Hi! My name is Leanne and I am a student at a publicly-funded Catholic Secondary School in Ontario.
Many students in my school, including myself, have faced bullying and harassment related to sexual orientation or gender identity. My friends and I wanted to make things better, so we tried to start a gay-straight alliance in our school, which is a support group for LGBTQ students. However, our school blocked us from forming such a group.
After having been blocked from forming a gay-straight alliance group at my school in March of 2011, my fellow students and I have been fighting for over a year not only to establish a group at our own school, but also to ensure that all students in Ontario’s publicly-funded schools who wish to form a support group for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning (LGBTQ) students and their allies are able to do so.
The President of the Catholic School Trustees Association, Nancy Kirby, was recently quoted saying that Ontario Catholic schools will never allow gay-straight alliances. While students at a few Catholic schools have been able to form support groups of some sort for LGBTQ students, their schools are blocking them from calling their groups “gay-straight alliances,” or anything with the word “gay.”
I am gay. Many of the students in our group are gay. This is who we are. When school boards refuse to allow LGBTQ students to name support groups anything that has the word “gay” in it, they are sending the message that our identity is not valid, and they our silencing our voices as LGBTQ students.
The government of Ontario must not continue to allow publicly-funded schools to compromise the rights and the safety of LGBTQ students. It needs to be legislated that publicly-funded schools must support students who wish to form gay-straight alliances and groups like them, and that students can name the groups what they wish.
There is currently a Bill in the Ontario Legislature that has the potential to guarantee that students who wish to form gay-straight alliances in publicly-funded schools must be permitted to do so.
1. We need to make sure that this Bill passes, with the protections for LGBTQ student groups in it, so that my friends and I will be able to form gay-straight alliance groups in our schools.
2. We also need to ensure that this Bill is amended to guarantee that students will be able to name their groups – so that schools won’t be able to prevent students from calling groups “gay-straight alliances.”
If Bill 13 passes, with the proper amendment, then no student will have to fight as I have to get a safe space in their school. No student will have to go up against school boards and administration in order to create a group in their school where they can be themselves and be supported by their fellow students. That will be something that schools must allow.
Please sign my petition to tell our political party leaders – Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty, Conservative Party Leader Tim Hudak, and NDP Leader Andrea Horwath – to come together in support of LGBTQ youth in Ontario schools.
Leanne Iskander, Ontario Secondary School Student
P.S. To learn more about my story, please listen to my deputation (http://dl.dropbox.com/u/64809496/CatholicStudentsForGSAs_Bill13May14.mp4) before the Standing Committee on Social Policy regarding Bill 13. To read the Bill, click here (http://ontla.on.ca/web/bills/bills_detail.do?locale=en&Intranet=&BillID=2549).
To Dalton McGuinty, Tim Hudak, and Andrea Horwath:
WHEREAS students in publicly-funded Ontario schools are being prevented from forming LGBTQ support groups called gay-straight alliances,
WE the undersigned petition the Legislative Assembly as follows:
Please support LGBTQ youth in all publicly funded schools in Ontario who wish to form groups specific to combating homophobia and transphobia, and support them in giving their groups the name of their choosing.
Please support all students by adding “gender identity” and “gender expression” to Bill 13 where applicable. Please ensure that the protections for student groups that promote the awareness and understanding of, and respect for, people of all sexual orientations and gender identities remain in Bill 13, and that the bill is amended to ensure that students will be the ones naming these groups, including naming groups “gay-straight alliance” if they so choose.