in our Change.org petition, an activist-run Facebook group, and numerous articles in the gay press (where the story originated), Toronto and regional news outlets were all talking about the Halton Catholic District School Board's ban on gay-straight alliances. If you recall, gay-straight alliances were even compared to Nazi groups.
So, the Halton board overturned the policy. They drafted a new equity statement. But, once again, it makes no mention of the word "gay" and does not make a space for students to form groups with this word in the title. Basically, it's a big middle finger to the queer community wrapped in a bow and disguised as a gift.
According to Xtra.ca, Canada's leading source of LGBT news, the board decided to include procedural reports that follow the "Pastoral Guidelines to Assist Students of Same-Sex Attraction." Which is a fancy document essentially saying that gay sex is bad and should be avoided at all costs. If gays cannot live a "moral life," they should "live a life of chastity."
What is promoted is a program called "By Your SIDE" (Safety, Inclusivity, Diversity, Equity), where groups would act as non-specific equity clubs. No gay in the title and likely no talk about gay issues, as these would be spaces to discuss the four SIDE principles in general terms. It is no better than the last policy.
"I’m really worried we went from revoking a ban on GSAs to banning the word 'gay,'” openly-gay trustee Paul Marai told Xtra. “What kind of message does this send to the [lesbian, gay, bi and trans] students at our schools?… We want students to congregate, but we don’t want them to be visible.”
The new policy talks about training staff members, but only in the ways that respect the "pastoral" guidelines. So, essentially, these students are going to be told that being gay is wrong and that they are immoral if they act on their God-given feelings and desires. I love religion!
At the Board meeting, a random woman even showed up and talked about being a recovering homosexual. She was against these clubs and wanted groups to help students turn away from sinful homosexual behavior. And she proves exactly why these spaces are needed.
How many kids -- in 2011 -- are growing up feeling like they need to change who they are entirely? It's amazing that most everyone on the Halton Catholic District School Board can't see the implications that these policies have on the mental health, self-esteem, general well-being and overall happiness of LGBT youth. Telling a gay kid he can't have gay sex does not mean he won't do it; it means he will do it secretly, with little information to make informed choices, with lots of guilt and shame, and that he will possibly engage in risky behaviors, both in terms of HIV/STI risk, but also physical and emotional safety.
If you have not already, please sign the petition regarding this policy, and let Halton hear from folks that though they have a new policy, this issue is far from over in the district.
petition text -
Greetings,I am writing to ask you to please consider allowing students in your district to form groups known as Gay-Straight Alliances. I'm aware that Halton has changed their policy from a blanket ban on GSAs, to a policy that now allows students to form clubs to discuss "equity" issues. But your district still has a ban on the word "gay" when it comes to student groups, and that's entirely unacceptable.
As you are likely aware, the Ministry of Education promotes Gay-Straight Alliances as effective tools in eradicated homophobia and building connections between all students. The province of Ontario is committed to educating the public and supporting all youth, including those that are not heterosexual. It is a shame that you are showing your students that some are less worthy based on something that is an ingrained trait. Your policy is homophobic, offensive and un-Canadian.
Take a stance on anti-gay bullying and equality for all the students you serve.
Thank you,[Your name]