GSA and Jason Kenney: Let's Keep Kids Safe, Not Exposed
Not All Kids Come From Safe Homes
Think about safety. Figure out what that means to you.
Figure out if, in your daily life, you feel safe being you.
If the answer is "yes, I feel safe," wonderful! You're in a good place within yourself and hopefully with your family.
There are countless kids, however, who do not. Now, imagine being a kid who identifies anywhere along the LGBTQ spectrum and not feeling safe at home. Imagine not being able to bring your same sex partner—whether that's your boyfriend if you're a boy, or your girlfriend if you're a girl—over to your parents' house or having to say that this person is just your "best friend."
Imagine being trans and having to hide that with your parents.
That's what the Alberta leader of the Progressive Conservative Association is suggesting.
“The law should neither force schools to release information to parents, nor should it create an adversarial relationship between parents and their children,” Jason Kenney said recently. “I trust teachers, principals and school counsellors to exercise their judgment about such matters, and that there should be a presumption that most parents are loving and caring, seeking only what is best for their children."
While it's a safe presumption that many parents do actually want the absolute best for their children—it would even be a safe bet that most parents want more for their kids than what they themselves had—not all parents maintain that charitable viewpoint if their children come out as gay.
As a high school teacher and GSA (Gay Straight Alliance, or Gender and Sexuality Alliance) advisor, I can safely say that I know many kids whose parents become almost hateful towards their children upon learning of their sexuality. I've heard of cases of slammed doors, yelling, and terrible comments being hurled towards children as a result of their kids coming out. I've heard about kids who were outed by school staff years ago, which led to kids seeing their belongings set fire to and seeing themselves without a home to call their own.
I've seen kids so devastated by their parents' lack of acceptance that they have contemplated suicide.
For many kids, a GSA is the one safe place where they can learn about ways they can help other kids who might be struggling and just feel safe and accepted for who they are. In addition, there are many allies who attend these meetings, and these are kids who may identify as straight - what right have we, as educators, to tell parents that their child is part of a school group designed to offer safety to those who may not feel safe?
"All" Is Part Of The Name
It's Not A Perfect World
While it's easy to assume, as Mr. Kenney suggests, that most parents only want the best for their kids, "the best" looks different to each set of parents on any given day.
Therein lies the problem.
While this is 2017, and it's easy to say that we should just accept everyone, regardless of race, creed or sexual orientation, a lot of people don't feel the same way, in spite of their claims to the contrary. They may feel as though they are very open individuals in terms of their belief system, but as soon as their children tell them they feel they are attracted to someone of the same gender or that they even might feel as though they are transgender, that openness goes out the window.
Individuals thrive when they feel safe, and Jason Kenney's implication that parents should know if their children join GSAs will put that safety into question. For instance, we have a pride prom - a prom where kids who identify as gay or are allies can go and dance and enjoy themselves without fear of anyone attacking them for enjoying themselves as their authentic selves - annually, and I know there are students who will doctor their form in such a way so that the words "pride prom" do not show up on it, so they can get their parents to sign it and they can go to the dance.
My heart breaks for those kids.
I'm by no means a perfect parent, but there is something to be said for letting your kid be who they feel they are, regardless of the gender of the person they are attracted to, or regardless of the activism they want to partake in. If your kid is safe, isn't that what counts?
The government needs to stay out of GSAs and allow kids to have the safety that such organizations offer.
Do some research, please, Mr. Kenney - for the sake of the kids in your province and beyond.