On Bella’s first day in her new school, she came out. She came out as a foster kid. She came out as an adoptee. And, she came out as a kid with two lesbian moms.
While her history with the care system seems to be long forgotten by her peers, she has been permanently labeled as child of queer parents. With this singular tidbit of information subject to 10-year-old imagination and logic, Bella is now the grade 5 “lez.” This is because we all know that gay parents breed gay children or turn the children gay that we care for even if we don’t breed them. Right.
Everyday Bella comes home from school with a new story of homophobic bullying and harassment. Within the first week of being at her new school, the school’s administration was made aware of the homo-taunts and sent a letter home with nearly half of the sixth grade class. At first, she didn’t even understand the words her peers were using against her.
Bella gets stopped in the hallways and questioned about her family. She’s told that she’s weird and is a “lez.” She gets vilified and alienated.
We tell Bella that words can only have the power over you that you give them. We explain how bullying works, we explain how to deflect it, and we give her tips and tools to survive her school days.
Her teacher tells her that sometimes a little information is too much and can be a dangerous thing. The result of this is that Bella is shamed for having the family that she does and is told that she disclosed too much to her peers.
For the first three months of school we knew nothing of this. We had our suspicions, but Bella denied it. Finally, two weeks ago, all of this came to a head and Bella asked if we’d be willing to come to her class to speak about families and our family in particular.
We set up an appointment with her teacher and principal to address the bullying and to implement concrete steps to get this to stop. While giving lip service to the values of diversity, equality and religious freedom, it seems the school has forgot their commitment to creating a safe school with an inclusive learning environment for all children. Diversity does include sexual orientation and gender identity.
After all of discussion on various approaches, and feeling that we as parents were on the same page as the school, we were just informed by the teacher that when a lesson on puberty is delivered in the next week or so that they will plant a question of LGBTTQ issues. This is the same teacher who was clear in our preliminary discussions that she didn’t have the expertise to speak on LGBTTQ issues, even had to ask us what LGBTTQ meant, and was relying on us as both parents and community activists to be of assistance.
To help the school get it, I wrote an email that contained the following analogy. “If one of your Muslim students was being teased for fasting during Ramadan, you wouldn't deliver a lesson on world religions, ask one question about Ramadan in a sea of questions about other religious faiths and expect that your students would be equipped with enough information to have curiosity alleviated and stop the harassment.”
I haven't received a response....yet.
I live in Canada. We have benefits and law that recognizes both us and our family. I’m married to my Wife.
While I never doubt that we are so much further along with human rights than the majority of people in the world, it is situations like this that we and other LGBTQ and/or non-traditional families face daily that remind me of how far we still have to go.
This post has been written in honour of Blogging for LGBT Families Day. You can find out more here.