The provincial government recently released information about a new program they are making available at all high schools in the province.
The concept is pretty simple – to help battle the discrimination faced by gay students, the hatred and bullying that often leads to students with various sexual orientations to have feelings of low self-worth, shame, etc. that sometimes can lead to suicide.
It is a worthy effort of Education Minister Clyde Jackman to introduce the program. The program makes money available to provide support for administrators, teachers and students who wish to establish gay-straight alliances in their schools.
As Jackman noted, many people struggle with issues of sexual orientation that can lead to tragic consequences, and as a society which claims to celebrate diversity and respect the value of each individual, it is important for all of us to ensure students are accepted and respected for who they are.
These are powerful words that can lead to even more powerful actions.
There really should be no reason for any young person to grow up with shame regarding who they are or what their orientation is. They are human beings, same as us all, and need to be treated as such with the same rights and responsibilities as every other individual.
In this day and age, it is difficulty to imagine why anyone would have a problem with this initiative.
If sexual orientation is not a choice and is something we are born with, as many heterosexuals believe of themselves, then it is no different for a person who is gay. We can’t choose how we are born. It is like being a person of colour, or a woman, both sections of society that have had to battle discrimination based on one aspect of who they are, their race or sex.
The struggle for fair treatment and equality has been waging for years and centuries, and it is no different for those of us who are gay, only that the battle is taking a little longer, but it is being won.
While there may be some pockets of people who don’t believe this is a good thing, I would suggest they really rethink their own opinions. We only have to look at the recent Shafia murder trail in Montreal to see what can happen when individuals are denied these rights by someone who believes they know what is right for another person. If we all have the inherent dignity of a human being, then we all have the right to self-determination, which means being secure in who we are and the knowledge that your own life to lead is your life to lead.
This initiative is all about inclusiveness of all people in our society, a valuable goal for any program.
Stop and think for a minute of any homosexual person you know (and if you don’t think you know one, you are probably wrong). That young man or woman has the right to go to school without being told or implied their feelings are wrong and sinful or that there is something wrong with them. They have the right to live free of bullying and discrimination; free of feeling they are flawed individuals, because they are not.
We’ve had plenty of years of severe discrimination, including murders, torture and extreme hatred aimed at gay people in our culture. In the most extreme case, homosexuals were rounded up with the Jews and other targeted groups during the Holocaust and sent to gas chambers to cleanse society of these “flaws.” Actions such as those are based on misinformation and ignorance and pure unadulterated bigotry and are abhorrent to most of us.
Isn’t it time we put those concepts to rest in our society, to make way for a world where every person is valued and safe to live their lives regardless of outdated prejudices and hatred?
It takes nothing away from anyone else, and adds more positive, healthy people able to make significant contributions to our world.
Elizabeth MacDonald, Editor, The Charter