Organization concerned about B.C. teachers' Day of Pink "pro-homosexuality" message

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      The Day of Pink has a local parents and teachers organization seeing red.

      British Columbia Parents and Teachers for Life posted a "warning to parents" email bulletin on their website on Tuesday (February 26) that the British Columbia Teachers' Federation "is still using the day to promote a pro-homosexual message" and "is only one of the events the BC Teachers' Federation plans to use for pro-homosexuality indoctrination".

      The day, held on February 27 in B.C., encourages people to wear pink shirts to show their support to counter bullying and discrimination such as homophobia.

      The Day of Pink began in 2007 when two Nova Scotian students purchased and distributed 50 pink shirts to other students to show support for a male student who was called a homosexual for wearing a pink shirt. Pink Shirt Day, a campaign launched by then-CKNW talk-show host Christy Clark, is held in B.C. on February 27 (proclaimed as Anti-Bullying Day in B.C. in 2008). Pink Shirt Day is separate from the Day of Pink, held nationally on April 17 (which is also the International Day Against Homophobia).

      BCTF assistant director of social justice programs Susan Ruzic told the Georgia Straight by phone that the BCTF is recognizing the Day of Pink on February 27 because unlike the Pink Shirt Day campaign, it specifically addresses homophobia and transphobia.

      "We wanted to be really clear that this is an antihomophobia, antitransphobia day, in support of these two [founding] students….We want to call what it is, make it more specific, because when you're just making it a generic term, and there's undertones, then those issues aren't really being taken care of."

      Ruzic noted that bullying and homophobia or transphobia are different things. She explained that homophobia and transphobia can manifest in ways other than bullying, such as omission, avoidance, or stereotyping.

      "In text books and certain places, there are certain families represented, there are certain groups represented, more than others, that people tend to want to be like because that seems to be the dominant culture," she said, "and we've got to recognize that and understand that there are many colours of the rainbow in our schools and we have to accept everybody."

      She said the BCTF is seeking both a discreet provincial antihomophobia and antiracism policy, to address underlying issues and systemic problems, not just bullying actions. (She noted that 20 out of the province's 60 school boards have a discreet antihomophobia policy.)

      Ted Hewlett, president of British Columbia Parents and Teacher for Life, said by phone that his organization supports any measures to counter bullying, but remains concerned about the BCTF's approach.

      "We want to see a program that combats bullying but does not do so by portraying particular controversial lifestyles or behaviours as positive," he said. "There's a bit of psychological slight-of-hand going on here because although it's supposed to be about bullying, the BCTF makes it abundantly clear they really want it to be about the bullying of one particular group of kids, who are definitely not in the majority but they certainly need to be protected, and they don't seem to have much interest in doing [anything] other than concentrating on that group, and using it to gain approval for a particular lifestyle."

      By lifestyle, he clarified he was referring to LGBT people, who he said shouldn't be promoted in schools, such as by presenting same-sex marriage as equivalent to "traditional" marriage.

      However, Ruzic pointed out that homophobia and transphobia can be used against all students, whether they are in fact straight or queer. She also noted that while they are hoping to make schools safe for all students, queer students are vulnerable to heightened risks.

      "There was a [school] climate survey on homophobia and they estimate that 69 percent of queer youth are bullied compared to 7 percent of straight-identified youth. So an overwhelming majority of queer youth do not feel safe in schools. And queer teens are five times more likely to commit suicide than their peers. So this isn't just about bullying. It's about compassion for diverse gender expressions, and everyone is impacted by homophobic bullying."

      But Hewlett remains wary of what the BCTF is trying to achieve.

      "It's really being used as a means to an end, and that end is much more than stopping bullying," he said. "It's almost like bullying is just the launching platform…for having books and other media which positively portray lesbian and gay characters, as they say."

      He explained his concerns about homosexuality are rooted in problems associated with homosexuals, such as AIDS.

      "I'm not saying they're the same or exactly comparable but we do not expect schools to positively affirm a drug-taking lifestyle, a drug-taking behaviour," he said. "Now there are people who would say that homosexual behaviour is also harmful from a medical point of view. We don't go around picking out every single lifestyle, in order to affirm it."

      While Ruzic said that research has proven that homosexuality is something people are born with, Hewlett dismissed that idea and said he would have to see those studies.

      "I think it's important that everybody become an ally and challenge themselves to become more informed on…LGBTQ issues," Ruzic said.

      Both Hewlett and Ruzic said that the BCPTL has not filed a complaint with the BCTF.

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      31 Comments

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      Ted Hewlett

      Feb 26, 2013 at 5:58pm

      Thank you, Craig, for an accurate account of the British Columbia Parents and Teachers for Life position. (We do indeed support measures against bullying, but object to those programs that indoctrinate students in favour of behaviours that parents of traditional morality object to.)

