Last week we saw rallies across the country expressing opposition to the teaching of gender and sexuality issues in public schools, and those rallies were met with counter-protests by those who are concerned about LGBTQ+ rights. Though such rallies are often limited to major urban centres, last week’s rallies found their way to many cities and towns, big and small, including here in Meaford.
Though characterized by many as ‘anti-trans’, or ‘anti-LGBTQ+’, officially, those who organized last week’s ‘1 Million March 4 Children’ state that their goal is to unite diverse backgrounds and faiths in “advocating for the elimination of the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) curriculum, pronouns, gender ideology and mixed bathrooms in schools.” The website for the movement insists that “We deeply value the rich spectrum of perspectives within the 2SLGBTQIA+ community. If you share our belief that discussions on gender ideology should be approached at age-appropriate times, we wholeheartedly invite you to stand alongside us and amplify this message.”
As we know, however, though the officially stated stance of a movement like the 1 Million March 4 Children might be one of acceptance, which disavows discrimination or bullying of the LGTBQ community, on the streets that official line is not necessarily adhered to. We have all seen images and video from some of the larger rallies that were held, of folks involved in those rallies that most definitely embraced discrimination, and even hatred of the LGBTQ+ community. Obviously no organization can control the words or actions of the folks on the street, it is understandable that many saw the planned rallies as being anti-LGBTQ+.
Though the participants in the 1 Million March 4 Children in Meaford had advertised that their protest would be held at Meaford Hall, the pro-LGBTQ+ protesters arrived first and occupied the front steps of the Hall, while the 1 Million March 4 Children protesters moved to the corner of Sykes and Collingwood Streets.
I have always fully supported the privilege we all have to think and believe whatever we like. I support free speech, even if I personally find the speech to be vile and offensive. What I will never support is ‘othering’ and discrimination. If someone has bigoted beliefs, fine, that is up to them, but if those bigoted beliefs manifest into a desire to see some with fewer opportunities, less security in their simply being who they are, or an insistence that some don’t deserve acceptance, I can’t understand such a stance. Thoughts and beliefs are one thing, negative actions toward anyone based on their ethnicity, religious beliefs, or sexual orientation is repulsive to me.
As a Caucasian male in Canada, I have never had to experience discrimination, I have never been made to feel ‘less than’, simply because of who I am. Yet we white men have become some of the most horrible humans to ever walk the Earth, yet we are still accepted, we are still respected, we are still considered part of ‘normal’ society, whether we deserve it or not.
I had a dozen math teachers over my elementary and high school time that tried to drill the basics of mathematics into my brain. They all attempted to mould my brain into one that could grasp mathematical concepts, yet they all failed.
To this day when I see numbers, my eyes glaze over, and save for the most basic of mathematical problems to solve, I am lost, yet some folks think that teachers are going to somehow ‘turn kids gay’ or transgender by exposing them to the realities of the world we live in? I have a hard time believing that, because if that were the case, with the overwhelming majority of heterosexual teachers throughout previous decades, why does anyone become gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender at all? Shouldn’t the overload of hetero-normative beings in schools throughout history have been able to indoctrinate all, ensuring a fully heterosexual society? That is crazy talk of course, but you get the point.
Let’s not forget that when we talk about the LGBTQ+ community, we are talking about a very small percentage of our population. According to Statistics Canada, just four percent of Canadians are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or of another sexual orientation than heterosexual.
When it comes to the transgender community, we are talking about just 0.33 percent of our population. And though their numbers are small, or perhaps more accurately because their numbers are so small, they need human rights protections. I think we should be teaching kids that people different from them exist and should be treated with the same respect that they expect for themselves.
In total, we are talking about less than five percent of our population, who have always existed, this is nothing new, and even a cursory understanding of history should make that obvious to everyone. Five percent of our population that has endured discrimination, abuse, and scorn for centuries, yet they are human, and they deserve compassion and understanding, they deserve empathy, and they deserve to know that they are embraced within the mosaic that is Canada.
When discussing these issues with an acquaintance recently, it was suggested that the percent of people who are in the LGBTQ+ community is so small that they shouldn’t be recognized in the school system. Yet the LGBTQ+ community is significantly larger than Canada’s Jewish population, which is just 0.9 percent of Canadians, and I don’t think many would argue that schoolchildren should not learn about the Jewish community, their history, traditions, and struggles with discrimination. Similarly, it could also be said for the 4.9 percent of Canadians who are Muslim, or the 2.3 percent of Canadians who are Hindu, and so on.
Heck, just five percent of Canadians are Indigenous, roughly the same percentage that is part of the LGBTQ+ community. Would anyone suggest that we should not teach our children, both in school and at home, about our Indigenous communities, their history, their culture, the struggles that they have endured, the discrimination they have faced? Should our schools not teach our children that Indigenous people should be understood, accepted, embraced, and respected?
I understand that some folks disagree with my take on these issues, and I accept that, and I respect the views that others hold, unless and until it turns into discrimination. If you think that no human being should be gay or transgender, I understand and respect your right to believe so, but if you think that the LGBTQ+ community doesn’t deserve the very same privileges as all of us ‘normal’ people, or if you feel that they don’t deserve to be supported, understood, and accepted during their years of elementary and high school education, then I lose that respect.
A friend who was an Anglican priest once said to me many years ago that ‘the thing many forget when talking about the gay community (there was no ‘LGBTQ+’ in our lexicon in the 1990s) is that they are sons and daughters of God, just like the rest of us, they are just as human as everyone else, and they deserve to be loved and embraced as we would anyone.’ Now I am not religious, but my priest friend held some wisdom in the 1990s, and it is just as true today.
I hold no religious beliefs or affiliations at all, in fact I find many aspects of many religions to be offensive, yet I am thankful that my own children were taught the full spectrum of religious beliefs both at home and at school – and funny thing, in spite of learning about all of the various religious communities, my children do not adhere to any religion either, so learning about those who are different than us does not seem to indoctrinate us.