In writing this letter my goal is not to minimize the experiences of anyone bullied, but I would like to draw attention to the fact that being bullied for being “The tall geeky guy,” as Brian Pallister described his experience with bullying, is much different than a student like myself who faces the fear of homophobia every day of my life. Research shows that LGBTT* students are at a higher risk of skipping classes, failing, and dropping out of school because they do not feel safe. As a result of this unsafe environment LGBTT* youth experience higher rates of depression, anxiety, and suicidal feelings.
Brian Pallister thinks a Tall Geeky Guy Club wouldn’t have helped him when he was in school, and that might be true, but what he seems to be missing is the important and positive impact anti-bullying clubs or gay-straight alliances can have when students join. Michael Rushinka was right in his statement that some adults “don’t live it, so they never really understand it.” Or they have the assumption that because they dealt with it during their time in high school, why can’t we? Anti-bullying clubs or gay-straight alliances are groups where students can talk about the hatred, bullying, and issues that they are facing everyday – realizing you are not alone is an important step towards self-acceptance.
I want to end this letter by saying that Bill 18 is about much more than gay-straight alliances. It’s about protecting all students from bullying in the classroom, at school, outside of school, and online. Bill 18 won’t solve bullying as a whole in Manitoba but it is another tool for students who may feel like they have no support at all.