One area Queens County specifically could improve on is Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgendered and Queer support (GLBTQ), and a big step is the Gay-Straight Alliance started at Liverpool Regional High School
So maybe you’re wondering why it’s a big deal. After all, there’s nothing illegal about being gay or lesbian in Canada. Equal marriage rights are standard across the country, and there is a degree of protection in the law books as well.
Tolerance is a funny thing though. It’s not something that can be gained once and we never have to worry about it again. What happens is the intolerance goes underground. There is a lot more work involved to changing people’s attitudes than just changing the laws.
Belonging is a fundamental part of the human experience. It’s why we have friends, join clubs, and yes, fall in love. Trying to hide such a big part of who you are, such as being gay, is incredibly difficult. Coming out is scary, and there is always the chance of rejection by friends and family. It’s why the suicide rate among GLBTQ youth is so much higher.
Changing people’s attitudes both at home and at school solidifies that tolerance in our society. It’s also key to making sure it doesn’t slip away in the future, at least not without a fight.
Believe it or not, it could also help our shrinking communities. The constant mantra from our politicians and community leaders is to bring the youth back to our communities. Obviously an area that doesn’t support GLBTQ teens won’t get them to stay. If statistics are accurate, that’s about 10 per cent of our population.
However it’s not just those teens that will chose not to come home. They have friends who grew up in an intolerant community and make the same choice. Subtract the number of people who won’t return to our communities simply because there are no jobs, and it becomes a very small number left that we can actually bring home.
Things have come a long way in 10 years. The idea of a Gay-Straight alliance group like the one at LRHS probably wouldn’t have gotten off the ground in Queens County back then. We should be proud things have changed to allow this group to happen.
The reality is though the community attitudes are not going to change overnight. But to change people’s perceptions, they need to see a reason to change. So having this group start at our high school will go a long way give people that reason.