Colour and compassion

Supporters in pink back transgender girl Bella

By Alexandra Paul, Winnipeg Free Press, October 12, 2014

'The only way I know how to deal with a bully is to stand up to them' -- rally organizer Adam Herstein

Isabella "Bella" Burgos wore a fuchsia pink dress and a bright pink scarf around her hair. Nearly everyone else in the crowd of a few dozen also sported something pink: a scarf, a hair ornament, a T-shirt.

Bella Burgos Winnipeg 8 year old Tranny

Bella with her parents, Izzy and Dale, and her brothers (from left) Rece, Gavin and William.

Bella Burgos Winnipeg 8 year old Tranny

Bella plays with her friend, Zoey Thiessen, during the rally.

Bella Burgos Winnipeg 8 year old Tranny

Bella Burgos has her balloon tied by a family friend in Transcona Centennial Square during a rally Saturday. Everyone wore pink to show support for the transgender girl.

A week after the family of an eight-year-old transgender girl came forward and told media she's been the target of a bullying campaign by another parent, a rally was held at Transcona Centennial Square on Saturday to show support for the girl by wearing pink.

The rally was organized on social media using the hashtag #pink4bella.

"Thank you for supporting me," Bella said after members of her family, including her father and brother, also thanked supporters for turning out.

For more than a month, Bella and her family have been at the centre of a dispute over her transgender identity at her Transcona elementary school. On the other side is a parent who yelled at the child and her older brother and lobbied other parents outside the school, the Burgos family has told media.

At first, the issue was which bathroom Bella should use. She had been using the girl's washroom, but after the complaint from the parent -- the mother of one of Bella's classmates -- she was supposed to use another washroom, a gender-neutral single toilet separate from the girl's room. The matter then escalated beyond bathrooms to the broader issue of transgender identity. The Burgos family has taken the issue to the Manitoba Human Rights Commission for resolution.

The River East School Division has spent the last several weeks trying to find a way to accommodate both sides, and in the last week Bella's story has drawn attention from local media and from social media around the world. The rally gave the family a chance to express their gratitude.

"I'm excited our community sees a reason to come out and support us," said Bella's mother, Izzy Burgos.

In a speech at the rally, the girl's father, Dale Burgos, said, "It's been unreal. The support out there. Trailblazer is the word we've heard for Bella... #pink4bella has gone all over the world."

The family has received emails of support from as far away as Japan and the Netherlands.

"I don't know how all these people are finding my email. It's kinda creepy, but it's great," the father said, drawing laughs from the small crowd.

"You're not only supporting Bella, you're supporting people like her," her brother, Rece, said.

The rally featured pink flamingos, pink balloons and short speeches from radio personalities Jordan Knight and JD Francis of Energy 106 FM, both wearing pink T-shirts.

"I just want to thank you all for coming out in support of Bella and wearing pink," rally organizer Adam Herstein said. "The only way I know how to deal with a bully is to stand up to them."

The crowd gathered in the bright sunshine in the Transcona square amid plaques that pay tribute to the district's founding families and civic leaders.

Mothers and fathers with sons and daughters showed up, along with members of the city's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. They came from St. James, Wolseley, Waverley Heights and even outside Winnipeg.

They included some parents whose children attend the same school as Bella, Joseph Teres School.

"My daughter goes to school with Bella," said one mother, who didn't want to give her name. "I think there's a lot of support, even more than has shown up here," she said. "My father, every day, is asking me how Bella is doing."

Tara Bailey brought her daughter, Fiona, from Selkirk to the rally.

"She takes dance classes in the city, and I thought it was worth it. My husband is here, too," Bailey said.

She said she saw the rally posted on Facebook, and after seeing the news reports, she talked about the empathy she feels for Bella and her family.

"Bullying is wrong at any level," Bailey said.

For the LGBT community, the issue is a matter of solidarity. Bradley West has helped lead workshops in schools and worked to raise awareness and tolerance on LGBT issues.

"First of all, I want to show support for Bella and her family," West said. "It's important we show solidarity."

At the same time, he said, he's perplexed by the school at the centre of the bullying issue.

"I'm confused they're compelling her to use a gender-neutral washroom. Maybe they're caught in a maelstrom and they don't know what to do."

