Musings from the ever-changing, ever-amazing and occasionally ever-baffling Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

The Aftermath of Bill 10

I sit at my desk late that day, realizing that every muscle in my body aches. I feel as if I have undergone a particularly gruelling workout. Coupled with my swirling thoughts, though, my entire body feels as if I have just come through a battle instead. And a battle of sorts it was, I suppose, the battle surrounding the contentious Bill 10.

Just earlier I had watched a live newsfeed of the press conference. As soon as I had gotten word that the conference was happening I called the Intrepid Junior Blogger to tell her what was about to occur, and then we began texting back and forth furiously to find a live feed.

"Have you found one?"

"Yes, just now, here's the link."

And so we watched together, separated in the physical sense but united in our intense desire to see what would happen next.

"He looks tired. Maybe a little angry."

"Both, I think. He just got back from a trip. He didn't think this would happen. And this won't be easy for him."

And we watched as the Premier of our province announced that Bill 10 would be put on hold indefinitely, pending further consultations with the people of this province. The announcement attempted to put the most positive spin on it, of course, tried to make it sound like Bill 10 was far better than the hastily prepared, and even more hastily amended, flawed document we knew it to be, but spin is part of the art of politics and even the IJB knew that. The Premier took responsibility for the debacle - and a debacle it has been - for which both the IJB and I were grateful as that is what true leaders do.

It was a strange moment, not quite a victory but also not the crushing loss it would have been had the government continued to ram Bill 10 through. But it would have come at their own cost to do so, too, as serious cracks were beginning to show within their ranks, MLAs openly stating they would not support the bill and I suspect many more behind the scenes questioning the wisdom of passing a bill that was so clearly unpopular, so clearly flawed in many regards and so clearly pleased virtually no one. Pressing pause on the bill was not only wise but quite likely entirely necessary to save themselves from the looming trainwreck ahead, and they stopped the engine in the nick of time (although already too late for some who had already jumped on someone else's train).

The IJB and I had discussed this battle before we fought it. We had talked about picking your battles wisely, and knowing which are the hills you are willing to die on. We discussed the consequences of taking a side and throwing yourselves into the fray, and we talked about how sometimes politicians are so insulated by their ranks of "yes men" and their echo chambers that it was necessary as citizens to take a strong stance to shake them up and out of their complacency in their chosen direction. We had discussed this hill and whether it was the one we were willing to die on - and we decided it was a good hill.

As with any controversial issue that I have written about my email inbox began to fill up fast and furious with commentary from readers. Most were extremely supportive. Some were, very decidedly, not.

There are those who say maybe we don't need GSAs and that equality and acceptance already exists in our schools, and while I hope that to be true I would venture that based on some emails I received that unless our youth are learning from other adults some are likely learning hate, anger and homophobia instead. I had emails questioning my ability as a parent. I had emails questioning my own sexual orientation. I had emails accusing me of using my child as a pawn in the g** agenda (written exactly like that, too, as if the word gay was somehow contagious and would infect them if they typed it). I saw a dark underside of some of the people who share our planet, walk our streets and live in this province. And it showed me exactly why youth need access to GSAs.

For some youth the GSA in their school may well be the only place they find acceptance and understanding, because I fear some of them live with parents or families like my correspondents above. I received so many emails from individuals who told me of a youth spent in pain and fear because they could not tell their own parents who they really were. They told me of struggles with depression and thoughts of suicide as they felt they had nowhere to turn. GSAs don't just help to make schools more accepting and inclusive - my correspondents were telling me that for some it may well be the only place they can feel safe at all, including their own homes.

There were some correspondents who expressed themselves with such vitriol that even I, after years of hate mail, was taken aback. They told me this was just another of my "crusades", all about me and my own ego and my notoriety. As I sat there late that evening and realized that I felt weary in body and soul I could only reflect on how wrong they were. This wasn't about me. It was about the transgender people in my life, the family member I love dearly and the child of a dear friend. It was about all the people I have known over my years who told me stories of coming out and of the trials they faced in their school years. It was about my own daughter who kept telling me that things just were not like they were years ago and that the decisions being made in the highest offices in our province were not reflective of reality today. It wasn't about me or the other adults in the discussion but about kids like mine who felt they had no voice and no way to make themselves heard - but this week I helped my kid to share her voice using the avenues I had to do so.

I dragged my weary body into my cold car and headed home. I arrived there to find sparkling bright Christmas light flashing, and the IJB on her laptop surrounded by cats and blankets and empty cans of Coke and homework scattered around her. And then she looked up at me and smiled, this beaming smile, and I forgot the aching muscles, the headaches, the hate mail and the battle song, and just hugged my kid instead. One battle was behind us, and peace talks in the form of consultations, hopefully with youth like her, loomed instead. It was a good time for two weary soldiers to just take a moment for some rest. And so we did, because we knew more battles - more good hills - lie ahead, and we would be there to fight on them, together.

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