At the Board Meeting last week, in one order of business the Board of Education approved Policy 215 – Sexual Orientation/Gender Identity. It was serendipitous that this occurred the day before Pink Shirt Day which occurred on February 25. Along with two other policies, this one was approved without fanfare – even though it was ten years in the making. There were no bottles of champagne uncorked, no banners flying and no balloons floated up into the sky. It made me think about how different our society is now than it was in my youth – and it also made me wonder about whether we really are that different now than we were in the days of my youth.
In my youth it was not uncommon for me to be called a “fag” and queer, and teased and harassed. It wasn’t because I was “out” – in those days I didn’t even know what being “out” meant, nor did I really know what being “gay” meant – other than something you never wanted to be because it was apparently something that was deviant and evil. I’m not even sure the people who taunted me knew what they were saying – other than it was perhaps the most hideous put-down and slur they could conjure-up in their brains. I really have no idea what impact those years have had on me. I like who I am, and who I’m becoming – and am very comfortable and happy in my life. I don’t know how I would have developed in the absence of the abuse – one never does.
I have been blessed and fortunate in my life to have made friendships with strong people who have taught me and modelled a positive pathway – had I been abandoned by my family and friends my life may well have been very different. My mother was my greatest advocate and supporter. Because of this – my life has really been a wonderful one. But I know this isn’t the path for every child who questions or doesn’t understand their sexual orientation and gender identity.
When the Sexual Orientation/Gender Identity policy first came to my desk as something on which we needed to work in Policy I was worried. I was very worried that people would discount the importance of the policy because they might see it as a personal agenda of mine. Frankly, I didn’t think it was wise to use such specific language in Policy and I believed we should rely on strong wording that already exists for the protection of all human beings in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (CCRF) and the B.C. Human Rights Act.
It was my husband who pointed out to me that although we have come a long way in our society – the fact remains that he and I choose to surround ourselves with accepting people. We both have had strong family and supportive relationships. He also reminded me that when we were looking for a community to call home, we needed to carefully choose a community that would be embracing and welcoming – our choices were limited by our relationship. I can’t even remember what being “out” means – we just are. For us, there’s just simply no closet. But perhaps that is because of the way we choose to live.
However, I am reminded that there are many youth and adults who still do not have pathways to learn how to be comfortable with themselves, date and build positive relationships – because being lesbian, gay transgendered or queer is still fodder for teasing, bullying and abuse. And that’s not okay. It’s just plain wrong.
There were no bottles of champagne uncorked, no banners flying and no balloons floated up into the sky when the Board adopted Policy 215 – because we have come a long way. But we still have a long way on this journey – maybe to a place where we look back and ask ourselves why we had to have such specific language in polity to protect any human being.