The mother of a nine-year-old girl says her daughter has received an outpouring of love and support after a man wrongly suggested the girl was transgender and demanded proof she was born biologically female at a Kelowna, B.C., track meet.
The confrontation, which has received international news coverage, has resulted in the man being banned from school premises and events, was condemned by B.C. Premier David Eby, and is being investigated by police.
Heidi Starr said the man pointed to two girls, including her daughter, who were competing in the girl’s Grade 4 shot put event last Thursday. He questioned their right to compete, she said.
“They did not fit his picture of what a little girl should look like, and he completely jumped to conclusions and then rode his transphobic hate train,” she said in an interview Wednesday.
Her daughter, who she asked not to be identified, was born female, uses she/her pronouns and has a pixie cut hairstyle, Starr said.
Starr said a woman accompanying the man started calling her and her ex-wife “genital mutilators and groomers.”
She said their daughter was “seriously shaken up and really upset” at the time.
“She was born to a lesbian family … She has no confusion about orientation or identity, and she knew exactly what this man was demanding,” Starr said.
“It was particularly impactful for her because she’d just never seen the hate and it was directed right at her.”
However, she said that since sharing the story, her daughter has received “overwhelming love and support” that had helped her process the incident.
“Because of the support we’ve received, it’s not as traumatic as it could be,” Starr said.
The man, who was identified by Starr on Facebook, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
But in remarks to the Castanet news site, he reportedly said he approached an official “in private” to ask about the girl, and when challenged by her mother had asked to see “a certificate.” He denied pointing out a second girl.
Kevin Kaardal, the superintendent of Central Okanagan Public Schools in Kelowna, B.C., said in a statement that staff at the regional track and field meet intervened and eventually moved the girl’s event across the field.
He said people who “accosted the student and family” were identified and steps have been taken to “formally ban them from any district property or events.”
“The entire school community that surrounds the student has shown tremendous allyship and concern for their well-being following the incident and we will continue to check in and ensure supports are available to anyone affected by the incident,” Kaardal said.
B.C. Premier David Eby said on Twitter Tuesday that the incident was awful and unacceptable, and people should “continue to call out transphobia when they see it.”
Starr said she was moved to tears when she saw leaders, including Eby, speak out about the situation and hopes it encourages others to do the same.
“I think it’s so incredibly important that if you have a platform to speak, that you speak out, and I am so incredibly grateful that the premier has tweeted,” she said.
Starr said she made a formal complaint to police last Thursday.
Kelowna RCMP said in a statement they have received several messages from concerned citizens and are investigating the claims.
“We too share everyone’s grave concerns with discriminatory behaviour,” the detachment said in a statement Tuesday.
— By Brieanna Charlebois
Banner image: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 14, 2023.