We are a group of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer youth ages 13-21. We are advocates, activists and educators with the goal of making a difference in the lives of youth.
We are writing in response to a group of organized adults who have asked school trustee candidates to pledge to a certain view of marriage and gender, and in Surrey asking them to rescind the regulation 9410.2 Safe and Caring Schools, the small protection that we have (‘Family group’ targets pro-gay policy, Oct. 23).
We are not aiming to enter a debate, we would just like to have our experiences and voices heard, and to ask candidates to respect the need for the policy.
Numerous members of our group and others have suffered targeted violence in the public-school system.
One boy changed schools, due to homophobic bullying, and, on the first day at his new school, he was pushed into a locker and assaulted.
One of our members was shamed during gym class. The class was divided into two groups; girls and boys. She did not feel as though she fit either, and was pushed back and forth while slurs were shouted at her.
Another was told by her classmate that she should die and to watch her back, resulting in her skipping classes in fear of being attacked.
These are just a few of the stories that youth face in schools. If these actions took place in an adult work environment, it would be considered harassment, discrimination, violence and hate crime. So why are we letting this happen to our youth?
In schools, according to Egale Canada, 20 per cent of heterosexual students reported feeling unsafe, and 75 per cent of LGB students and 95 per cent of trans students reported feeling unsafe. These statistics are evidence of our anxieties and stress levels, the threats to our ability to focus and study, and the harm it can do to our physical health.
For example, the absence of gender-neutral washrooms makes these spaces dangerous environments for students who do not feel they can safely enter a female or male washroom, without being harassed. This fear leads to students not using the washrooms, which is why there are increased levels of urinary-tract infections among trans and non-gender-conforming youth.
This is signed by only our two founding members – rather than with all our individual names. Given the circumstances, we feel at this point it is unsafe to do so.
Sylvia Traphan & Jen Marchbank, Youth for A Change