We sat around the kitchen table, discussing our strategies for marching in the Steinbach Pride Parade. My friends and I had neon pink poster boards and multi-coloured markers, ready to create slogans that expressed our anger and frustration with the local politicians and school division of the southern Manitoba region. The public representatives were avoiding and denouncing the rights of the LGBTTQ* children and adults in their community. Our initial ideas were snarky and sarcastic. With online death threats being hurled at one of my friends, we were not feeling particularly kind.
As we talked, the horrific Orlando shootings were on my mind. But it was the individual personal experiences that moved me to reconsider my approach to the people of Steinbach.
I remembered the one boy in my high school in the 1970s that was teased daily for being a “fag”…the common slur of the times. He always seemed to be crying. I was aware but naïve. I shrugged my shoulders and walked away.
I thought about the sociology research paper I wrote in 1979 at the University of Winnipeg. It was a study of the effects of same-sex parents on children’s development. There was little information in the library stacks. No internet yet. I studied legal custody cases trying to find answers. In the end, my research uncovered no negative effects unless the parents were addicted or abusive: common findings for all families.
With utmost sadness, I recalled one trans teen’s victimization at the hands of school bullies, challenging each other to kick their classmate in the crotch every day for one hundred days. Just for fun.
When I took ally training with the Rainbow Resource Centre at the college I worked at, I learned that the institution was historically considered an unsafe space for LGBTTQ* students and I felt a little sick.
My petite daughter shared with me that, living in Toronto, she walks closely with her seven-foot tall drag queen friend, to offer support and protection from cruel harassment.
I considered the parents in Steinbach who only wanted their child to be respected by teachers and classmates. This family eventually left town. I wonder what that does to a child.
And I am shocked by the hatred aimed at the friend sitting with me at my dining room table…a person full of life and humour and compassion for others. But he is gay. He is a target.
So how did we face Steinbach Pride?
Without nasty slogans.
The online haters did not show their faces in real time with real people.
I walked for some people I love. I don’t want them to be hurt anymore.
We marched in solidarity with the families of Steinbach who choose to care.
The conservative streets were overflowing with rainbows and welcomes.
With glitter and applause.
©Conni Cartlidge July 2016