A colleague forwarded this to me after our most recent school climate meeting, at which another colleague was talking about the importance of language. We are considering using it as part of a series of media and character ed lessons as we prepare for Day of Pink in April.
Having just read of Leelah's suicide, I feel compelled to write a short note to anyone out there who is transgender or gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer or questioning and who may have been told by so-called "Christians" that there is something wrong with you, please know, there isn't!
The tragedy of this story is that instead of remorse, the victim's parents are apparently in denial, having initially posted about their child's "accidental" death on Facebook, claiming their son was out for a walk when he was hit by a truck. (In fact, Leelah chose to walk on a highway at night, apparently 2 a.m. or thereabouts, when it was dark out, and she could easily be struck by the big truck that she walked in front of. She also posted a suicide note to her tumblr account, to be published after her death. It's reblogged here, in case her account is deleted, which it surely will be once her family gets hold of things.)
The situation this family has created for itself is worse than awful, and while many are retaliating in anger, no one can truly understand the complexity of their pain. However, the purpose of this post is not to offer them comfort, but rather, to comfort those who may be suffering in the same way Leelah suffered before she chose to end her life, as this was, after all, her dying wish.
If you are an LGBTQ Christian who is oppressed by his/her church, please know there are many brothers and sisters out there who know God's love is for you, too! Don't let narrow-minded Christians who are missing a few key pieces of the faith let you lose yours!
Please don't give up; go get help.
It does get better!!!!
In a book I read recently about the history of LGBTQ people in the church, the author made a bold statement accusing traditionalists in the church of questioning the fundamental humanity of their LGBTQ sisters and brothers. Refusing to develop explicit policies to welcome all believers and to protect the basic human rights of those who are gay, because it was still an uncomfortable or delicate topic, and therefore "inconvenient at this time" in the church was akin -- she wrote -- to admitting to the belief that LGBTQ people are less than human.
We have a similar problem in the Ontario school system. Many -- while they may in principle support the "inclusion" or "tolerance" of LGBTQ issues -- do not actively foster and implement lessons, resources and ways of doing business that work towards the eradication of the treatment of LGBTQ staff and students like second-class citizens. Even though we have documentation to support said work! Why just recently I was told -- by a school leader no less -- to be patient, that it was a slow process, but that change would come, eventually, we just had to be patient. Rather than recognizing my precarious political, professional and personal position as a queer person interested in LGBTQ rights for myself and my students, I was invited to personally spearhead a GSA or other work at the school.
I wonder if he would have said that to me were I expressing my impatience and concern with the equal treatment of blacks, or suggesting that we had to make some changes to allow for accessibility for someone in a wheelchair (especially if I myself were in a wheelchair)?
I have to tell you, as someone who has spent 43 years being called a dyke, fag, homo while first suppressing who I was and then making the decision not to lie to myself or my children (I had become a mother in the meantime) any longer, and watching students continue to bully others based on the grounds of gender identity or sexual orientation, but being afraid to do anything truly useful about it out of fear of what my parents, colleagues or bosses might say, and then starting to finally explore some more inclusive curriculum practices while coming out of the closet myself and beginning to be the teacher that some students choose to come to for help, but still not being sure how best to help them... I'm done with waiting patiently for a magical end to the discrimination!
Equity does not miraculously fall from the sky and into our laps after a pre-determined allotment of minutes/hours/decades has been patiently waited out by those most oppressed. We have to fight for it tooth and nail, as history has shown over and over and over again in countless contexts.
LGBTQ equity is just the latest suffrage or civil rights movement. We already have laws in place that tell us teaching LGBTQ issues is our job. Let's start DOING IT already!
The following list was compiled by a colleague from another school. Below that I've included a double sided bookmark that can be printed out and kept on hand as a reference point if people want to argue about whether or not it's our job as teachers to "promote" queer issues. Please feel free to print these bookmarks and distribute widely!
SUPPORT FOR THE RIGHT/RESPONSIBILITY TO TEACH LGBTQ ISSUES AS PART OF A COMPREHENSIVE SOCIAL JUSTICE APPROACH:
From the Ontario Ministry of Education 2009 document Realizing the Promise of Diversity: Ontario’s Equity and Inclusive Education Strategy:
“As an agent of change and social cohesion, our education system reflects the democratic values of fairness, equity and respect for all...We strive to achieve a truly equitable and inclusive publicly funded education system in keeping with our values of human rights and social justice”.