      Geraldine

      Feb 26, 2013 at 6:08pm

      Oh. my. word.
      Damn those rampant drug taking homosexuals ruining the sanctity of marriage! And spreading their diseases! Just think, one day of wearing a pink t-shirt and our children (our poor, poor children!), will be indoctrinated into thinking it's okay for everyone to be treated equally and that they shouldn't discriminate against anyone! Oh the shame!

      Navi

      Feb 26, 2013 at 6:24pm

      Grow UP! Its just a color. The important message is to befriend everyone no matter what. If you are worried about the color there is probably something else that is really bothering you about all of this.

      Forest

      Feb 26, 2013 at 6:48pm

      What kind of 'life' exactly is the British Columbia Parents and Teachers for Life advocating? A life of the ignorant, the bigoted and the self-righteous bully? Did Ted Hewlett never feel the sting of the words 'fag' in his school yard life?

      Michele Baillie

      Feb 26, 2013 at 8:44pm

      LGBTQ people are thinking, feeling, human beings.

      However carefully Mr. Hewlett chooses his words, his prejudices are apparent by his exclusion of LGBTQ people; it is evident he sees us as "them" or "something else" and not people like us.

      Perspectives like this and the attitudes behind them are common in war zones and places where religious or ethnic hatreds predominate.....massacres and ethnic cleansing are what occur when these prejudices or hatreds are allowed free rein.

      The simple fact of Mr. Hewlett obvious perception of LGBTQ people as "something else" and not like people such as himself and BC Parents and Teachers for Life see themselves is..... frightening, especially considering how carefully his words were chosen to hide his and BCPTL's bigotry.

      I worry just what this group of people might be capable of.

      Mr.Soft

      Feb 27, 2013 at 12:28am

      Is the BCPTL a christian hate group?

      Julian Christians

      Feb 27, 2013 at 12:29am

      Ted, it is your group that is employing more than a bit of “psychological slight-of-hand”. Targeting homophobia is not the same as “portraying particular controversial lifestyles or behaviours as positive” and will certainly not “indoctrinate students in favour of behaviours that parents of traditional morality object to”. Saying that something isn’t bad is not the same as saying that it is good and that you should try it. Even if the BCTF was trying to indoctrinate students, do you think they could succeed? No amount of propaganda could have convinced a teenage me that I liked boys more than girls.

      The fact that homosexuality is not caused by movements like the Day of Pink is self-evident given that one has been around a whole lot longer than the other. Whether you like it or not, some parents in your group have kids who are lesbian, gay, bi, or maybe just don’t fit gender stereotypes that well. Actions like the Day of Pink aim to make those kids, who are currently at a much higher risk of suicide, feel OK about the way they are. Do you really object to that, or would you prefer these kids to be stigmatized because they might engage in behaviours of which you don't approve?

      Raskin

      Feb 27, 2013 at 1:26am

      Instead of ranting, people should take a look at the CDC and Health Canada statistics on HIV/AIDS and high risk sexual behavior - that is the reason why most parents would want to protect their children.

      After all whose children are they?

      Rational discussion would be helpful. Rhetoric and name calling is not. Would be happy to share this info with anyone who is interested in facts.

      Julian Christians

      Feb 27, 2013 at 7:31am

      OK, Raskin, please do share these facts. Please make sure that you include stats on HIV rates among straight vs. lesbian women. By your "logic", your group should be supportive of same-sex relationships between women, and would even support "promoting a lesbian lifestyle" among would-be straight girls if the risk of contracting HIV was lower among lesbians than straight women.
      Furthermore, if you are primarily concerned about HIV and high-risk sexual behaviour, you should also be supportive of things that reduce promiscuous sex between men, like same-sex marriage. I look forward to your rationale response to these arguments.

      Doris Darvasi

      Feb 27, 2013 at 10:38am

      Pink day is actually not a anti-bullying day, as mentioned above, but is promoted as such. So many people wear a pink shirt, some reading "the bullying stops here", in the assumption it is about bullying in general, hoping they can make a difference. A pink shirt though will not change things. We will never end bullying if we don't approach it from a different angle. We need to teach our children (and practice this ourselves) to treat people courteously and with respect, even if we disagree with what they say, do, wear, how they act or have a philosophical or religious idea that is different from ours. Students should feel save in schools and that includes the student who says that she thinks two men are not the same as a man and a woman. To attack that student and call her names for her opinion is plain bullying. We will always have situations where we disagree with one another for whatever reason. If we cannot do that in an appropriate way, the bully shoe will just end up on the other foot.

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