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Statement Concerning the Hanover School Division and LGBTTQ* Information in Classrooms

(Winnipeg, MB; April 18, 2016) – In response to the recent presentation to the Hanover School Division’s (HSD) board of trustees regarding the teaching of LGBTTQ* information in classrooms, Pride Winnipeg would like to officially state its support for the implementation of a policy similar to the Winnipeg School Division’s diversity and equity education policy within the HSD.

It is important to clarify that although Michelle McHale is a member of the Pride Winnipeg Board of Directors, she brought forward these concerns to the HSD on her own accord in a personal capacity. However, given the public engagement surrounding this initiative, we feel that it is important for Pride Winnipeg to speak out on this matter and support Michelle’s efforts.

Children who are raised or educated in an environment that is unsupportive or silent on LGBTTQ* issues are being sheltered from how the world has evolved to become more open and accepting. These children could end up being a bully or they could end up being an LGBTTQ* child who is bullied or too afraid to be themselves. What’s worse is that espousing intolerant views around LGBTTQ* children or those with LGBTTQ* parents can lead to trauma, mental health issues or in some cases suicide:

· A 2009 study indicated that “lesbian, gay and bisexual young adults who reported higher levels of family rejection during adolescence were 8.4 times more likely to report having attempted suicide, 5.9 times more likely to report high levels of depression, 3.4 times more likely to use illegal drugs…compared with peers from families that reported no or low levels of family rejection”.[1]

· A 2011 study of grade 11 youth revealed: “Among lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth, the risk of attempting suicide was 20% greater in unsupportive environments compared to supportive environments. A more supportive social environment was significantly associated with fewer suicide attempts…”[2]

As adults we have an obligation to put the safety and wellbeing of children above all else, including when the protection of a child is at odds with one’s own personal beliefs. Selflessly setting aside personal views for the greater good of protecting children can have powerful and positive consequences:

· “Family acceptance in adolescence is associated with young adult positive health outcomes (self-esteem, social support, and general health) and is protective for negative health outcomes (depression, substance abuse, and suicidal ideation and attempts).[3]
· “Providing education about gender expression and LGBT issues to students, administrators, staff, and teachers is another key strategy for increasing safety in schools.”[4]

Pride Winnipeg calls on the HSD board of trustees to demonstrate leadership, set aside any conflicting personal beliefs, and put the best interests of our children first by instituting a more proactive, open, and accepting environment in relation to educating children about LGBTTQ* issues. It is up to us as parents, caregivers, aunts, uncles, educators, mentors and role models to do the right thing. Our children should expect nothing less from each of us.

Pride Winnipeg – The Pride of the Prairies – is one of the largest celebrations between Toronto and Vancouver of LGBTTQ* (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, two-spirit, queer, questioning, intersex, and pansexual) people and their allies, supporters and friends. Our mission is to affirm the lives of everyone by generating and participating in events that celebrate the history, culture, spirit and pride of people within the Winnipeg community. We invite everyone from far and wide to join our welcoming city and celebrate Pride in Winnipeg – the heart of the continent.


 

[1] Ryan, Caitlin et. al. “Family Rejection as a Predictor of Negative Health Outcomes in White and Latino Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Young Adults”. Pediatrics. Volume 123. Issue 1. January 2009.

2 Hatzenbuehler, Mark L. “The Social Environment and Suicide Attempts in Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Youth”. Pediatrics. Volume 127. Issue 5. May 2011.

3 Ryan, Caitlin et. al. “Family Acceptance in Adolescence and the Health of LGBT Young Adults”. Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing. Volume 23. Number 4. November 2010.

4 Toomey, Russell et. al. “Gender-Nonconforming Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Youth: School Victimization and Young Adult Psychosocial Adjustment”. Developmental Psychology. Vol. 46. No.6. 2010.