I love the country we live in. Canada is an amazing place overall but some of our communities lack awareness towards the Queer community and the struggles we face in schools.
This essay was written two years ago, and to this day I believe it important to share because I can never stress it enough that we are fighting for our lives every day. We have support but it’s lacking where we need it most.
Freedom – The Truth About Discrimination Towards Queer Students
To an outsider, I imagine Canada is seen as the happy, syrup-drinking, Hockey-playing nation. And while often, this isn’t wholly inaccurate, there’s so much more to say about this country; the one I, and so many others, call home.
To me, Canada represents freedom; the freedom to spend time with your nearest and dearest as you please, the freedom to love whomever you so choose to, and above all, the freedom to express yourself and the right to your own identity.
The LGBTQ+ community makes up about 4% of our country’s population. That in itself isn’t an extraordinary amount, but that’s over a million people. With so many citizens- of all ages, no less- being a part of our ever-adapting queer+ community, things are pretty good in terms of awareness and acceptance. I myself have met so many kind people, both queer+ and allies, who’ve helped me grow as a person.
However, as they say, ‘good times don’t last forever.’
Despite the kindness, there will always be those who wish to repress and quell those who don’t fit the stereotypical norm. Discrimination, by definition, is ‘unjust prejudice of different categories of people or things.’ This can include, but is most certainly not limited to, sex, age, race, sexual/romantic orientation, and gender identity. Since I came out of the closet, I’ve faced discrimination to varying degrees, and I’d like to share some of my experiences and opinions on the matter, as well as some encounters some close friends have entrusted me with recounting.
To begin, it seems only reasonable that I explain how gender identity and expression are protected under the Canadian Human Rights Act (and the Ontario Human Rights Code.)
Ontario’s Human Rights Code, which was enacted sixty years ago, prohibits any and all actions that discriminate against people based on a protected ground in a protected social area.
The protected grounds included in this code are age, ancestry, color, race, citizenship, ethnic origin, creed, disability, family status, marital status (including single status), gender identity/expression, receipt of public assistance (in housing only), record of offenses (in employment only), sex (including pregnancy and breastfeeding), and sexual orientation.
The protected social grounds are accommodation, contracts employment, membership in unions, trade, or professional associations, and goods, services, and facilities.
Under the Canadian Human Rights Act, for all purposes of the act, the prohibited grounds of discrimination are race, national or ethnic origin, color, religion, age, gender identity or expression, marital status, family status, genetic characteristics, and disability, and conviction for an offense for which a pardon has been granted or in respect of which a record suspension has been ordered.
Under the act, a discriminatory practice includes a practice on one or more prohibited grounds of discrimination or on the effect of a combination of prohibited grounds.
While the Act and Code make it sound straight-forward, the prohibition towards identity and discrimination towards queer people often goes overlooked. From homophobic comments taken as jokes, and inadvertently transphobic classroom situations, LGBTQ+ discrimination at schools is often missed, and the damage is rarely recognized (in my experiences.)
Of course, in today’s schooling, it’s hard to avoid phrases like ‘boys and girls’ or ‘ladies and gentlemen,’ but when misgendering happens repeatedly, or when preferred names and pronouns are blatantly ignored, LGBTQ+ peoples can start to feel hopeless; and when we repeat ourselves, and the reminders towards those who do ignore pronouns, name, and orientation, we often feel like burdens and sometimes, attention-seekers.
What others say, whether ill-intended or otherwise, would affect the self-image of anyone, but queer kids especially. Every day, we face controversy and comments/questions such as “What gender are you?” or “Why can’t you just be a normal gender?” that make it harder for us to cope with each day. My own confrontations have been enlightening, and it’s because I understand that upbringing places a huge role in beliefs that I realize that some people have never learned about our community before, and are genuinely curious. Whereas it’s the ignorant, hateful people who don’t like what they don’t understand, and anything remotely different. I get it, I do. Confusion brings out the worst in some people. I understand.
But it will always hurt.
Since I came out of the, of course, figurative, closet, I’ve had many illuminating experiences. Teaching my friends and family about my labels (genderfluid, panromantic, polyamorous, and asexual,) I learned that the ones who try to understand, and adjust accordingly, are the ones worth sticking by.
In the case of my best friend, Bren, their path to self-discovery was welcomed with open arms by their friends but because of some lack of LGBTQ+ awareness at their home, they feel unable to come out to their parents, who unfortunately still see them as ‘their little girl’ as opposed to the strong enby (non-binary person) that they are.
In another situation, my close friend Corey is currently out to all his friends and family, but his parents are homo- and transphobic. Corey identifies as boyflux/demigender (his pronouns being he/they) and homoflexible, but his parents don’t accept it. Thankfully, he’s not letting it change them. It hurts, and he’s expressed to me just how much. I can’t relate on the same level, but I can sympathize, and I know how scary thinking you’ll never be good enough for the ones you love feels.
Whether negative, neutral, or positive, every reaction we receive upon coming out is a new experience, one we can take bountiful knowledge from. We learn that not everyone will accept us, but we also learn to focus on the positives, and just be. Be happy. Drink syrup! Play hockey. Keep speaking up, because if we don’t, they’ll continue trying to trample us. We have to be strong, and we must be proud, because we are no different than any of the cisgender or heterosexual peoples surrounding us, so why should we be treated as anomalies?
I’ve not given up on society, nor our schools. There are so many safe spaces available (at least, in my neighborhood) and I know that situations can improve. I yearn for the day when everyone can embrace who they are without judgment. I strive for the day when I can walk the halls without accusatory glares and abhorrent remarks thrown my way as if I’ve done something wrong, because I haven’t. I’m waiting for the day when someone with power realizes what’s happening, and makes the changes necessary for our future to be one full of truly thriving students. Of people who can say with certainty, that they are finally, infinitely, free.