Opinion

Sexuality an issue Cowichan needs to talk about

When it comes to bringing issues to the spotlight, Hollywood can’t be beat.

At the recent Golden Globe Awards, 50-year-old acting virtuoso Jodie Foster gave a heartfelt speech alluding to her sexuality.

And while her acceptance speech of the Cecil B. DeMille Award left many of us confused as to what she was actually saying, her rambling, listing narrative sparked a discussion that needed to be sparked.

Does a celebrity who identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, queer, questioning or two-spirited have the responsibility to publicly stand up and make a loud and proud proclamation, in the hopes those less famous will be given the courage to do the same?

I don’t think celebrity has anything to do with it — I think we all have responsibilities based on being human.

Let’s be clear: Foster is a 47-year Hollywood veteran and international legend, who happens to be a lesbian mother of two; I am a childless recyclist-come-columnist, living a common-law, opposite-sex relationship in a tiny town with a heck of a lot of rain and not a heck of a lot of rainbows. We have little in common.

But I think we both have the responsibility to do what is in our power to support the rights of individuals to be who they are.

For a long, long time I’ve sat back, hoping that because other peoples’ sexual or gender identity isn’t of a personal concern to me, that others would feel the same. I wrongly worried that if we pushed ahead with conversations about acceptance of LGBTQ2S, and the rights of people to identify themselves as themselves, we would be making an issue out of a non-issue; we would be provoking those who are vehemently opposed to such individual rights to rise up and intensify their discriminatory efforts.

I also wondered about my own credentials in being vocal. As a heterosexual male, who am I to talk about the intricacies of being LGBTQ2S? Who am I to comment on what life is like and what change is needed?

The answer, I think, to those questions is that I am a person. My opinions are credible because I have a conscience, a desire to live in an inclusive community, and a voice.

I may never have faced the discrimination LGBTQ2S folks have faced here in Cowichan, but I have noticed the lack of evidence that our community is, indeed, inclusive.

Services, for one, are few and far between.

Unlike in other school districts, here in SD79 there is a distinct shortage of Gay Straight Alliance clubs for youth. We are fortunate to have the local GSA run out of Community Options Society, but the one location is hardly enough. And youth are the ones we need to be focused on.

According to the 2009 Canadian Policy Research Network’s report for BC Housing, statistics from the 2007 McCreary Centre Society’s study show that one in five street youth in B.C. self-identify as being either gay, lesbian or bi-sexual, compared to only three percent of the general population in schools.

Those statistics lead to the questions of what is happening to force these kids on to the streets, and what can the rest of the population do to stop this?

One step is to become educated on using inclusive language and changing those previously held myths around sexual and gender identity.

Another is to be vocal, be visible and be vigilant in your advocacy. Put up a rainbow sticker in your window. Don’t stand by if you hear a homophobic joke — interrupt and explain why discrimination is hurtful.  Tell people to stop using “gay” as a pejorative.  And, most importantly, be an ally by practicing non-discrimination in everyday life.

Until everyone agrees that we all have the right to be individuals and acceptance is the norm, this needs to continue to be a public conversation.

We can’t keep quiet.

Aaron Bichard writes for newspapers and recycles them. Connect with him at cowichanrecyclists@gmail.com.

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