It gives me great pleasure to be invited to speak at a gathering of concerned citizens. We have here assembled an auspicious assembly of those who would make things better for all.
It has been my capacity as an educator for the last 33 years to try to prepare students for an increasingly difficult and challenging world. However, the older I become, I realize that schools do not exist in a vacuum but are part and parcel of a larger social complex. In its educational capacity, the school system plays its role in the betterment and refinement of civilization, both local and global. Read the papers; there is so much to do.
It is obvious to see that the communities of our towns and cities are comprised of many and various smaller communities, differentiated by colour, race, ethnicity, national origins, class, abilities etc. One of those communities which has emerged over the last 30 years, much to the chagrin of those who would have it otherwise, is the gay - lesbian - transgender community.
If anyone had told me ten years ago that I would be speaking openly at many different fora, as a gay high-school teacher and vice-principal, I would have said, simply, "Thou art mad." However, here we are, at yet another 'social action' designed specifically for those of minority sexual orientations and gender identifications. For that I rejoice.
What I do not rejoice for is the evidence that the members of that community are still subject to hate and discrimination. I see it and hear it and feel it in many areas of our society. Yes, unbelievable as it may seem, it is still allowed to go unaddressed in our schools. Teachers have been known, and I know you will find this difficult, to ignore the term 'faggot' when hearing it in the hallways of our schools.
Teachers have said to me, "What do I do? I don't know what I am supposed to do about it. I don't know anything about the issue." Tell me, do we allow our students to make negative and insulting references on the subject of race and gender?
In some cases, students have hidden isolated and alone, changed schools, felt the need to seek counselling, have been harassed and beaten, dropped out of school, run away from home, taken to drugs, done harm to themselves ... or just stayed quiet and inconspicuous waiting for the day to get out of school - which should be a nurturing and secure environment.
All of us, straight or gay, must bring ourselves to the state where we identify with the suffering of these people, every bit our young people as any other of the youth that we are morally obliged to serve in equal capacity. But what right do we turn our backs on one group while embacing another?
To that end, I beg, or rather insist, as the adults in the piece, that we join forces to support the development of all youth in this rainbow diversity of ours. We, as the overseers of the commonwealth, the protectors of social order, the nurturers and educators of youth, have a moral obligation to create a web of trust and support that is visible, active and unbreakable so that all our young may develop and become fully and personally actualised members of the society which we share.
Specifically to the educators here: take a stand. Bring in speakers to your schools, display signs that encourage respect, train your counsellors, sensitize your principals, make strong your position on homophobia as zero tolerance.
To the police: speak in the schools about all aspects of diversity and place homophobia on your agenda of bias crimes to inform students. Be visible and vocal in regards to the law on hate crimes ... or all areas. Appear in schools in uniform with members of the gay community. Work with us, the educators ... we need your support ... and reciprocally, you need ours.
For the police who are associated with schools: understand the demographic differences of each school. Urban schools may be less problematic that rural ones ... downtown schools may be more progressive that the country schools. Why do gays tend to move to cities? Let's just say ... it sucks to be queer in Shawville.
I, personally, would look forward to working with any one of you ... hopefully all of you at some future time. I make myself available if I can at anytime to assist in our collective efforts.