His daughter, a university student training to be a teacher, has discussed the issue with her classmates. They don't understand why the school didn't step in earlier, West said, raising his pant leg at the ankle to show his bright pink socks.

"They're my daughter's, and she said this is a no-brainer."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 12, 2014 A3

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Winnipeg Free Press:
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The same story was also published the day before.

The previous day's comments:

Name withheld: This comment has been removed for violations of our Terms and Conditions. [Score: 12]

Criminy Cricket: More publicity? I would want to protect my children and keep them out of the public eye. Whats the real agenda here? I don't get this at all. There are so many other ways that this could have been handled, yes or no am I wrong? [Score: 10]

lemons: You are right. . [Score: 2]

46444601: you are wrong [Score: -8]

MC4: Isn't she very young to be a crusader for LGBT rights? I'm all for the cause, but am questioning why her parents are putting her in the media spotlight. What possible good can come to her from this? [Score: 9]

ITGeek57: You're right CC. This is nothing more than a 15 minutes of media time. They need to move on. Everyone but 24 people seem to have already. What are they waiting for? [Score: 5]

Slim G: Am I the only one who finds it hard to believe that an eight year old has either the intellectual or emotional maturity to make a life defining decision about their sexuality or gender identity? [Score: 13]

46444601: I don't know, but I do know that it is none of my business. She can be whomever she wants to be and who am I to say otherwise. [Score: 4]

Pete Panky: The parents are the one's pushing and controlling the agenda !!!!! [Score: 4]

MC4: Have to agree with 601. None of my business,and how would anyone know who's pushing the agenda? [Score: 3]

ITGeek57: Slim, Pete, I completely agree. She does not have the emotional maturity to nurture this decision without parental intervention. That's where the agenda seems to be coming from. The proud parents. [Score: 5]

23670082: "how would anyone know who's pushing the agenda?" How can you not know? Are you unable to think or apply reason? Who called the media? Who put their child in the spotlight? [Score: -1]

ITGeek57: All 24 of them, good job. Now, use the non gender specific facilities, and move on with your life. [Score: 8]

The Anvil: Agreed. I hope Bella is not subject to more news stories. I fear for her future if she doesn't get sheltered from too much media attention. [Score: 8]

[NameThem] Name withheld: [The organizer, Adam Herstein, is a Jew.] This comment was left by a user who has been blocked by our staff. [Score: 10]

Nana2: I cant imagine why this family would want to put there child "out there" in the media. Most of us try to protect our child's identity especially with on line sources. There are too many creeps in this world that put children at risk these days. [Score: 7]

ITGeek57: Everyone wants their 15 minutes. Times up people. Move along. [Score: 6]

Name withheld: This comment has been removed for violations of our Terms and Conditions. [Score: -1]

Name withheld: This comment has been removed for violations of our Terms and Conditions. [Score: -1]

Slim G: This story brings to mind the controversial, Child beauty pageants. There are parents who make decisions about what their children are, based on their own expectations. There is evidence of abusive parenting and damaged children related to these pageants. I wonder if something similar is happening here. At eight years old, a child is certainly not making decisions on their own. [Score: 12]

ITGeek57: My thoughts exactly Slim. And they supposedly have a son just a few years older that's a 'self declared' homosexual. According to Canadian Law, they're not criminally responsible even if they murder someone. That's because the Law dictates that they are not capable of making sound decisions. Most decisions they make are a result of influence by someone responsible for their care. In this case, the parents seem to have knowingly nurtured a homosexual and transgender. They should be so proud. [Score: 1]

dontuluvthendp: Agreed with every comment on this [Score: 1]

threee: Young Bella, shouldn't have her emotional or intellectual maturity questioned, nor her parents made to look like attention hounds. Bella knows how she feels, and that should be respected. I feel her parents are teaching her to stand up to those that would bully her, and that should be respected. I wish Bella all the best in life, and to remember she has a lot more supporters than detractors. [Score: -4]

ITGeek57: threee, I agree. Everyone should wish him the best and move on. And all 24 supporters should up, good thing they didn't invite the detractors, or there would've been 2400 in attendance. [Score: -1]

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