I attended today’s counter protest in support of my 2SLGBTQIA+ siblings. There is a (very small) part of me that does understand the fear around the original purpose of the protest - parents rights of knowing and controlling what their kids are taught around Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in school. My little piece of understanding comes from the parents lack of education - they simply do not know how misinformed they are.
My lack of sympathy ends at what I saw today. A group of people spewing hate that simply did not have anything to do with original purpose of the protest - that we needed to repent for our sins, signs that simply said “not far right”, F*ck Trudeau flags or a check box that said “male, female, mentally ill” as options.
I called my Mom on the way home - a little shaken up. I said it was crazy how much energy it takes to feel like you’re going to get the shit beat out of you at moment for four hours. She reminded me - that is the privilege I have in my day to day life, I do not feel like my personal safety is at risk. I also reminded her - I felt that way every single day in school - a story.
I grew up in Grande Prairie in the late 90s, early 00’s. I went to a fairly strict French Catholic School from K-9, and then the Catholic School for High School. In Junior High, I was brought to the Vice-Principals office because I had made it clear that I didn’t want to be friends with one of the troublemakers in my grade.
He told on me, and I was brought to the VP. I walked into the room with her (the VP), and the kid I didn’t want to be friends with. I was told by the VP that HE, the kid, now didn’t want to be friends with me because I “acted gay”. I, terrified, said “sure, sometimes we all joke around like that”, and he corrected me, “no, how you talk and walk around”.
I looked at the VP, waiting for her to intervene and she simply laid out her hand asked me to defend myself against these accusations. In that moment, I decided, as a 12 year, that my journey as queer person was going to be me, on my own. If I couldn’t trust the only adult in the room to even shut down a conversation that I felt was dangerous, I was certainly not going to find an ally.
In High School, I feared getting the shit beat out of me every day. Like always, it was a vocal minority, but it was constant. It was the dawn of the Facebook and I would get death threats almost weekly. I made sure my parents address was unlisted, and did my best to make it seem like it didn’t phase.
For a semester, I had a first block spare. When you walk into the High School, you walk through the cafeteria and up a long set of open stairs to get to the lockers. Every day, from the moment I opened the second set of doors, I was screamed at, threatened, and called slurs until I rounded the corner upstairs to my locker.
I understand peoples fear of the unknown - if you’ve never met a queer person, I don’t think the movies we watch paint an accurate picture. I, growing up, just wanted to survive. Today, at the counter protest, I saw a group of people who also just wanted and want to survive.
I started being Sexually Abused by a National Team Therapist shortly into 10th grade when I was 15. I, and my teammates, were targeted based on our perceived sexuality. For years, we were the targets of unwanted sexual comments, inappropriate touching, and assaults.
The safe space that I had found in sport and in Gymnastics, that I so desperately needed in school, was now also gone. At that point in my life, I put my blinders on, shut my feelings off and again, just tried to survive.
What I wish the original protesters knew today was how desperately I needed SOGI to be a part of my education. I didn’t know any out queer people growing up. 20 years ago, I don’t know how my parents would have felt about SOGI being a part of the curriculum, but they certainly were not educated enough themselves to help find my way in this world in terms of sexuality or gender identity.
Gymnastics was the first place I saw openly queer people thrive in any way. They were put down and mocked often, but they also won and had notoriety. What could kids do and accomplish if schools were a safe place to fully express and be themselves? I can’t imagine.
I am the person I am today because of my experiences - both good and bad. I also wonder often who I would be and what I would have done being in a more safe environment or not in survival mode for decades.
Whether kids are queer or not, don’t we want well-rounded, educated children? Queer people exist. Minorities exist. Marginalized groups exist. Even if you or your kids don’t currently fall into one of those categories, why can’t they know about other people in the world?
Anyways, I’m off for a self-care evening. As always, all of my love to my queer siblings. Times are tough, but we are tougher.