Julia Dunham for WRDSB Trustee

Hi, I’m Julia Dunham, and I’m a candidate for the 2022 WRDSB School Board election.

Equity and diversity, centralized around transgender acceptance and care, has become a paramount issue at WRDSB in 2022. As a transgender mother with a daughter enrolled at WRDSB, I am uniquely positioned to contribute to this conversation from a vantage point that few others hold.

As a member of the LGBT community, I recognize the importance of creating a WRDSB where all students are can thrive. To enable this, I believe that WRDSB schools must be a place where acceptance of all identities is paramount. I also believe that the advantage of our education system is only realized through open-conversation at the level of governance, and I believe that every genuinely held concerns should be engaged. This year, questions were raised about the appropriateness of materials for certain cohorts, and I believe this discussion has merit to continue.

In the last six months I’ve watched as candidates have delineated towards opposing sides on issues of how best to handle transgender matters in the classroom. For myself, I wish to tread a third path—a middle path—recognizing that the ideals of transgender acceptance and a value-neutral education system are both essential to a healthy education system for our children.

My Position on Transgender Matters in Education

I had no intention to run as a Trustee for WRDSB until the presentation at WRDSB in early 2022. As a transgender mother, I believe LGBT matters are human matters and have a place in our education system at an age where this content can be appropriately digested. I likewise believe that—in lockstep with how religion is discussed—emphasis should be placed on acceptance of diversity and should not cross into the realm of promotion. Discussion about whether content is age-inappropriate is relevant to our children and we all benefit from having that conversation as part of public discourse.

My observation in the past year has been that our schools have increasingly adopted an attitude of LGBT acceptance that does not provide space for any form of questioning or conversation. Why has this happened? Is it driven by fear that under scrutiny the material in our libraries will not be able to stand on their own merit? So what? Are all students not better off by ensuring that the resources in our system are the best they can possibly be?

In heartfelt discussions with LGBT parents and allies I’ve distilled a frequent fear: that the individuals who challenge these material do so from roots of covert transphobia. Over the past few months I have had the opportunity to engage in wonderful conversations with individuals who both love their LGBT friends and family but also share concerns about age appropriate content in our system. I’ve had the pleasure of partaking in enlightening dialogue with the teacher who presented to WRDSB in January and I’ve found her to be both insightful and accepting of my identity. Heading into our next election cycle, my biggest fear is that WRDSB will produce a Board of Trustees who are each individually encamped within a polarized dichotomy, preventing real movement and progress across so many other issues that plague our education system. I believe having a transgender individual such as myself bridging the gap will go great lengths towards balancing this conversation and finding middle ground.

Who Is Julia?

Whew! Now that we are through the elephant in the room, I’d love share a little about myself. For the last 15 years I’ve been in or around Waterloo Region. After completing my Engineering Degree at the University of Waterloo, I moved into the public sector where I worked in digital communication and accessibility for an Ontario municipality.

Five years ago I transitioned into the government technology sector (GovTech) where I have utilized my background in product management to design applications to transition citizen facing aspects of the public sector to the digital realm. Over the past five years I have worked with countless agencies in the municipal, school district, police and health care industries across both Canada and the United States. I have developed a deep understanding of both the merits and shortcomings of our Canadian public sector model.

When not at work I can be found with my wife, daughter, and two West Highland puppies Winston and Franklin. I am an avid rock climber, reader, and smart home enthusiast who has a habit of adopting more hobbies than I know what to do with. Since 2021 I have been on the Board of Directors for the Region of Waterloo Food Bank where I have been honoured to help contribute to the goal of eliminating food insecurity in Waterloo Region and across our province.

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