According to Egale, Canada’s national LGBTQI2S human rights organization, 37 per cent of trans students, 21 per cent of sexual minority students, and 10 per cent of non-LGBTQ students reported being physically harassed or assaulted because of their gender expression. This was seen in the Every Class in Every School Report 2011 available on egale.ca/every-class/.
The statistics on the experiences of discrimination, harassment, and inequality experienced by LGBTQI2S are well documented within and outside of academia. The recent decision by the Red Deer Public School Board to reject proposals for pride celebrations and declare an official “Diversity Week” is bad educational policy and will only further marginalize LGBTQI2S students in this province.
In research I have conducted on GSAs (Gay-Straight Alliances) in Canada and North America, my collaborators and I noted that school administrations often used a similar tactic with GSAs. Instead of allowing students to name a club a gay-straight alliance, they would make students name the club a more generic “diversity” club. The message to students was clear, your unique experiences and need for inclusivity do not matter.
It is a meaningful gesture to be inclusive, from being a good host, to being a good neighbour. We would never insist our neighbours rename and erase their specific community’s celebrations. Every good neighbour knows this. That’s not inclusion, but unneighbourly humiliation. So goes the Red Deer school board’s attitude to Pride. What about other specific celebrations of courage in the face of cruelty? Does the Red Deer Public board members’ demand for more diversity extend to Remembrance Day? Is it now not only to include the victims of war, but also the unsung collaborators of a eugenicist Third German Empire? Perhaps if they had received an education in the most elementary history behind Remembrance Day, they would understand the significance of the Pink Triangle. Celebrations have meanings and boundaries we should respect in terms of for whom they are, by whom they were founded, and what they mean for our neighbours. Red Deer Public board members have shown what kind of neighbours and guardians they are to courageous youth, in the positions they are in until neighbourly outrage at indignity throws them out, with their busy boundary-crossing cruelty masked as inclusion.
Christopher Churchill and Athena Elafros, Lethbridge