Say Nothing? Set 4: Guided Questions

When we speak for others, when we try to “help,” are we doing more harm than good?

Is doing nothing at all just as bad?

There was a civic election this weekend. Running for school board trustees were 5 members of Parent’s Voice, a group that sprung out of the protests against School Distrtict-41’s recently enacted anti-homophobia policy 5.45. The Parent’s Voice slate only ran candidates for school trustee positions and it was clear that the only reason they were running was to attempt to overturn policy 5.45.

The main reason they say the policy should be overturned is that the current anti-bullying and conduct policies implicitly address violence and discrimination against sexual minorities. Parent’s Voice and its supporters also criticize this policy as they say it is “sex activists” to “sexualize students” and “lure” them into “homosexualist culture” and it threatens parental authority. Authority presumably to teach their children that homosexuality is wrong.

I find it horribly offensive that a group would actively oppose a policy that only exists to protect children and school staff members. What does this say to children who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, or Transgendered (LGBT)? To their same-sex parents? To their teachers who might be afraid to be public about their sexual orientation? Saying that sexual minorities are protected by implication is not enough. This group is actively discriminated against and does not have the same rights and freedoms as other citizens.

Even though I do not identify as a sexual minority, I still have a voice. I want my children to go to a school that explicitly protects and respects other’s sexual orientation. I want people in my community who do identify with a sexual minority to feel that they can be open about who they are and not feel like they have to hide. To be invisible. Which is what Parent’s Voice wants. They say everyone is protected under current school policy, so why make it explicit to protect sexual minorities? Because these people are not invisible, they do have a voice, and efforts to tuck them into the corners of society restricts my rights and freedoms as well.

I spoke for sexual minorities this weekend in several ways. First, I voted yesterday. I voted for the incumbents school trustees who brought in this inclusive policy and against those who would take away the voice and protections for sexual minorities. Second, I told all my friends on Facebook, Twitter, the parent’s Google Group I moderate, and anyone else who would listen not to vote for Parent’s Voice. Lastly, I emailed Parent’s Voice a letter and posted it on the Burnaby Parents Gay/Straight Alliance Facebook group and my parent’s group.

Here is my letter:

Dear Parents Voice Members.

First, I really wish you would change your name. You do not speak for all parents.

Second, why aren’t you running on your true agenda?

Why is it hidden?

I find it extremely hypocritical that you do not mention policy 5.45 on your website when everyone knows that is why you are all running for positions on the Burnaby school board.

Who had the hidden agenda now? You keep saying the “gays” have a hidden agenda. So do you apparently.

If any of you get elected I will seriously consider pulling my child from the Burnaby school system. I am not the only one. I do not want my child to bullied or think they are not “normal” just because they may identify with a sexual orientation other than what you consider to be normal or acceptable. Your campaign against policy 5.45 shows that you think any sexual orientation other than heterosexual is aberrant. Why do you pretend otherwise?

You say that policy 5.45 is not necessary because Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals, and Transgenders are already protected under the current policies. If this is the case, why oppose 5.45? Why explicitly exclude them? Why make any child or person who works for the school board feel unwelcome or under threat of violence?

I will not be voting for any of you on Saturday. I hope you all find something better to do with your time very soon,

Theresa Burley-Hughes

A few hours I received an email from a family in my community:

Dear Theresa:
As a same-sex parent with a son in grade one in a Burnaby school, I have only two words to say–thank you.

I think in cases like this it is imperative to “use” the stories of others. To stand with them and show those who would marginalize them that you do not share their views. I think when people are made to feel invisible that we have a duty to use our own status and privilege to strengthen their voices.

The election results showed the Parent’s Voice was shutout. It appears that many other’s speak for the LGBT community and their right to protection and inclusion as well.


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