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Richmond trustee candidate sends unsolicited photos of trans youth to teacher

‘What made him think I needed to receive this,’ said teacher.
Dean Billings is running for school trustee in the municipal election.

Update: The article has been updated to clarify Billings' claim that Reid had initially tagged him in a tweet.

Richmond Board of Education candidate Dean Billings sent unsolicited photos of trans people to a teacher, according to tweets that surfaced on Saturday morning. 

According to teacher Mark Reid, he received photos of a pre and post-op trans youth from Billings at 12:31 a.m. on Friday night, Sept. 16 “without warning, context, or prior interaction.” 

The photos were followed by the messages, “Hi there. You may not realize it, but here is an image of what you’re supporting,” and “In BC. Now.” 

Billings had followed the Richmond-based teacher on Twitter around a week ago but did not interact with him until last night. 

“It’s literally how he introduced himself to me,” Reid said. 

Reid said he felt “startled and confused” when he received the messages. “What made him think I needed to receive this.” 

While he has "no idea" why Billings sent him the messages, Reid's "best guess" is that it's because he's "a teacher, gay, and [values] inclusion."

In a statement to The Richmond News, Billings said that his DM was in response to a tweet Reid had tagged him in on Friday morning, as well as the "broader conversation that tweet was part of." The embedded tweet below shows that Reid did not tag Billings in his tweet, but had instead replied to a tweet that had tagged Billings.

"I have sent direct messages to others with different views than my own and have had conversations where we find out that we are closer to the centre than we thought," he said.

Billings clarified that he did not send images, but instead, it was a link to a tweet by activist Chloe Cole (@ChoooCole on Twitter). The image in the tweet appears to be a screenshot from Instagram, and Billings told the News that he does not know where the image came from.

"The internet is replete with celebratory before and after pics of top surgery," he added.

'Awareness' about gender-affirming care an issue, says candidate

Billings told the News that most Richmondites "frankly have no idea that minors can consent to gender-affirming care and what it really entails," and "awareness" was an issue.

He also claims that "legacy decency standards" prevent the media from accurately reporting on the story "by (not) including graphic details such as the results of gender-reaffirming care or the graphic content in school libraries in Canada."

"Like the burning of Vietnamese villages or videos of George Floyd, once the general public sees what we are doing, I predict that we will understand that Gender Affirming Care is a euphemism for expensive and irreversible medical interventions and follow the path of Sweden and Finland to move away from it," he said.

The News, however, chose not to show the graphic picture Billings was referring to because the origin and authenticity of the picture as well as whether the subject of the picture had consented to its distribution were not known.

According to the Provincial Health Services Authority's (PHSA) primary care toolkit for gender-affirming care for trans, Two-Spirit and gender diverse patients in B.C., minors (those under 19 years old) can consent to gender-affirming care as long as they understand "the nature and consequences and the reasonably foreseeable benefits and risks of the health care."

PHSA defines gender-affirming care as, “processes through which a health care system cares for and supports an individual, while recognizing and acknowledging their gender identity and expression.”

The health care provider must determine whether the minor is capable of consenting; explain the treatment options to them and be satisfied that they understand the nature, consequences and reasonably foreseeable benefits and risks; and make reasonable efforts to determine whether the treatment is in the minor's "best interests."

In terms of gender-affirming surgery as depicted in the image, a person must be of the age of majority (19 years old) to be eligible for surgery. PHSA's website states that upper surgery is "sometimes possible" before the age of 19, and an additional readiness assessment may be recommended by surgeons.

“… assessment and treatment of gender dysphoria for youth requires appropriate training, family engagement (whenever possible) and awareness of developmental and mental well-being considerations,” reads PHSA’s toolkit.

The News had previously reported on Billings’ desire to revisit the Richmond school district’s Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) policy and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) committee’s recommendations.

Billings had said that the SOGI policy should promote “self-acceptance and anti-bullying without teaching gender-affirming pseudoscience.” 

He also thinks the DEI policy should focus on “low-status males at risk of suicide, drug addiction, and political extremism.” He suggested to “modernize” the policy, “aggressive anti-racism content and philosophy” should be removed from learning materials, and elementary-level “anti-racism content must provide positive messages for any reader.” 

Just yesterday, Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside and K-12 education partners made a joint statement announcing the formation of the Provincial K-12 SOGI Collaborative, which commits “to creating learning environments that are safe, respectful and welcoming for all B.C. students.”

“All 60 school districts, independent and First Nations schools have SOGI-inclusive codes of conduct and policies in place and many are participants in the B.C. SOGI Educator Network,” reads the statement.

“Students deserve to have the complete support of teachers, administrators, support staff, trustees, parents, guardians, caregivers and their community, as we work together to create learning environments where all students are free from discrimination so they can thrive and succeed in their school years and beyond.”

With files from Maria Rantanen. 

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