If I needed a new reason to get behind Manitoba's proposed Bill 18, I found it this morning as I read the Free Press with my breakfast. You can read what I'm referring to here and here.
These recent events have convinced me more than ever that including the section about "Gay Straight Alliances" in the Bill was definitely not by accident and definitely not just part of a scheme by the NDP government to promote a leftist agenda.
The people who drove the gay couple out of the restaurant business in Morris and the vandals who wrote homophobic slurs on a man's house on William Avenue were not children, so you might be wondering about why I think Bill 18 has anything to offer in response to these recent events. Bill 18 targets the children and teenagers in hopes of promoting values and respect in our schools that will hopefully spill over into the rest of society as they grow up. The best case scenario is that in a generation or two, Bill 18 will have done its job and homophobia won't exist in our province the way it does now.
The adults quoted in the Free Press today about their feelings towards the gay restaurant owners in Morris are likely one child's grandparent, uncle, or dad. If the message they are getting at home is anything close to the one their caregivers are sharing with the media, we better hope Bill 18 passes in record time.
The last time I checked, "Gay Straight Alliances" are not designed to promote the LGBTQ agenda. They exist to provide a place to be heard, a place to listen, and a place to understand differences. Here is a quote from the Canadian GSA network website:
A GSA is a student-run group that provides a safe place for any and all students to meet and learn about all different orientations, to support each other while working together to end homophobia, and to raise awareness and promote equality for all human beings. In addition to being a group dedicated to support, it also strives to educate the surrounding areas and the community on different gender and equality issues. (You can read more about GSA's on their website)
Doesn't sound too scary, does it?
Scary is what happens when your house is vandalized or you're driven out of town by verbal attacks because of your sexual orientation.
One argument I've heard over the past few weeks is the question of why the government didn't single out or make reference to other maligned groups in the Bill? Why not specifically mention obese kids, or geeks, or the list goes on and on.... Here's a thought. I can't remember the last time two obese restaurant owners were verbally attacked for being obese to such an extreme that they felt the need to close their doors. I don't remember hearing about any adult geeks who had graffiti painted on their homes because of their taste in books, movies or pocket protectors.
One of my friends, who is lesbian, was sharing a few weeks ago about what it's like to walk down the street holding hands with her partner. It's scary, she said. Your eyes dart around looking for potential threats. There are angry glances and rolling eyes. What begins as a leisurely walk on a night out turns into a dinner consumed with talking about homophobia and the fear and caution you are forced to live your life with. She ended this way, "It's f#$%ing exhausting to be gay".
There may be all kinds of reasons to not support Bill 18. It's not perfect. It's not beyond reproach. But it's somewhere to start. Those two stories in today's paper convinced me of that more than ever.