I have been following the ongoing debate in Ontario over the McGuinty government's attempts to address rampant bullying in Ontario's public schools.
I support the recent amendment to Bill 13 which gives high school students the right to use the name, 'Gay-Straight Alliance,' in school club titles should they choose to form such a group.
I went to a Catholic high school in the late 1980s. I wish I had had the chance to form or be a part of such a group. It would've made my high school experience safer. Just having the group in a school would make that school a safer place for LGBT youth, most if not all of whom are experiencing massive stress and isolation due to their sexual orientation (on top of the regular stress of being a teenager). Everyone who made it through adolescence should be able to understand that.
I am particularly disgusted with those who are using this issue to once again bash the LGBT community and denigrate our needs as irrelevant and worthy of neglect. Michael Coren once again buries his head in the sand on this issue, claiming that powerful church leaders (the type who in years past saw no problem protecting child rapists from the law) are now being bullied by the big, bad gay lobby and that gay kids aren't really victims of much bullying.
Coren writes in this column: "First, the dishonesty of the premise that gay children are bullied. Some are, of course, but there is no objective study concluding gays are targeted. Body image is the major reason for bullying and figures that indicate otherwise tend to come from gay organizations."
Of course, being gay organizations, Coren assumes that they can't be telling the truth? Coren is such an asshole and a bigot. You want objective proof of homophobia in schools? Just walk down any high school hallway and listen. When teachers aren't around, I guarantee you will hear some bully use the term 'fag' or 'faggot' in a hateful way within a few minutes. Sure body image is another major reason for bullying in schools. What is the insult of choice against fat kids? 'Fat faggot,' probably. Coren would focus on the attack against the kid's body image, but ignore the second part as irrelevant.
In truth, the vast majority of kids who are attacked using homophobic language in schools are in fact straight. Hence, the reasoning behind the establishment of Gay-Straight Alliances in the first place.
Privileged, inward-looking, ignorant, powerful people in the Catholic school boards and elsewhere like Coren are leading the charge against any recognition of gay abuse in our schools. They don't care about gay kids. They shrug as gay kids continue to contemplate suicide to escape the hell these boards have created for them. And they fight tooth and nail to keep the hatred in our schools unchallenged.
When reading some letters to the editor on this subject in the National Post, I came across this ignorant letter from Reverend John Yake of Toronto which clearly points out the ignorance of those who are fighting Bill 13. As we know, gay kids are generally in the closet in high school. They don't feel safe coming out or even raising the issue of being gay for fear of attack, ridicule and further social isolation. Considering this truth, give Rev. Yake's words a look:
"There has been lots of hype over Ontario’s Bill 13, a measure to address bullying based on sexual orientation, but is this really a problem? I recently retired from a 33-year career in teaching where my role as chaplain involved listening to and counselling students. A support group program emerged where issues could be discussed if they were experienced by a number of students. Topics discussed ranged from bereavement, chronic illness, drug and alcohol abuse, families of divorced/separated parents and stress. In my 33 years, the issue of bullying based on sexual orientation never was raised. So what’s this really about? Might the real issue behind Bill 13 be the advancement of an anti-Catholic agenda, a strategy to undermine Christian values under the guise of protecting children? This suggestion sickens me not only because it unfairly uses people’s perceived pain to advance an ideology of hate but also because it is singularly unCanadian especially when exercised by a legitimately elected government that is obliged to guard rights of freedom of religion.
Rev. John Yake, Toronto."
For a former educator in the Catholic system, Rev. Yake displays a horrifying amount of ignorance on the subject he chooses to write and publish. Had I been a kid stuck in Rev. Yake's classroom or support group, I wouldn't have raised my issues of isolation and pain over my sexual orientation with him either. It's this disgusting Catholic ignorance which remains a thorn in the side of all of us who have survived this religion and this school system.
I want to commend Joanne Chianello for this great piece in the Ottawa Citizen this week on this subject. Her thoughts reflect many of my own as a lapsed Catholic.
If one good thing has come out of this debate (besides focusing the public on the issue of bullying in schools and, in particular, the massive vulnerability of LGBT youth in our schools), it has re-awoken the issue of public funding for Catholic schools in Ontario, reminding many of us how archaic Ontario truly is. We must end funding for Catholic schools now and unite the two systems into one, publicly funded, secular system. I wrote about one strategy for how the government could win a mandate to pursue this just path some months ago. I truly hope someone in the McGuinty government is listening and willing to end this historic injustice sooner rather than never.
UPDATE: Here's another lovely article from today's Globe by Tabatha Southey.