Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Audacity of Promoting Equality

Something nice happened in Altona, Manitoba, a small town not too far from Winnipeg: two grade five teachers displayed a card pledging support for LGBT youth.

The cards read:

As an Ally, I envision a society that embraces, values and celebrates diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions.

As an Ally, I support lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, Two-Spirit, intersex, queer and questioning individuals, families and communities.

As an Ally, I work towards a more aware, affirming, safe and open work environment in both policy and practice.

As an Ally, I acknowledge that creating a safe space is an unwavering process that requires productive commitment, re-assessment and dedication.

As an Ally, I am committed to the elimination of homophobia, biphobia, transphobia and heterosexism as well as other forms of oppression.

I participated a Rainbow Resource Centre LGBTT* Ally Training session and completed ___ hours of training in the year.

Awww, how sweet.

That's why I love Canada. At grade 5 I already knew I was gay, but it was a shameful secret burried so deep that I didn't even entertain the thought of ever making it known to anyone. I am so happy that today young gay people, at least in Canada, have it better than I did.

I wish that would be the end of the anecdote, but it turned out that numerous parents were offended by the cards and demanded their removal. They were partly successful as the cards are now hidden with the exception of the title.

“We have to sign hundreds of petitions to allow religious exercises in school,We should treat this situation in the same way, as it seems to be just as controversial.” Said parent Kim Peters Sawatzky.

I found Kim's Facebook page with quick Google-Fu and discovered she only likes one book. Guess which one. Hint number one: It's NOT A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking. Hint number two: It starts with a "B" and rhymes with libel.

So dear Kim, let me please explain to you why you are wrong.

The problem with teaching religion in school (other than the fact that all religions are man written fairy tales and there is no God) is that it's indoctrination. Not all the children in the classroom are Christians. Some belong to other religions or none at all. I am sure dear Kim wouldn't want her children to be taught Islam lessons. On the other hand it's perfectly fine to discuss different religions in class and teach children that anyone deserves respect and the freedom to practice whatever religion they want.

No one is trying to indoctrinate children to be gay. The only thing the card does is teach children to be open minded towards LGBT people and not discriminate against them. The thing is, unlike many countries including the USA, in Canada it's the law. Gay people have 100% equal rights, so any cards like the one mentioned should be considered a polite notice, not an actual request. We are way past that point. In Canada at least.

Kim Peters Sawatzky also said: “I would like to have the choice of how I choose to teach my children about these words and what they mean."

Translation: "I would like to have the choice of how I choose to teach my children that God hates gay people and that they are gross, derp."

Well, tough luck, lady. You might also want to teach your children that black people like decorating the walls of their homes with the intestines of giraffes, that Jews grind their own toenails and use the powder in most of their cuisine and that Muslims are actually demons wearing people-suits made out of latex. You can teach your children any type of nonsense you want, but you won't necessarily be doing them any favours. You certainly can't expect the system to bend backwards to accomodate your prejudiced, ignorant and bigoted "values". You can always relocate to a country that shares these "values" or maybe start your own colony in some far away rain forest. I can only hope that Kim's children, considering that they are growing up in Canada, will mature into more tolerant and accepting human beings.

Another parent, Rachael Friesen, pretty much nails it: "The kids are hearing some pretty crazy stuff on the playground and we have no control over that. All we can do is damage control, so I’m not understanding why a teacher can’t answer a question without everyone freaking out."

Regardless, we're moving in the right direction. Twenty years ago teachers educating children about LGTB rights would seem like science fiction. Since then Religion has been kicked out of the classroom and now teachers are actually trying to actively educate children to be accepting of LGBT people and the action is met with nothing more than feeble mixed reactions by parents.  The parents objecting are just remnants from darker times. In twenty years not only displaying these types of cards won't be a big deal, it's probably not even going to be really necessary. 

At least in Canada.

One can hope, anyway.



Pennerfive said...

Dear Mickey -

I don't know you, but I am compelled to write to you tonight. I found your blog as I was searching for more information on this news story from Altona.

Mickey - I'm sorry. I'm sorry for the response and the reaction of those parents in Altona. I want you to know that I was raised in the Bible Belt of Manitoba - I make every effort to follow the teachings of Jesus, and I support you and your opinion on this situation. Not only that, but I applaud your committment to seeing people of every orientation feel safe, secure and accepted wherever they find themselves - particularly in schools.

I'm sorry, Mickey - for the reaction that some still have. Have faith and hope that not everyone who follows the teachings of Jesus is anti-gay. I need to say I'm sorry tonight, for those who misrepresent me and countless others.

Won't it be quite amazing, when one day, we won't even need to be having this conversation? I look forward to such a day.

Peace to you and your family.


Mickey Blumental said...

Hi Karla!

Thanks for writing to me. I always like to hear from people I don't know - that's why I'm writing a blog!

I have several friends who are believers, both Christians and Jews and they are very accepting people, so I already know that being religious does not necessarily means being a bigot. Certainly not in friendly Manitoba!

Thanks for reaching out to me with your kind words.

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