An Open Letter from Robin
Dear Students of Bishop Reding,
I am your unknown queer classmate, Robin, here to share my experience as an openly queer student at BR. My experience has had some significant ups and downs that have really made me confident putting myself out there and sharing my journey with the school.
While this whole article will be about bringing to light all of the downsides of being openly gay, my hope is that by sharing my experiences, I can shed some light on the challenges, but more importantly, share some positive aspects as well. I want to take this section to thank all my wonderful friends and supporting teachers who have really helped me put myself out there so I can be proud of who I am. Without these wonderful people I wouldn’t be here today trying to help encourage the BR community to be more accepting and sympathetic towards the LGBTQ+ community. I love Bishop Reding and I think we are a great community that is always striving to be the best that they can be. The concerns I raise within my letter are important for our community to see and try to understand that these problems should never have to exist for future generations.
Some of the biggest downs that I have experienced have come from some of the attitudes that others have directed towards me in the past. For example, the most degrading experience was when a group of guys were making fun of my significant other and I. This happened in my first year of high school. I was holding hands with my same-sex partner and a group of three older boys walked past us. One of the boys took one look at us, turned to his friends, and very loudly asked them, “Have you guys ever seen same-sex adult films?” while making eye contact with me. As they laughed and walked away, I turned to my partner in utter confusion because I couldn’t process exactly what had happened. I understood what they did was wrong and degrading towards us and any LGBTQ+ couple, but I was surprised they had acted so openly homophobic towards us. Most homophobic people I knew just steered clear of me like I was a plague, or awkwardly stared at me and tried to ignore that I just came out to them. A while after the incident, I was just mad I couldn’t defend myself in time, that I just let someone that ignorant ‘win’.
Unfortunately, this is not the first time people were openly homophobic. To this day, students at BR call each other ‘gay’ as an insult and use other derogatory LGBTQ+ terms to insult one another. What they don’t realize is that a gay person could potentially be overhearing their conversation, thus creating a hostile environment. Even the smallest things such as using the word ‘gay’ can make a queer student feel inferior and oppressed. It is important that people learn that words and phrases that were originally popularized with the intent to humiliate and degrade others still offend and humiliate queer people today. It has taken a long time for Canadian laws to be put in place to protect members of the LGBTQ+ community, so to have this long-awaited progress be undone by words that could be easily avoided, is upsetting. These terms have been used by bigoted people as they killed and abused queer people. These terms were a label for people who felt forced to conform into a life of heteronormativity because it wasn't safe to be themselves. These terms are not appropriate synonyms for “lame”, nor should they be used as insults. These terms are just like any other derogatory term; they were born out of hate, bloodshed, and ignorance. These terms are not to be used lightly.
However, the above shows two problems of how people are homophobic, but there are worse people than that: those who are subtly homophobic. The main way I found out about these people was through comments like “Oh, ha ha ha, yeah I hope you don’t hit on me” or giving me a weird look when I try to hug people the same sex as me. The biggest way they showed their homophobia was when they would introduce me to people as "queer". For anyone reading this: it is never okay to tell someone your friend’s sexuality or justify it by saying that “You always say it, so why can’t I?” The person who is queer is allowed to say it because they have their own consent and you don’t have theirs. You can have the power to make a queer person feel comfortable in the school. Why not make others feel welcome?
Your kind act for the day could be correcting someone who uses any derogatory term towards queer people as a way to joke around with friends because you never know when the smallest actions can have the biggest impact.
P.S. There is a GSA at BR called Spectrum. They meet every Tuesday in Room 105 and if you feel that you need someone to help you regarding anything, they’d be willing to lend an ear.