The issue of bullying in British Columbia schools was again raised in December 16 issue of The Vancouver Sun, this time, thankfully, before yet another gay youth took his life. But alarming to me in the article titled "B.C. plans tougher anti-bullying policies to protect students," written by Janet Steffenhagen, was not so much what was said as what was implied.
At issue is the likely reaction of some religious groups should Premier Christy Clark, who's gone on record to say her government will do more to ensure all students are protected from bullying in B.C. schools, propose "...an anti-bullying policy that pays special attention to LGBT students or requires gay-straight alliances in faith-based schools [p. A7]."
On one side of the argument is Doug Lauson, president of the Federation of Independent School Associations of B.C., who's quoted as saying, '"We would be 100-per-cent behind a policy or legislation that was against all forms of bullying.... But to emphasize one form of bullying [such as that against LGBT students] would be problematic."
On the other side is the B.C. Teachers' Federation, which has demanded "...better protection for LGBT students for years." Vice-president Glen Hansman said, '"While it is more comfortable for many [people] to stay within the comfort of generic bullying, the effects of racist and homophobic harassment are very real for the people who are the targets...and racism and homophobia don't get addressed if we only speak of bullying [in general]."'
According to the article, several recommendations have been made on policies or programs that should be in place to protect LGBT students and the type of bullying they're subjected to, but some religious organizations and parent groups consistently raise objections, claiming LGBT students would receive preferential treatment, and classroom lessons could conflict with "...their traditional family and religious values."
I came away from reading this article with several impressions. One is that these religious organizations and parent groups don't understand the severity of the bullying LGBT students endure (something I know a thing or two about, having attended several B.C. public schools in the late 60s and '70s). And what the potential outcome of that bullying is (from overwhelming feelings of worthlessness to suicide, which we've heard a lot about in the media over the past year or so).
One other impression I was left with was that, because these religious organizations and parent groups don't distinguish between different types of bullying, or support the necessity to target each area with policies and programs intended to educate and create greater awareness and acceptance, they can turn their backs on the problem and hope the entire matter of sexual orientation goes away.
To me, that amounts to nothing less than sanctioned discrimination and bullying against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youths, because these religious organizations and parent groups believe the youths deserve it. After all, everyone knows being lesbian or gay is wrong; everyone who's gay or lesbian should know better. So, if you don't want to be bullied, stop being gay or lesbian.
News Flash!!! After all the unrelenting bullying I endured over most of my grade schools years, with absolutely no support whatsoever, surprise, surprise, I still ended up being gay. You'd think with everything I'd gone through, I would have gotten the message loud and clear, and I would have changed my evil ways. But, no, that didn't happen. And I'll give you one guess as to why it didn't happen.
Let's agree that denying the existence of gays and lesbians, and preventing gay and lesbian youth from getting the targeted protection they need in schools, isn't going to stop young people from being gay and lesbian. And let's also agree that what goes around, comes around. It isn't some other unfortunate schlub whose children or grandchildren are gay. Chances are you have gay and lesbian people in your family right now.
The best thing you can do for those youths who have no choice but to be gay or lesbian is to prevent them from being bullied, thereby ensuring their academic experience is more rewarding, their self-esteem isn't decimated, they're less likely to kill themselves, and they go on to live happy and fulfilling lives. After all, what's the worst thing that could happen to you personally if your child is gay or lesbian? (Hint: It's not about you.)