In today’s news: September 24, 2014: “Chad becomes 37th African state to seek ban on homosexuality”
In Canada, LGBT rights are some of the most advanced in the world. Our children will be relatively safe in this country, no matter what their sexual orientation or gender identity. But, this has not always been the case, and in many places around the world, homosexuality continues to be a crime, sometimes punishable by death. But, when it comes to LGBT rights, “the times, they are a-changin’.” And, they are a-changin’ quickly.
With these changing times come changes in the way we explain the world to our children. I was fortunate to be raised in a family that believed in equality and respect for all people, so I am happy to see these values reflected in Canadian policies. My husband and I have always made a concerted effort to explain to our children that marriage is a union between two people who love each other, period. We refuse to use words like “normal.” But, we will also need to teach them the harsh realities of the world. Same-sex marriage is not legal in most countries. Some countries are even creating stricter laws against homosexuality. There are still parents who disown their gay children and bullying still happens….a lot.
When I was a teenager, Ellen shocked the world by coming out on television. It was a time when offensive phrases like “that’s so gay” were thrown about with reckless abandon. It was a time when my health teacher got angry at the class and refused to answer when she read the anonymously submitted question: “How do gay people have sex?”
I like to think that these things have changed, but I’m not sure how much they have. Our provincial government has stalled on implementing a new sex education curriculum, as the old one is very outdated. There is still substantial resistance from a number of parents who would prefer their children not learn about diverse types of families, or how to help fight homophobia. Children are obviously already exposed to many messages through the media. Popular television shows have done a lot to “normalize” different types of relationships. However, children also see a lot of violence, hate and fear.
We can’t rely on the schools or the media to send the right messages. I want my children to have a broad definition of family and to live in a world where same sex couples can hold hands in public without a second thought. I want them to believe that “coming out” is no longer a necessity because the closet never existed in the first place. We still have a long way to go. But, we are one of the first generations who can proudly teach our children a new definition of marriage. These are new lessons. These definitions weren’t in my school curricula, the shows I watched growing up or the books I read. We must come up with our own ways of teaching this information.
I still stumble over definitions. Recently, I was speaking with someone about a common acquaintance who is transsexual. When I knew this person, he was male, and now she is female. I struggled with pronouns, and was embarrassed by my awkwardness. This makes me wonder what kind of example I can possibly set for my kids. Even while writing this post, I kept wondering: “Should I be using LGBTQ instead of LGBT now?” “Am I using the correct terms?” But, while I may stumble, I have to hope that my intentions come through.
Last week, I read an online article about a family where both parents were transsexual. They were discussing how they would reveal this information to their children. Too many of the comments that followed the article were hateful, ignorant, and some, downright shocking. Living, as I do, in a bubble of liberal family, neighbours and friends, I am shocked when I encounter attitudes like this.
At various points in my life, I have had gay neighbours, roommates and friends. It always makes me sad that when people I meet “come out” to me, there is a wariness in their eyes as they wait for a response. You can always tell that they have been burned one too many times.
I applaud those of you who fight for LGBT rights, from youth leading gay-straight alliances in local high schools, to stable, loving, same-sex families hoping to adopt children in Utah, to those facing the death penalty for “homosexual acts” in the Middle East. I hope you know how many of us are standing behind you, trying to raise a generation that thinks about love in a new, more inclusive way.
Our job is not finished until blog posts such as this one no longer make sense.
Love is love.
“It takes no compromise to give people their rights…it takes no money to respect the individual. It takes no political deal to give people freedom. It takes no survey to remove repression.”
― Harvey Milk