Inclusive education is defined as “education that is based on the principles of acceptance and inclusion for all students. Students see themselves reflected in their curriculum, their physical surroundings and the broader environment, in which diversity is honoured and all individuals are respected”.
The following Anti-Discrimination Education Statement is found in all Ministry of Education Curriculum Documents:
The implementation of anti-discrimination principles in education influences all aspects of school life. It promotes a school climate that encourages all students to work to high standards, affirms the worth of all students, and helps students strengthen their sense of identity and develop a positive self-image. It encourages staff and students alike to value and show respect for diversity in the school and the wider society. It requires schools to adopt measures to provide a safe environment for learning, free from harassment, violence, and expressions of hate. Antidiscrimination education encourages students to think critically about themselves and others in the world around them in order to promote fairness, healthy relationships, and active, responsible citizenship.
The Ontario Ministry of Education, Accepting Schools Act states:
The people of Ontario and the Legislative Assembly:
My school board has the following policies; yours may have similar policies.
Find them! Read them! Know them!
Our Board, in an effort to accommodate various religious beliefs, has in the past made exemptions with regards to participation in certain events. Some fundamentalist groups have used this to try to promote their intolerance with their children and others by boycotting and pulling their children from participating in school activities such as Day of Pink. Currently, our board holds the following position on exemption requests made around human rights/LGBTQ/Anti- Homophobia/Transphobia Education:
"In light of the Human Rights Code, Ministry and Board policy/expectations, Peel District School Board will no longer approve or accept exemption requests for students to be removed from human rights/ LGBTQ’ anti-homophobia/transphobia curriculum. Schools are required to create safe and respectful classrooms and this can only be done when all students know that teasing, bullying, name calling and all other forms of discrimination because of sexual orientation, gender and gender expression are not acceptable and are against the law. Further, for students to feel a sense of belonging and inclusion in the school and classroom, they must see themselves reflected positively in the curriculum. So students who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, two-spirited, intersex and or who come from same sex families, must see themselves and their lived experiences reflected in the curriculum. Therefore, in Peel Board it is acceptable and expected that educators will use approaches and materials that explore identities of sexual orientation, gender and gender expression and engage students and the school community in activities such as Day of Pink, Day of Silence and other activities that support and promote anti-homophobia and anti- transphobia.
In order to help those school leaders still unclear on what the right thing to do it, our Board has developed a quick and handy Religious Accommodation Request Flowchart. The statement germane to this conversation reads as follows: “Parental Concerns regarding the Accepting Schools Act must be addressed in the context of Human Rights, rather than religious accommodation. Therefore accommodations will not be made in this area”.
When I first heard Olivia was running for Mayor, I breathed a sigh of relief. Thank goodness! Someone competent and caring! And what commitment to give up a provincial seat to serve the city! And... she's a WOMAN!!! :)
Then sleek, articulate John Tory entered the race, and things no longer looked so clear.
Sure, Olivia had concrete experience, but John -- although he's never served on city council before -- seems to be good at everything he does. And he's also a nice guy, apparently. Even came and spoke at our church on Sunday. Very articulate, and seemed genuine.
For a minute or two, I thought I might vote for him.
Then I remembered why I'm voting for Olivia... unlike the other candidates, who focus largely on taxes and the middle class, Olivia has a concrete plan for affordable housing, and -- in particular -- for those of us who rent. And it makes sense that she does. After all, unlike her white, male counterparts (at least one of whom implied that white privilege does not exist), Olivia has first-hand experience with public housing, having lived in subsidized housing herself.
Ms. Chow also has a transit plan. One that will actually work. Fast.
Olivia's plan is not as sexy as some of the other candidates' (plans), but it is affordable and realistic. Much as I like subways, I like moving fast and now better. And having lived in Buenos Aires for nearly a year, where buses are a critical component in the city's public transit, I have seen the light.
Some of the other candidates talk about transit plans as though they were their own, even though some aspects of the plan have already begun to happen, and will continue whether they are elected or not.
Finally, I think it's important to recognize Olivia for who she is, an activist, immigrant woman. It's true that she has an accent, and it's true that she has different experiences that John Tory. That's because Tory -- through the accident of birthright -- inherited unearned privilege which translates into opportunities that a woman like Olivia could never hope to acquire, no matter how hard she works (and she's worked pretty hard over the years).
