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Faced With Gender Propaganda at the Hockey Rink, One Coach Says No

Minivans stuffed with hockey gear and parents sipping drive-thru coffee rink-side are quintessential Canadian suburban scenes. But since 2018, the world of hockey moms and dads has become just another venue for the spread of what one Ontario hockey coach describes as culture-war propaganda.

Actually, make that former coach: “I can’t coach. I can’t be on the bench. I can’t help on the ice—Even just to help on the ice, you need this training,” he explains. After having assisted on his son’s hockey team for three years, the father has been removed from all positions because he questioned the necessity of a mandatory gender identity training course imposed by Hockey Eastern Ontario (formerly the Ottawa District Hockey Association) following a 2017 legal settlement involving a transgender hockey player.

The father has been interviewed by Quillette, and supplied documentation outlining his concerns and tracking his correspondence with other parties mentioned below. These concerns include the possibility that he will be taken up on accusations of transphobia merely for speaking with the media, which is why we have agreed to refer to him here as John Doe.

In part because of past abuse scandals, the coaching of children in hockey (as in most other sports) is now regulated by government and oversight bodies. And even assistant coaches who volunteer on a part-time basis often must submit to background checks. Doe himself has completed a number of mandated courses, and says he fully supports anti-discrimination efforts led by Hockey Eastern Ontario; and the Ontario Hockey Federation (OHF), which oversees the majority of minor hockey in Ontario, from players as young as six years old on up. But he balked when he saw the 33-slide module on gender that was included in his required gender diversity course. “I would be fine taking an awareness course if it [were] factual and based in science,” he told Quillette. “But I felt it was too ideological.”

The underlying Human Rights Tribunal case that had led to the new training requirements was brought by Jesse Thompson, a trans-identified biologically female child who complained that he’d been prevented from using a boys locker room due to his female anatomy. (At the time Thompson brought his complaint, applicable policies required players 11 years of age and older to change in rooms that accorded with their anatomical sex.) Even critics of the new gender-diversity training regimen seem to agree that Jesse’s team handled the situation insensitively. In the aftermath, the OHF delegated the authorship of new training materials to an LGBT activist organization called Egale Canada.

Egale, a Toronto-based charity founded in 1986, has published materials indicating that children understand their gender identity “between the ages of three and five.” And in the gender identity course that Egale produced for the OHF, it ratcheted that age down to “between 18-30 months.” In 2005, Egale gave legal support to Kimberly Nixon, a trans woman who accused Vancouver Rape Relief of violating human-rights law because it would not permit a male-bodied individual to serve as a volunteer among the clinic’s recovering (female) abuse victims.

Slide 13.

Somewhat predictably, Egale instructs hockey officials that “pre-season chats are a great opportunity for everyone on your team, including coaches, assistant coaches and volunteers to share the name and gender pronoun by which they wish to be called.” But what irked Doe were the materials that went beyond practical advice, and instead comprised a sort of free-form gender-studies seminar full of fanciful and dubious claims.

Slide 18.

Several of the two dozen slides have nothing to do with hockey, but instead are devoted to the idea that “the gender binary…was imposed on Native societies…including on the land we now know as Canada.” These appear alongside maps showing the claimed transmission of the “gender binary” to the Americas, Africa and Australia from Europe. Later in the presentation, rank-and-file hockey moms and dads are informed that the term “Two Spirit” “seeks to restore traditional identities and roles that were actively buried by European Colonizers.”

On another slide, amid a parade of variously configured pink and blue male/female stick-people, the concept of “polygender” is introduced to define “people who identify as multiple genders simultaneously and can be several genders all at once. Or they may alternate between their varying gender identities depending on the day or the week.” Coaches also get a slide on “genderqueer” individuals, who exist in an undefined extra-dimensional gender space that allows them to “reject gender altogether”—though this is not to be confused with “agender” (it gets its own slide), a label that applies to those who are merely “genderless.” Later in the presentation, there are hockey-themed quizzes (“Drag and drop each puck in to the corresponding net”) to test coaches’ understanding of these rarified terms.

Slide 19.

All of this left Doe incredulous: “They’re putting this in a training course that’s mandatory for me to volunteer with my son?” Forwarding his concerns to Hockey Eastern Ontario, Doe requested a temporary exemption until he could explain his position to the organization more fully. According to documentation provided to Quillette, this request was denied, with Hockey Canada’s Senior Vice-President for Insurance and Risk Management writing to advise that these measures were mandatory under the aforementioned 2017 legal settlement. (The VP didn’t respond to my own requests for comment.)

Slide 24.

