liberals in 2018. This introduces legislation under the Canadian Human Rights Act to prevent discrimination based on a person’s preferred gender. It also adds provisions to the Crimial Code making those who target others based on transgendered identity or expression a hate crime. This also covers hate speech targeting transgenders. This bill also received the support of the opposition Conservative Party.
- Trustee Tracey Ehl said she has received emails from outside of Canada that apparently come from hate groups, regarding Lemieux. Any coming from her own constituents? The Toronto Star doesn’t say.
- But Halton region did in fact have meetings involving school trustees over persuading the director to make changes to the dress code; and even Stephen Lecce, the education minister, has sent a request to the standards body, the Ontario College of Teachers, to see if they could tighten the rules around a dress code for teachers.