Transgender candidate hopes for a first in Surrey

SURREY — "I would always have my masculinity questioned because I wasn’t living up to standard."

Those are the words of Newton resident Nicole Joliet, who hopes to win a seat on the Surrey school board as the first transgender trustee.

"People would make fun of my voice, how it would go high, how I wasn’t predisposed to athletics," said Joliet, 23. "Students should not be made to feel like this."

If elected, Joliet wants to update Surrey’s sexual orientation and gender identity policy to allow for better protection. According to one of her campaign posters, Surrey still lags far behind Vancouver for inclusion, and on almost every point of comparison, Vancouver’s policy outstrips Surrey’s by light years.

Earlier this year, Vancouver School Board redesigned its LGBTQ policy to allow students to be addressed by the name that corresponds with their own gender identity. Transgender students can also use the washroom of their choice.

"This should be the bare minimum of what should be done because there are more steps to be taken," she said, adding wording in Surrey’s Safe and Caring Schools policy, like "perceived sexual orientation," is too vague and weak.

"Surrey says you need to have evidence, whereas if you’re a Vancouver student, if you feel the slightest bit uncomfortable, action will be taken."

Surrey school board trustee Laurie Larsen spearheaded the motion that created the district’s policy last year. She admitted while she was very pleased with the document, it’s not as strong as she had hoped.

"It’s a start. We’d rather have it voted and approved and build on it than come out with a stronger policy that wouldn’t be accepted," she said. "It’s all about baby steps."

Larsen added the policy, which was written by parents, students and staff, should be seen as an educational piece.

"Some don’t even know what the initials LGBTQ mean, and they don’t know if they walk down the hall and somebody calls somebody else ‘gay,’ if it’s in good fun or if it’s mean-spirited. We have to teach people to recognize the difference."

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