Doe then wrote to Egale Canada and questioned the basis for some of the more far-fetched claims contained in the materials. He received a response from Jaclyn Isen, an Egale curriculum developer who implements “integrative anti-oppression education, human rights, diversity and inclusion, with a special focus on LGBTQI2S lives and experiences,” and who apparently served as a principal architect of the Tribunal-mandated training materials.

Unfortunately, Isen’s response was rendered in the somewhat arcane language typical of her gender-studies background. (In a 2015 paper, Rendering a Neighbourhood Queer, Isen and co-authors sought to use “collective mental mapping and photovoice renderings [to] interpret the queering of urban space as a queer utopian impulse.”) In response to Doe’s question about “polygender” kids who, Egale claims, can switch genders on a daily basis, for instance, Isen replied: “It is not outside the realm of possibility that the personal choice of what dressing room may feel the most comfortable and safest for any gender diverse person may shift over time as they navigate their own path toward affirming their identity while also navigating their own vulnerability to the possibility of transphobic harassment or bullying in those spaces.” (Isen did not respond to requests for comment.)

Slide 28.

On slide 28 of the Egale-authored materials, coaches are introduced to the concept of “cisnormativity”—which is illustrated with a sketched image of a person (presumably trans) seeking to avoid being crushed by a (presumably cis—i.e., non-trans) fist. After interacting with Hockey Canada and Egale fruitlessly, Doe concluded that the organizational priority had shifted from teaching kids hockey and making all feel welcome, to proselytizing a barely comprehensible gender typology. It had become clear that his days of coaching were effectively over: To even question these materials made a coach the human embodiment of that “cisnormative” fist.

“The more I looked into it [on the Internet], the more I saw that I wasn’t alone,” he adds. “There’s a lot of people speaking out and who are unhappy with how the activists are controlling the narrative around this.” Indeed, the outsourcing of such materials to Egale may be seen as a case study that illustrates how radicalized theories of gender have been mainstreamed in any number of organizations: At some point of legal or reputational crisis (in this case, corresponding to the resolution of a human-rights complaint), an organization’s leadership is pressured to adopt radical policies whose effects last indefinitely. And while the policies may not reflect the community served by the organization, anyone who objects does so at risk of prompting their own human-rights investigation.

Doe says he is actually sympathetic to Hockey Eastern Ontario’s position, and would be happy to see the organization fulfill its legal anti-discrimination obligations. But at the very least, he would like to see its instructional materials authored by people who are actually familiar with hockey culture, rather than academics reciting ideological boilerplate.

Unlike some of the other figures who are quoted on this subject in Quillette, Doe isn’t a “gender critical feminist,” or, indeed, any kind of professional cultural warrior. He’s just a father who refused to sign on to a propaganda document as a condition to help his son’s hockey team. And I suspect he won’t be the last.


Anna Slatz is a Canadian writer. Follow her on Twitter at 
@YesThatAnna.

Comments

  1. Interesting article, although I noticed a few grammatical mistakes that detracted from the reading experience somewhat. For example, in paragraph five the author accidentally wrote “his female anatomy,” which obviously is a nonsensical phrase so I assume it must be a typo. Otherwise a well-written piece on the encroachment of postmodern gender theory into the world of Canadian youth hockey. Kudos to the coach for standing up for rationality.

  2. Well that can’t be right. Typos are plaguing Canadian legal documentation as well? The problem is worse than I thought. We must deploy international proofreading aid to Canada at once!

  3. You cannot reason with unreasonable people. The correct response is to walk away. Better to play shinny at the local rink.

  4. Gender is very simple. There are people with dicks and people with vaginas. The world shouldn’t revolve about the tiny percentage of ill people who think they are the opposite of what they are. WHy is this so hard for lefty fanatics to understand?

  5. There are not multiple or variable genders either. Gender is not fluid. When a person wishes to changes his/her gender there are only two options.

  6. Exactly right Farris. This is not to say that you can’t be an extremely feminine man or an extremely masculine woman. But you are either male or female according to your biological sex.

  7. I used to have a fantasy about sharing a locker room with the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders. I don’t think the young ladies should be required to accommodate my delusion.

  8. I doubt anyone disagrees with this. We simply disagree on what that respect should look like. Some of us think it’s disrespectful to fuel their pathologies.

    Welcome to our community, Sally.

  9. Actually I disagree with it. Respect has to be earnt. Children are mostly too callow and silly to be respected. We really have to get over this thing where we treat children like little tin gods.

  10. The article was not very well-written and so did not make this clear, but my impression was that the anonymous coach had no problem with respecting anyone at all, just all the theory behind it.