Don't get me wrong, John's a nice guy and all, and definitely an improvement over the current buffoon(s) we've had to endure. But the "successes" of the man's working background and leadership experiences are not entirely just due to his personal merit as a leader. When you belong to the privileged group, these experiences are, quite simply, much easier to come by. Every minority, LGBTQ, disabled, woman or other other disadvantaged person knows that. And Olivia meets at least two of those criteria. Despite her many strengths and talents, her achievements are nevertheless remarkable, given the systemic roadblocks she's had to circumvent.
Toronto is a city of immigrants, of mixed socio-economic backgrounds and interest, and -- at last count in 2011 -- over 50% women!!!
We need someone who represents us, and many of us know that someone is Olivia, but we're afraid to vote for her, pandering instead to our fear, and succumbing to strategic voting.
Olivia's got the experience, the passion, the commitment and the guts. And she truly represents the people of this city. She deserves our honest vote.
As I wrote in my PEI Guardian article published last Thursday, we've been enjoying the more low-key, family-friendly Pride week festivities out here on the island this summer. And, as we sat eating our cones from Cow's ice cream on the steps in front of the Confederation Ctre for the Performing Arts, waiting for Saturday's parade to begin, we wondered what it would be like, this little Island parade.
"It's not like in Toronto," our LGBTQ friends on PEI had warned us, laughing at the prospect of our "coming early to get a good seat" as I had suggested when one of them told us the best place to catch the parade! But little did I know just how little (tiny, really) this parade would be... our first clue was that no roads were closed off on the way to the parade route. Indeed, the route itself was rather unclear, having been published on the morning of the actual parade, and then changed at the last minute.
An easy target with our festive rainbow flags and bandanas, several locals and tourists approached us to inquire if we knew where the parade was going to be!
But -- despite the surprising lack of rainbow paraphenalia wielded by the general public -- we did see a few other suspiciously "gay-looking" folk and allies gathered out front of the Confed centre when we got there, and therefore assumed we had found the route. So, we settled in and waited for the parade to begin.
Begin it finally did, though Alex had to be convinced that the one police motorbike escort and the few cars that followed really were the parade... it didn't take long for the boys to recognize the benefits of a smaller crowd, though: Less competition for the swag that gets thrown to the bystanders from the paraders!
After the very short, cute parade (in contrast to Toronto's 6-hour World Pride parade last month, PEI's version took about 12 minutes to pass by!!!), the boys gathered their loot, and then we walked over to Victoria Park to meet some friends for a post-parade Pride picnic in the park.
At the picnic, we met some new friends and friends of friends. This resulted in an "after-picnic session" on the deck of one of said friends, enjoying a few refreshments while the kids jumped on a trampoline that was set up in the backyard. (Sorry, no photos.)
So, it turns out that we're not the only queers on the island, and that Alex and Simon's is not the only "unusual" family here!
A little Pride is kind of a fun thing. Here's looking forward to next year's event!
After last month's MASSIVE World Pride event in Toronto, Tats and I were eager to see how it's done in Charlottetown, PEI. So, we attended Monday's Flag Raising event at City Hall here.
It was admittedly a somewhat (okay, a significantly!!!) smaller event than Toronto's flag raising a the end of June, but hey, at least the Mayor showed up here in Ch'town, lol!
Also in attendance was one of the Pride PEI organizers, a young gay man who also happens to be the first "out" person running for city council on the Island.
Later this week, we plan to attend a rainbow cupcake decorating event at one of the major grocery store chains in town (Alex and Simon are looking forward to that one!), as well as a coffee house, and of course the parade itself, held Saturday at noon, and followed by a picnic in the park.
How do you stick up for your girlfriend and protect her from "predators" when she's a few thousand km away, and the predators are her students? Lol!
After a week surrounded by two million LGBTQ brothers and sisters in Toronto last month, Tats headed off to a small town in another province this month for a flight-related job, and the contrast couldn't be starker: In Ontario, we just elected our first female premier, who also happens to be a lesbian. In PEI, Canada's last province to bring about marriage equality, real live same-sex married couples are few and far between. To complicate matters further, aviation is a notoriously homophobic industry as it is (although the tides are slowly turning even in the cockpit, it would seem).
So, being a female pilot is challenging enough. Being a gay female pilot on PEI is a whole other level of interesting. Additionally being the only flight instructor on the island, surrounded by straight, male pilots, most of whom have probably never flown with a woman or an LGBTQ pilot before, is something else entirely!!!
