Outreach on GLBTQ Issues
Students from the local high school march in Salt Spring's first-ever pride parade
Through its history, GLOSSI has engaged in diverse activities to support GLBTQ people on the island, combat homophobia, and educate the general community on GLBTQ issues. Our activities have included:
in Same-Sex Relationships: How Can Family Doctors Help?
Contributed by Bill T., 2009
Salt Spring’s progressive and high-performing secondary school, GISS, has had an active GAY-STRAIGHT ALLIANCE since 2004, when it was initiated by three grade 10 students who felt the need for such an organization. Principal Nancy Macdonald, who wholeheartedly supported this initiative, recruited Bill Turner, an active board member of GLOSSI and substitute teacher at GISS, to sponsor the GSA.
Taking seriously its mandate to educate GISS students, as well as the community at large, about gay issues, the GSA has undertaken many activities toward this goal. Following are a few highlights of this work:
Two GSA students, Clare Lannan and Jacob Schweda, were members of a six-member panel (which included Svend Robinson) in a community discussion of gay issues during Salt Spring’s first-ever Gay Pride celebration four years ago
The GSA has done many poster campaigns at GISS, ensuring that every classroom has an anti-homophobia poster on a wall
GSA students have attended numerous conferences, both in Vancouver and Victoria, which have focused on gay issues in schools
GSA students have given workshops in both the middle and elementary schools.
GSA students took part in an emotional GLOSSI-GSA workshop where participants ‘bared their souls’ (see Jacob’s write-up below.) The GSA proudly marched behind their banner in Salt Spring’s first-ever and enormously successful Gay Pride Parade this past September (see picture above).
Perhaps the crowning achievement of the GSA is their involvement in the creation of our school district’s stand-alone anti-homophobia policy in 2005, the first such policy in a rural school district in British Columbia, with only Vancouver and Victoria sharing similar policies. Without such an active GSA this undoubtedly would not have happened. Special recognition goes to Jacob Schweda, founding member and extraordinarily gifted leader of the GSA at the time, who spearheaded this initiative
Contributed by Rowan P., 2009
In 2007 GLOSSI decided to donate funds to a group that faces extreme homophobia. This group was IRQO, the Iranian Queer Organization, now known as IRQR, the Iranian Queer Railroad. In Iran being a gay man or lesbian is punishable by hanging or flogging.
IRQR is an international queer human rights activist group, centred in Toronto. It helps gay, lesbian and transgendered Iranians go through the UN refugee application process and emigrate to “safe” countries. The regime has cracked down on diversity of expression of both gender and orientation.
Much of the IRQR news pertains to gay men. Women are so oppressed in Iran it is very difficult for them to escape.
Arsham Parsi, the group’s dedicated activist, came to Gay Pride 2007 to sit on a panel at Art Spring, Love Beyond Borders: Human Rights in Iran and Canada. The panel helped us value the freedom we have. We came to understand how important it is for groups like IRQR to receive the support of countries where there is freedom to be queer.
IRQR uses the internet, radio and magazines to help queer Iranians understand their human rights and to overcome internalized homophobia and transphobia. IRQR relies heavily on email support to persuade governments around the world to accept asylum seekers. IRQR needs donations to fund safe houses, run education campaigns and above all to help refugees to escape and survive where they are sent, which is also often not safe.
below: a safe house inTurkey
Contributed by Jack H, 2009
It was discussions among GLOSSI board members because of Homophobia at G.I.S.S. that led eventually, through the Lambda Foundation to two annual Human Rights Awards at G.I.S.S. The awards in 2007 for $700 will be $1000 each in 2010. It is hoped and expected that these awards (at least one in some years) will be awarded in perpetuity.
The late Dr. Gary Gibson, vice- president of the Lambda Foundation, Bill Turner teacher and mentor to the Gay Straight Alliance, Jack Hallam retired biologist and teacher involved in funding and several others including Caffyn Kelley and David Rumsey were instrumental in establishing these awards.