    Egale instructs hockey officials that “pre-season chats are a great opportunity for everyone on your team, including coaches, assistant coaches and volunteers to share the name and gender pronoun by which they wish to be called.” But what irked Doe were the materials that went beyond practical advice, and instead comprised a sort of free-form gender-studies seminar full of fanciful and dubious claims.

    It’s rather like if we were being a given a lecture on respecting different racial groups, but it was presented in terms of someone’s immortal soul in Catholicism, for example - most of us would have no problem with the respect, but wouldn’t want the “Catholic” and “immortal soul” part.

    I don’t think European society has imposed binary genders upon the world. When Mohammed segregated women in 623 was that because of European influences? If the medieval Chinese had no binary genders, then how did they know whose feet to bind? If medieval Africans had no binary genders, how did they know whose clitoris to cut off?

    It may be that a volunteer coach needs to sit through a lecture about respecting athletes as individuals. I don’t think a volunteer coach needs to sit through a lecture on academic gender theory, even if it’s not obviously nonsense.

    That’s my impression of the case, anyway: that the coach was happy about the respect part, and was quite prepared to call his athletes whatever they liked, and ensure they were nice to each-other - he just wasn’t happy with all the other stuff. But as I said the article is poorly-written and doesn’t make that entirely clear.

  11. Even if one accepts all the activist nonsense about gender, we are still stuck with the practical reality that we cannot reorder society to accommodate tiny minorities so as to avoid hurting their feelings. Today, it is trans people, tomorrow it will be some other group, then another group, then another. There will always be a grievance brigade demanding special, costly accommodations for the victim du jour.

    If you have a penis, use the boys room. Sorry but there is no solution that will make everybody happy.

  12. Generally I agree with you about picking one’s battles.

    This, to me, is a battle worth fighting because the ideology behind it is very insidious. If otherwise intelligent people are required to believe something they know to be untrue, then the door is open to being compelled to accept anything.

    It’s one thing to accept people as individuals. I have done that all my life, as I was brought up that way. It’s quite another to believe someone’s delusion. Contrary to the ideology being spouted by a very small and vocal minority (Trans people are, what…0.1% of the population at best?), No intelligent, critical-thinking individual could actually believe someone who declares that they are a man today and a woman tomorrow- just because they say so.

    Most regular folk just nod and say, “Ok…sure Sam…I mean…Sally.” Live as you wish and I will go along with you as a courtesy. But it’s ridiculous to believe Sally, who has a penis, is a real female. I would be very concerned, to say the least, to have biological males walking around nude in my daughter’s hockey dressing room pretending they are just another one of the girls. No amount of indoctrination will lead me to believe that the stuff hanging between “her” legs is a social construct. It is patently absurd to believe otherwise.

    That, therefore, is the issue. This hockey dad was being coerced to accept something he knows to be false. Having this madness be a central issue in kids’ activities shows how far the rot has gone. It has spread from academia to public life at a rapid pace. Unless it is countered, it will continue to do so. And I think that is dangerous.

  13. What a fascinating subject. I can’t help but imagine a person thirty years in the future reading about situations like this. What will future-person think when they read that the governing authority of Canadian youth hockey required coaches to teach 7-year-old hockey players that an 18-month-old infant might be trying to reconcile its biological sex and its gender identity and that they should be sensitive to that? Will future-person pity us for the brief period of lunacy we had to endure or will they wonder what took us so long to become enlightened? The thought worries me. Like, a lot.

  14. And there are still those who insist that Jordan Peterson’s warnings about legal consequences from the whimsical Canadian pronoun law were overwrought.

    This is not about the hurt feelings of a tiny minority. It rests on the contention that there’s no biological difference between males and females. THAT Is a non-trivial attack on the West’s foundational concepts:

    “In my study of communist societies, I came to the conclusion that the purpose of communist propaganda was not to persuade or convince, not to inform, but to humiliate; and therefore, the less it corresponded to reality the better. When people are forced to remain silent when they are being told the most obvious lies, or even worse when they are forced to repeat the lies themselves, they lose once and for all their sense of probity. To assent to obvious lies is…in some small way to become evil oneself. One’s standing to resist anything is thus eroded, and even destroyed. A society of emasculated liars is easy to control. I think if you examine political correctness, it has the same effect and is intended to.””
    ― Theodore Dalrymple

    1. Respect is earned, not a default
    2. Respect, tolerance, and the like are two-way streets
    3. Agreement (capitulation?) is not a prerequisite for respect, and is definitionally not a prerequisite for tolerance (disagreement is a prerequisite for tolerance)
    4. Truth is objective, not subjective
    5. The ideology in question hasn’t remotely undergone the vetting that should be necessary before subscribing to it becomes mandatory for participation in society; to the contrary, the ideology (necessarily) includes the claim that vetting is offensive

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