If my blog is the measuring stick, it has been about 10 months since I've had a 'theme' emerge from my week. But this week, a theme emerged. It hinged around 3 different things: a school LGBTQ+ policy, an assault commited against a transgendered person here in Red Deer, and the media's handling of the Syrian refugee crisis.
Point 1: My kid goes to a Christian school that exists inside the public school system. Same curriculum as the public school, but taught by Christian teachers, with an extra period each day wherein they learn Bible. The district is currently developing and formalizing its policy on LGBTQ+ students and teachers, and they've asked for feedback from stakeholders. Needless to say, Gateway School has a disproportionate share of those who would not support such policies, and that was made clear in various feedback avenues. I won't go into more detail than that, because it's school business and a lot of my info is second hand. Supporters of the policy didn't engage the way detractors did because it was a non-issue for them. Non-supporters showed up. Prepared.
Point 2: I recently heard a story about a transgendered person who was badly beaten by a few drunk guys as she walked home here in Red Deer.
- SPECIAL NOTE - if you are reading this, and you are the sort of person who may find yourself beating up a transgendered person after having a couple drinks, just go stick a fork in an electrical socket.
Point 3: The tone of the conversation on this Syrian Refugee Crisis. This kinda sums it up:
I mean, holy moley. Mouthpieces like Donald Trump and Maher are giving sound bytes to the whole right wing, and there is a seriously scary school of thought starting to emerge. These are families, people! Normal folks just like us! Who just can't happen to do life where they used to because, you know, bombs keep exploding all around them.
Okay. Back to what I first said about privilege. If you're like me, these may be hard issues to identify with.
Perhaps you have an idea of how it should be - homosexuality is against the bible's teachings, that transgendered individuals go against some sort of 'way we do things'. That refugees may take jobs, use up scarce resources needed by local poor folks, or hide extremists among them. If you have beliefs like these, I could see it being really hard to support those people who seem so different than the way you feel things should be.
I'll present the other side as a question: Have you ever felt like an outsider? Sure you have. We all have. Ever started a new job? Moved to a new place? Been the only one who didn't get the joke? Been pulled over by the police? You feel exposed. Most of us expend considerable energy getting our lives as far from that feeling as we can.
Now imagine that you are always never on the inside. Imagine you're 12 (or your kid is 12), and though the school he goes to SAYS it supports the needs of LGBTQ+ students, he knows that the parents were strongly opposed to it, and probably taught their kids the same. But he can't stop being attracted to the boys in his class. Does he feel safe to ask questions in class and explore learning? Or does he feel like he's fundamentally failed his community?
I bet he feels like he failed. Which means we've failed that child.
Imagine being transgendered. Actually no. I won't ask you to go that far. Just imagine that any time you walk anywhere, you always feel at risk of being laughed at, mocked, stared at, or even attacked.
I don't care how you feel about transgendered people. If we are leaving ANYONE to feel that way when they walk around this town, WE HAVE FAILED THEM. And ourselves. And if we are raising kids who would beat a transgendered person up just for being visible, guess what? We've failed our kids too.
And when it comes to refugees, guess what? We have welcomed many Somali, Iraqi, and other refugees to Red Deer in the past. You know what has blown up? Nothing. Except the amount of donair shops. I'd call that a win.
We don't get to choose if it's our kid who comes out of the closet. We don't get to choose who gets displaced and needs our help. We don't get to choose who is walking the streets of Red Deer, or how they choose to dress or present themselves.
But you know what IS up to us? Whether we make this city a SAFE place for all, or whether we don't.
You know what IS up to us? Whether we raise our kids to accept those who look and act differently than us, or whether we don't.
You know what IS up to us? Whether we help our neighbour when they need something, or not. Whether we help the stranger who needs something, or whether we don't.
The people of Red Deer are caring, hard working, no-nonsense people. I have all the faith in the world that we can get this handled - take care of these people. Make people as safe as we 'insiders' feel here. We just have to decide it's what we want to do.