Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Thursday May 4, 2023
Why Flying the Pride Flag Matters
Recently, a disturbing incident occurred outside a meeting of the York Catholic District School Board. Adults who claimed to be protecting Ontario’s children were actually endangering their well-being. Many of these adults, likely parents of school-aged children, showed up to the meeting to vehemently oppose the possibility of the board flying the rainbow flag in support of LGBTQ students in June. They even hurled insults at those who were in favour of flying the flag.
Although some of these adults claim that their objection was not specifically to the Pride flag but to what they believe it represents – the alleged corruption of children who are supposedly too young to learn about gender and sexuality – this notion is misguided. Everyone is capable of learning about gay, transgender, and non-binary people, just as they can learn about cisgender and heterosexual people. Queer people are not sexually explicit by their mere existence.
The belief that exposing children to queer people is harmful is nonsensical and is based on hateful, age-old myths about queer people as a corrupting influence on children. This belief is also derived from a particular brand of anti-LGBTQ politics typically associated with the United States. However, the events at the Catholic school board in York Region demonstrate that Canada is not immune to public displays of hateful rhetoric.
Pride celebrations are essential in schools to support marginalized kids who need it. Flying the Pride flag is not merely an act of virtue signalling; it is an official declaration of support for these kids. According to a recent survey conducted by the LGBTQ advocacy group EGALE, anti-queer discrimination is still prevalent in Canadian schools. For instance, 64% of all participants reported hearing homophobic comments daily or weekly at school. Moreover, 79% of transgender students who experienced physical harassment reported that teachers and staff were ineffective in addressing transphobic harassment. Lastly, over 30% of respondents who attend Catholic schools reported experiencing harassment based on their perceived sexual orientation.
We have made significant progress as a society regarding inclusion, but there is still much work to be done. It is critical that schools fly the Pride flag to signal to kids that even if their peers or parents reject them because of their identity, the school itself – and those at its helm – do not. Education Minister Stephen Lecce made it clear that he supports LGBTQ students, and we hope that York Region’s Catholic school board will follow suit. (AI)