In the fall of 2008 a committee of Bill, Caffyn, Jack and Maggie Allison of G.I.S.S. clarified that these are awards to grade 12 students not scholarships and applicants may plan to follow a non-academic career.
One award is for a student who has been active in opposing Homophobia, the other is for a student who demonstrated that she or he has been active in combating Racism directed at persons of colour including First Nations peoples. Applicants are also required to write a short essay on one of a variety of Human Rights issues.
Contributed by Katie, 2009
PFLAG Canada is a registered charitable organization
that provides support, education and resources to anyone with questions or
concerns about sexual orientation or gender identity. PFLAG Canada has
chapters or contacts in more than 70 communities across Canada. If you are
gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, two-spirit, intersex,
queer or questioning, or if you care about someone who is, compassionate
volunteers are ready to help. The Salt Spring Island chapter began in
September 2008 to coincide with Pride celebrations. The national support
line is 1-888-530-6777. For more information about meetings on SSI please
Contributed by Jacob S., 2005
For me, and the two Gay-Straight Alliance members who were with me, the night of June 24th, 2005 began with some hesitancy, and not just a little bit of nervousness. After our final day of school exams, the three of us expected to be relaxed and happy, but we were poised for another stressor; encountering, for the first time, the members of the Gays and Lesbians of Salt Spring Island, infamous in our eyes from Billy T’s references to them, and very mysterious. What would they be like? Were they people we knew? Should we be frightened, excited, better prepared? We didn’t know, and so when 6:00pm rolled around, and the first of the guests began to arrive at the wonderful Birdsong Bed and Breakfast, where the nights events were supposed to take place, we sat with frightful anticipation, and awaited our fellow youth; at least when they arrived, we’d have strength in numbers.
Well, I can assure everyone that within a half-hour of the evening actually beginning, most of our worries had disappeared, and we were happily chatting away with the G.L.O.S.S.I. members that had arrived, and uncaringly snacking on the many appetizers that we had at our disposal. These G.L.O.S.S.I. members were just people, nothing too scary.
I think that I speak for the entire G.S.A., or at least those who were at the rendezvous, when I say that we learned a lot, and are so happy that we had the opportunity to meet so many successful, happy and, well, normal members of the community; it gave us hope for the future.
The night began largely unstructured, but with the helpful and vocal leadership of Billy T, we soon organized ourselves into a collective group, and began introducing ourselves, and in effect, telling our stories. Often, the introductions would cause the discussion to go off into many directions and onto numerous tangents, and everything from homophobia in Texas to religion in Alberta was discussed. The 15-20 of us were so engrossed in our conversation that, by the time 8:30pm rolled around, nobody noticed! In fact, our discussions continued and continued until, eventually, someone’s stomach rumbled, and we all knew it was time to eat!
Needless to say, the food was delicious, and there was so much variety! Salads of all types, snacks galore, delicious and succulent meat, and every kind of beverage, from wine, to juice to Red Bull. We took an hour to refuel, and continued our chat in smaller, more personal groups (including a group of us teens outside, and by this point, every single one of us was having the time of our lives).
When we reunited again, we heard more touching and powerful stories, and the trusting and open atmosphere was something that I at least have rarely experienced. Like one attendee said: “it was similar to the atmosphere of a church congregation, in terms of the closeness”, and of course it was judgment-free and very fun. The stories that were told varied widely, from stories of assumedly-forbidden love to struggles against the many systemic prejudices that plague countless institutions of our country, and they touched my heart and the hearts of colleagues. Not only have we been informed, but also inspired to continue our push for human rights and equality in all walks of life. The night ended late, but to many it seemed too soon; we still had, and have so much work to do, but at least we now know that the process can be done together, collectively, by all those who care, regardless of age.
We hope that this rendezvous was
only the first of many, and that the relationship between G.L.O.S.S.I. and
the Gulf Islands Secondary School G.S.A. will blossom and strengthen. We
would like to extend an open invitation to all G.L.O.S.S.I. members to
contact the G.S.A. at anytime, and we hope to be kept informed and to be
involved in as many events as possible. Thanks!