The Work Being Done By GSAs in Rural Schools Is Not Being Reflected By Reaction to Middle Arm & Springdale

It’s Wednesday lunchtime in a busy junior high school in small-town Newfoundland. Grade 7,8 and 9 students trickle into a classroom calling out friendly greetings to one another. Students sit in a large circle, lay out their lunches and begin to chat. Eventually, someone raises the topic of the Springdale crosswalk. A healthy discussion ensues. The students come to a general consensus that there is a lack of understanding amongst an older generation. One of them says, “How can we make people understand?” Another replies, “Let’s have an information night and invite local parents.”

This student-led conversation occurred recently at a meeting of the Gender-Sexuality Alliance at my school in central Newfoundland. I have been staff sponsor of GSA groups for almost a decade now, and I have witnessed dozens of such conversations.

Where people on social media and in the news lament the lack of support for LGBT-Q+ folks, the kids at the center of the discourse just put their heads together and try to make things better for everyone. They care about and educate one another, and we can learn a lot from them.

People have been very vocal about the lack of support for the LGBT-Q+ community in rural Newfoundland and Labrador lately. While it is worthwhile to report these stories, it is also important to highlight the good things that are happening. If we flip the script, we can see that Springdale has a very active GSA at their high school.

Likewise, the Get Real program which became a topic of dissent in Middle Arm last week has been delivered at schools across the province over the course of the last few years with hardly a mention at all. Many of our junior and senior high schools have GSAs, and most schools have run educational programs around LGBT-Q+ respect and inclusion. Our school staffs have completed training by EGALE certified trainers.

The young people in our rural communities will not hide their heads in shame and say, “We live in a backward place” because of the decisions of a handful of adults. They know that the 4 people on the Springdale town council who voted against the crosswalk don’t represent everyone. (And in the days since they’ve watched knowingly as the same councillors decided to raise rainbow flags and paint picnic tables). They know that the parents in Middle Arm who kept their kids home are afraid of something they do not know a lot about, and that education, not division, is key.

The students in our rural GSAs are proud of the work they have done and continue to do. They organize socials and awareness days. They reach out to other kids who are interested in human rights and they make them a part of a group. They educate their parents and other adults. They create equity by giving a voice to kids who just a generation ago were completely marginalized. They build community.

Let’s shine a little light on the positive work that is being done in rural communities. If we always focus on the naysayers, we may create division where there should be conversation. Do not shortchange the power and influence of this young set of voices in our rural communities. It is strong and growing

More from Janine Taylor Cutting

12 Comments

  • This is going to sound crazy, but hear me out…..

    What if the parents let the kids decide for themselves

  • I think you could benefit from this education, KM – diversity could mean diversity in thought so you can accept people think differently than you and maybe then you could stop acting like the moral arbiter.

  • I think we all have a lot to learn from our youth about acceptance and diversity, and this article sums it up perfectly. The irony is in all of the ignorant comments made, when this well-written article was simply promoting the need for more education.

  • Ah, anonymous, the ultimate liberal argument of them all: you disagree so you must be dumb and bigoted. You disagree so you’re racist, Nazi, kkk, whatever. You disagree so we tar and feather you until you are harrangued and harassed to believe our way. Get fkd.

  • There’s no strawman arguments here. You people clearly feel like it’s okay to teach your children Gay Is Wrong. Nothing more to say? Other than your brains and hearts are small. People are born as they’re born: black or white, blonde or brunette, straight or gay. End of story.

  • Progressive bullshit, tune it out, shut them up. They’re just looking for freebie money and attention. There have been studies done about the rainbow crosswalks needing far more than usual maintenence and all the associated added costs because they are not true road paints, and getting multicolored road paint is just added cost-plus union labor ad nauseam. STOP IT

  • Typical liberal bullshit – making strawman arguments and appealing to the emotions.
    Since when does teaching your own kids values equate to teaching them to hate gay people?
    It’s not right to force your beliefs on your children? Why is it ok to have other people’s beliefs forced on their children?
    You guys spend too much time on social media, get a life..

  • Lady Day: Personally I think it’s the definition of backwards you support anyone who wants to make gay people feel like outcasts because they were born gay. Who gives a crap who they love as long as they’re loved? No god or decent human would disagree.

  • Lady Day: It is not your right to force your beliefs on your children. That’s the point you’re missing. It’s disturbing to teach your kids to hate or judge their gay peers, by the way. And yes, the community is intolerant if it won’t let them do what communities worldwide do to end homophobia and abuse and intolerance (like yours): paint a side walk. Why do you think the Middle Arm thing made national news if it wasn’t such a big deal? It’s appalling and backwards to discriminate and tell gay kids they’re “weird” or choosing to be devilish, or whatever your strange reaction here is.

  • Why do LGBT groups think they can strong arm their ideas on everybody else and expect no dissenting opinion? Oh they didn’t allow us to paint the crosswalk how we want so the community is intolerant..
    Also, Parents choosing to keep their children home is a right of theirs no matter how you frame it.
    Personally i think it’s pretty backwards how these activists constantly force their opinions on everyone else. It feels like they need everyone to agree with them so they don’t feel as stupid making a public debacle.

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