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#ProtectABKids? LGBTQ kids need more protection than others

Much like the black community, the LGBTQ community has specific issues that come from a history of oppression, bigotry and violence.

Education Minister David Eggen.

Metro file

Education Minister David Eggen.

I’m neither a parent nor transgender, but I did grow up bisexual in a Catholic family where homosexuality wasn’t met with loving understanding.

While my experiences aren’t everyone’s, they weren’t positive — and from that I know the vulnerability children face in a world that doesn’t accept LGBTQ people.

Which brings us to the idea of protection in Alberta’s schools and the ongoing battle over LGBTQ policies.

On March 1, a campaign called #ProtectABKids started trending in Alberta on Twitter.

The campaign was a response to the Alberta government’s mandate for schools to create LGBTQ policies by March 31 following its guidelines.

A sampling of the tweets includes ‘Respect ALL diversity!’; ‘Safety for ALL students must be a priority!’

What came to my mind from this was the blowback to the Black Lives Matter movement: an obstinate, tone-deaf insistence to ignore historical injustice of one marginalized, racialized community and say “All lives Matter.”

Much like the black community, the LGBTQ community has specific issues that come from a history of oppression, bigotry and violence. A push for equality in these cases sometimes means special protections.

But there are parents’ groups that feel their concerns  are going unaddressed.

Donna Trimble, executive director for Parents for Choice in Education, signed on to the campaign with some reluctance. “It’s a really tough thing to approach because you end up being labelled,” she says.

Parents for Choice in Education say their primary concern with the government’s LGBTQ guidelines is what they call a stripping of parental rights. The new guidelines say educators should seek advance permission from the student before they disclose kids’ gender identity or sexual orientation to their parent.

Trimble argues vulnerable children are already protected through a hotline teachers must call if they feel that a child does not have a safe home environment.
But do these measures help?

LGBTQ youth are at higher risk of self-harm, depression, sexual violence and substance abuse. And within this group, transgender people fare the worst, as they’re subjected to discrimination that can make finding employment difficult.

Still, it wasn’t easy to dismiss Trimble’s concerns.

While a great deal of misinformation has been spread about the government’s guidelines, Trimble is concerned about the top-down approach to policy development and school resources for counselling. Those seem fair to me.
The push back against the #ProtectABKids campaign was forceful. It had to be when so many of the objections are ill-informed and based on fear of LGBTQ people.

On the other hand, the concerns from parents’ groups can’t completely be disregarded. Where the campaign fell apart for me was its rhetoric about safety for all students. It ignores that some groups are at more risk. Policies are a Band-Aid solution to a social problem, but right now in Alberta, they’re needed to protect LGBTQ children.

Danielle Paradis loves Edmonton, politics and flowcharts. She tweets @DaniParadis.

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