As a fairly recent resident of Chilliwack and long-standing ally to the LGBTQ+ community, I identified with Jennifer Douglas’ letter to The Progress this week. I knew this place was considered part of BC’s “Bible Belt,” but to my mind, this meant people would potentially be kinder to one another – I had no understanding of the depths of toxic religious indoctrination and fundamentalism that have been cemented into this community. I myself was raised in the Catholic church, and I have never in my life witnessed anything close to the level of fear, hatred, and obvious disgust that certain members of this community hold for anyone who is not straight.
My best friend growing up was transgender. I always thought of him as a boy – I was a tomboy growing up, so we got along swimmingly. We did all the things “normal” friends do – played Sonic the Hedgehog on his old Playstation, rode our bikes to the corner store to buy candy, and did our math homework together. There was nothing weird or perverted about our friendship. I am still a straight, cis-gendered female. He went on to be a part of the academically gifted program in high school, and then successfully completed a grueling Honours degree in biochemistry. He is now a researcher in the field of cerebral palsy treatment, doing more than any of these so-called “culture guards,” have evidently ever done for the good of humanity. Because he is an empathetic, brilliant, kind human being. Because our schools growing up on Vancouver Island were inclusive, safe spaces, my friend was allowed and encouraged to flourish and thrive and succeed.
LGBTQ+ youth are four times more likely than straight youth to commit suicide. This support, encouragement, and inclusion could be the difference between life and death for many youths who do not choose their sexual orientation or gender identity. That is why the SOGI 123 curriculum has been implemented, and I fully believe despite the forces of fear and hatred, inclusion will win.
Also, if Christianity is at the root of the excuse to hate, let us be reminded of Galatians 3:28 – “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”