I Remember the Day my Best Friend ‘came out’ to Me
I think it was in 1985 — I can’t be sure though — it was a really long time ago. We had been friends for quite awhile — since high school. I had been to his home many times and he to mine. We traveled on high school trips together. We played Friday night pick-up hockey at 11:30 pm. I had been to his family ranch outside of Calgary a number of times. We did lots of stuff together. Great friendship.
I Had no Idea That he was Gay
When he told me (several years into our friendship) I remember looking at him and saying, “OK”. He looked so nervous and worried. He then told me that he was never attracted to me. I burst out laughing. What the heck did that mean?
We’ve never stopped being friends — why would we? Although, there have been long times when we don’t connect as he travels the world, when we see each other again we pick up exactly where we were before he left. And, he has become an important part of our children’s lives.
I suppose it wasn’t easy to be an openly gay person in school in the 80s. And when I read or see the news these days, I’m confident it also isn’t readily accepted by everyone today. It makes me me wonder how difficult it must have been for my friend to not only keep this secret from me for many years, but from the many others who were really important in his life. It is incredibly sad that our society really did not consider his reality, or the reality of so many other people, to be ‘normal’ or ‘accepted’. We’ve come a long ways in our societal understanding and acceptance of sexual orientation and gender identity, but I believe that we still have a long ways to go.
Wouldn’t it be Great if ‘Coming out’ wasn’t a Thing — Because Everyone was Accepted and Celebrated for Who They are?
One thing that I’m most proud of when I visit schools is the work being done on building compassion and acceptance of the diverse ‘human reality’. Our diversity makes us beautiful, and as a school system we play an important role in breaking down misunderstanding, bigotry and intolerance — things like people’s skin colour, their religion, their sexual orientation or gender identity shouldn’t matter. One of my dreams is that we eventually find ourselves in a society where these types of differences are consistently celebrated as a part of our wonderful diversity. Yet, today I can still see intolerance — and even fear — in our world towards others and their differences.
As part of my duties, I present a Superintendent’s Report at our Board meetings. In my recent November report I focused almost exclusively on SOGI (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity) youth in our schools and province, outlining some of the recent statistics encountered by our students who do not fit into a cis-normative world.
SOGI is the relatively new term that describes the complete continuum of “Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity” that exists. For some people, the open discussion of this concept is a lightning rod of controversy. My belief is that this can happen when there isn’t understanding.
In my presentation I shared the true account of Milan Halikowski — I showed the short film “Handsome and Majestic”. It’s the story of Milan and his reality as a trans-gendered boy living in Prince George — it’s worth watching for the 12 minutes it takes.
We already do so many things in our schools to create emotionally safe places for our children — I’m very proud of the work we’ve already accomplished. Yet, if there are children and youth who do not yet feel valued and appreciated for who they are … then we’re not yet done.
So, That Means We’re Not Done
We still have work to do. And some of that work is focused on making our schools even more inclusive for our SOGI youth. The slide deck from my presentation can be found on the school district website — however, I’ve also pasted it below if you’d like to review the startling statistics faced by some of our youth, as well as the work we have done and continue to do in Saanich to make our schools even more welcoming:
I feel passionate about the importance of providing safe and accepting learning environments for all of our students — including those who identify anywhere within the SOGI continuum.
For this to happen we need to be explicit in:
- breaking down the misconceptions of our differences;
- increasing our understanding of people both in our own community and around the world; and
- striving to find ways that make our schools even greater places of acceptance.
I Continue to Believe that as a Society We Still Have a Greater Capacity to Understand and Accept People for Who They Are and Who They Love