Dara Parker: Opposition to Vancouver school board’s gender policy rooted largely in fear and ignorance

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Last week, I spent 5.5 hours listening to opponents protest proposed updates to the Vancouver school board’s Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Policy.

It was depressing.

A vocal minority packed the boardroom for three meetings in a row, forcing a strict monitoring system to ensure that only Vancouver residents were permitted in the room (ID was checked). The overflow room adjacent to the boardroom provided a live stream of the proceedings and had standing room only.

For many of us it became increasingly difficult as the night wore on, to listen to a non-stop tirade against the LGBTQ community. The feedback was rooted largely in fear and ignorance.

  • “Trans* kids commit suicide because of regret, not bullying.”
  • “Kids will be indoctrinated in the gay lifestyle.”
  • “Trans* folks are the by-product of their parents having eaten too many GMOs.”

I imagine this is what our queer pioneers faced 30 years ago, when they were trying to achieve the simple right to teach in schools, marry their partners, or challenge the notion that we are mentally ill.

Apparently this work is not done.

For me, the most disturbing part was listening to the many people in opposition who began their arguments by professing to have “no problem with the LGBTQ+ community”, before proceeding to passionately defend the status quo with what, at times, felt like thinly veiled hatred. And when that didn’t work for the opposition, voices were raised, people cried, people yelled, and (literally) stomped their feet in semi-hysterics. One woman had to be escorted from the room when she refused to stop yelling at the microphone.

I’m unclear why we’re debating human rights in the first place.

This month was a stark reminder that many children in our community don’t have safe environments where they can come out. Which is exactly why this policy at the Vancouver school board is critical; we need to ensure that all of our children are safe and included.

I am proud to say it was also an opportunity for families to lead the way in teaching all of us how to provide unconditional love, acceptance, and support. Fiona Chen is just one of these incredible parents leading the way.

While I am saddened by those who want the LGBTQ movement to regress, I am thankful for the many who came out to support us, hold signs, cheer, and sometimes groan when necessary. We were there to bear witness.

Together, we can effect change.

Dara Parker is the executive director of Qmunity, B.C.'s queer resource centre. This column originally appeared in Qmunity's e-newsletter.

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Fingers crossed.

Jun 3, 2014 at 12:08pm

As someone who sat through all three public meetings, listening to some of the most hateful and uninformed nonsense (and outright lies and "making it up" which was supposed to stand in for actual knowledge), I'm glad that part of it is over. The constant refrain of "We don't hate LGBTQ+ people! We care about you!" prior to hateful screeds didn't go without notice to me either. I only hope the VSB will take the heartfelt and germane testimony of the students (who unlike parents and councilors are the ones who actually have to deal with this and worse every day) and pass these policy updates once and for all.

First World Problems

Jun 3, 2014 at 1:23pm

Look at me! I am an attention seeker who believes he is a unicorn! If you do not respect my unicorn orientation, I will gum up the works! I will convince easily hypnotized do-gooders to back my cause! I will waste millions of dollars on myself and the tiny fraction of people like me! After all, we don't have anything but me to spend money on, do we?

These people make Gordon Gecko types look like saints.

Support safer schools

Jun 3, 2014 at 2:25pm

I went to two of the meetings and it was quite hard to sit through hearing all the hate and ignorance from those opposing the policy. Some of the speakers complained about people calling them names like homophobic and trans-phobic, and then they will speak about how Trans kids and gay kids will turn their children into this lifestyle. They continued this behavior by referring to Trans people as perverts. I often heard the comment that kids are not smart enough to know who they are at such an age this belief is ages and ableist because it suggests that kids are too stupid to know who they are. Furthermore it’s also coming from a place of homophobia and trans-phobia since its coming from the belief that being gay or Trans is a chose and that parents know you better then you know yourself.

RUK

Jun 3, 2014 at 2:51pm

Sounds awful, but I have to say, as the parent of two Vancouver teens in public school, things are so much better today for sexual minorities that it is unbelievable. I remember my obviously gay buddy, who was so achingly, obviously gay that he might as well have been wearing a rainbow at all times, telling us, his pals, that he was hot for girls.

I'm not saying that everything is awesome and that a policy isn't needed (how would I know? people wouldn't beat me up for my orientation), but the noise from the Kaucus of the Koncerned Konservative types is just noise. The kids mostly get it!

Spiel Spiel

Jun 3, 2014 at 5:12pm

"Support for Vancouver School Board’s gender policy rooted largely in extensive use of Orwellian Newspeak and accusations of ignorance."

There, fixed the title for you.

One Parent

Jun 3, 2014 at 6:09pm

We have a child who was born in a male body, but needed to live as a girl. She lived as a girl, and a grand girl she was, smart and talented. When puberty arrived, a year on hormone blockers gave her time to reflect. One day she said "I've decided I do feel at home in my male body." She went off hormone blockers and after five years as a girl, in a little while she was a boy again. He is now a young man, well adjusted and with plenty of interests.

This kid didn't go to public school. Didn't have to brood about what the fearful and ignorant were up too. This kid lived as he needed to live, and freely made the choices he had to make. Public school? I shudder to think. Thank God for Qmunity and their work humanizing the place, at least in this regard, but public school has a long way to go.

Barry William Teske

Jun 3, 2014 at 8:01pm

Dear First World Problems,
Perhaps catch phrases like "these people" reveals more than you have the courage to talk about with a real identity and a real name.
Like, maybe your problem is the same only your looking at it from the 'us and them' perspective instead of the 'we'?
Ever, as the saying goes even tried to " walk a mile in somebody else's shoes" or are you content having that bridge to troll under?
After all, you did start with "Look at me"!

Barry William Teske

Jun 3, 2014 at 8:04pm

Dear RUK,
Please for those of us that don't have your experience...define "unbelievable".
I was hoping it would be obvious but, well you know, as a gay person I must not know how good it is such that it is ..."unbelievable".

The opposing group are aggresive and abusive.

Jun 3, 2014 at 8:09pm

At the second meeting the group that opposed the policy were blocking the entrances into the main room and people were even being elbowed while trying to leave the room or trying enter the room, this group were quite aggressive, verbally and physically. By the third meeting the cops were called, but not sure why any of them were not arrested. At the beginning the opposing group were upset that they could not enter the room without having ID and needing to get a seat card ensuring that they live in Vancouver, they were really aggressive towards the door men. How bad do these meeting need to get before the cops step in? Second meeting In the overflow room one person from this group was blocking the TV with her sign not allowing people watching from the door in the hallway.

Barry William Teske

Jun 3, 2014 at 8:13pm

Dear Dara Parker,
Thank you.
For your courage.
For your focus.
For your humanity.
Not many, as history has witnessed, have been able to sit thru a school board meeting regarding LGBTQ youth and the path to a better outcome and future.
The hate, intolerance and pure animosity that surfaces when another human being expresses the need to be themselves when all that is available is clone...
Well you have my heartfelt thanx for surviving to write about it later with a human perspective.

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