Gay-Straight Alliances — or GSAs, as they are commonly known — remain a hot topic in our province and in our city. These school clubs are created by students, for students, to offer kids a safe peer group to talk openly with about sexual orientation and gender identity. GSA meetings are meant to foster safe, caring, inclusive conversations… values that I’m sure all parents would like to see included in any club or sports team in which their child chooses to participate.
As I knock on doors in Ward D I’ve come across the odd voter and/or parent who believes that a GSA poses a threat to their children or to their rights as a parent. I haven’t run into very many anti-GSA supporters and when I do, let’s just say that we agree to disagree.
The voters I’m running into far more often are the ones asking me about my position on GSAs. They want GSAs, and they want a clear affirmation that if elected I will continue to support these clubs in schools. They also feel, as I do, that schools should not require a student to obtain parental consent to join a GSA. It’s getting to be a tired question but one that bears repeating: should parental consent be required for chess club?
These questions are welcome and essential if we are to continue to support LGBTQ students in Edmonton’s public schools. I’ve also realized that I’m fielding so many of these questions because GSAs still aren’t guaranteed in every school in Alberta.The rights of students to set up a GSA, although included in the Alberta School Act, aren’t a given. Voters who support GSAs, and those who are fighting hard to help LGBTQ kids, know that this issue remains a problem and small steps towards equality cannot be taken for granted.
Voters deserve clear answers from all school board trustees on the issue of GSAs and the question of parental consent. Voters also deserve to know which organizations, if any, are sponsoring school board candidates so that the electorate may judge for itself whether or not their values line up.
On the doorstep, I declare loudly and proudly that of course I support GSAs. Of course I’m against outing kids against their will to their parents. Of course I support equal rights for all. Of course I do.
Yet amidst this pride it is a bit sad for me to realize that we still live in an age where we have to declare our public support for the LGBTQ community. I’d like to see a day where all of us think like many of the children I know think. Where pink and pink together in the game of Life is the norm. Where washrooms don’t have gender identifications. When GSAs aren’t — dare I say it? –even needed.
We’re not there yet. But one day we will be, and I will work to help get us there.