Yesterday morning, UW staff and students gathered outside Kitchener City Hall in support of the Queer Youth Defence, a counter-protest responding to the Hands Off Our Kids movement. The counter-protest was organized by members of the inter-activist group GroundUp Waterloo and the UW Solidarity Network.
English professor sarah currie was a UW faculty member in attendance as a safety team member sporting a yellow vest, and explained that her role was to ensure that counter-protestors felt safe from the other side.
“I’m here because I’m against hatred,” she said. “Acceptance is the way to go.”
On their website, Hands Off Our Kids says that their mission is to “safeguard children from gender ideology teachings, sexual indoctrination, exposure to explicit sexual content, ensuring that parental consent remains paramount.”
Courtney Sullivan, a UW student and volunteer for the Green Party at the counter-protest, thought that the mutual goal for both the Queer Youth Defence and Hands Off Our Kids is to protect children.
“They’re hiding behind the scapegoat of ‘Protect our kids,’ which is exactly what we’re trying to do as well,” they said. “But we protect all our kids, not just the cisgendered heterosexual kids.”
They emphasized the safety risks for queer youth, who are at higher risk of mental health issues and suicide than non-queer youth, as well as being kicked out of their homes by unsupportive family.
“These parents, they’re here to protect their kids, but what happens when they’re kids come out as queer?” they said.
A.J. Mbobi, another UW student at the counter-protest, chose to attend to support his friend, saying that he viewed firsthand how her mental health improved after having received gender-affirming care.
“When you look at their hatred, it’s not based on much,” he said in reference to the Hands Off Our Kids movement. “I find it ridiculous.”
Quotes were lightly edited for clarity.