Having flown out there for a few summers now, I can honestly say that most of the guys are great and lots of fun. And the flying community -- many of whom are eager to upgrade their ratings and have been desperately awaiting the arrival of a flight instructor -- has been super supportive of Tats' arrival on the island.
But when one of them tells her she's "cute" and has a "sexy" name, I want to POUNCE on him and yell, "dude, that's MY girlfriend -- BACK OFF!"
Having had the luxury of being "out" now for almost three years, I sometimes forget that there are places -- even in Canada -- where some people don't understand the concept of homosexuality and same sex couples. Could it be that this guy really doesn't know that his flight instructor "flies for the other airline", so to speak???!!! ;-P
Then again, as Tats herself pointed out when we were discussing the issue, does it really matter? I mean, seriously, who tries to pick up their flight instructor (oops, oh, wait..., hehe... yea, but at least I waited a few lessons. And brought her expensive cheese. And wrote her beautiful, endearing emails. And sent her links to obscure Romanian gypsy wedding songs!!!)
Anyway, Tats -- ever the professional -- wasn't sure how to handle the situation, and just threw her hands up in exasperation as she shared the tale with me. So, in the absence of a good, old-fashioned, in-person street scrap, where I stick up for my girl and beat the other guy up, let me send a virtual message in no uncertain terms:
Yesterday's spectacle was not only a spectacle, it was an affirmation. It was a safe space space for all people to come together to celebrate sexual and gender diversity, shine the spotlight on countries still living in the dark ages when it comes to basic human rights, and yes, flash a little skin!!!!
Rainbow flags were ubiquitous, as were rainbow-themed costumes, which ranged from cute to outlandish and garish to, well, not my taste!
Our Sunday began with brunch together with a retired colleague, who also happens to be the parent of a former student of mine. Two of her three children are gay, and about a third of those in attendance at the brunch were, too. The barely-majority remnants were allies, and would imminently be outnumbered as we headed over to the Yonge street and poured onto the parade route along with thousands of other spectators.
From babies to the "young at heart", the spectators vied for a spot from which to watch the proceedings... Alex and Simon lucked out and perched atop a garbage and recycling bin (it turned out to be a coveted spot that was immediately taken by replacement watchers the second the boys hopped off an hour and a half later when they headed off for a swim back at the apartment with our babysitter, whom we had enlisted for the afternoon!!)
After the Dykes on Bikes and the Grand Marshall (who also happens to be my pastor), flags from around the world led the parade, signifying the intentionally international flavour of this year's event.
In addition to lining the streets, many onlookers sat on the roofs and hung out the windows of nearby buildings...
Despite some recent, disturbing conversations I have had with a handful of fairly ignorant individuals, it was hard not to to feel optimistic when surrounded by so many happy, gay people! The tidal wave of tolerance, acceptance and commitment to understanding the issues (rather than merely judging from a position of power and privilege) and furthering human rights around the world washes away the drips and drabs of the uneducated minority.
Spending a sunny day with friends, family and friendly strangers made me realise once again how very lucky I am to be living in a progressive country like Canada: Just when I'm starting to finally wrap my head around Stonewall and the historical and political significance of the Dyke March, I'm challenged to consider incredible hardships faced by people who live in places like Nigeria, where homosexuality is punishable by death, or Russia, where same sex families live in constant fear of their children being removed from the family. What seems a frivolous spectacle , an extravagant luxury in Toronto is a fight for one's very being in many places around the world.
Increasingly, I have come to believe that there is only ONE fight for social justice: LGBTI awareness, feminism, the Civil Rights movement, the fight to end poverty and child labour... all share tenets of the same battle.
After writing for several teacher and multiple birth publications, including ETFO's Voice Magazine, Multiple Moments, and the Bulletwin, Vera turned her written attention to prolific blogging for some years, including BiB, "Learn to Fly with Vera!" and SMARTbansho . Homeschooling 4 was her travel blog in Argentina. She now spends more time on her Instagram (@schalgzeug_usw) than her blog (pictures are worth a thousand words?!) Contact Vera by clicking the photo above.
The views expressed on this blog are the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the perspectives of her family members or the position of her employer on the the issues she blogs about. These posts are intended to share resources, document family life, and encourage critical thought on a variety of subjects. They are not intended to cause harm to any individual or member of any group. By reading this blog and viewing this site, you agree to not hold Vera liable for any harm done by views expressed in this blog.