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This is Our Youth

This is Our Youth

In the spirit of making this the gayest blog at indieWIRE:

My 16-year old sister e-mailed me this today. It’s part of some work she’s doing in her Grade 11 photography class at a Catholic high school in small town Canada. She had to do a project under the heading “human rights,” and teachers and students at her school agreed to be subjects. This is a bit of a breakthrough because her school has not always been receptive to her morals. The staff has – on a few occasions – made very homophobic comments that have made her infuriated. She’s forced to take religion classes – even though she’s not Catholic (she says she went to the school because her friends did, I still think it was for the kilts), and one particular incident involved a priest telling her class that homosexual acts are sins, etc, etc, etc…

This is hard for her because she’s never really known a world where being gay wasn’t totally accepted. She’s known I was since she was 9 or 10, when she found my younger brother’s grade 12 sociology project – in which he interviewed me as an example a social minority, titling the essay something like “My Gay Brother.” She called me immediately after and was like “You’re gay!” After saying yes, there wasn’t much explanation necessary. She completely understood what it meant, and was more excited than anything else. Ever since she’s been one of Trenton, Ontario’s greatest gay allies, speaking out against any instances of homophobia she’s witnessed with a confidence I still don’t have today.

And I’m intensely proud of her for continuing to fight her own little fight. I also feel privileged to be exposed to her social world, witnessing a drastic change in attitudes from when I was a high school student in that same town. She’s 9 years younger than me, and I think that in terms of recognition and support of LGBT rights, our age gap involves monumental contrast. Whether its mainstream media exposure or access to social networking websites that encourage diversity or a higher chance of having an out member of their extended family, my sister’s social universe is one where homophobia – though present, as it probably always will be – is generally frowned upon and even considered uncool. She’s had openly gay peers since the 9th grade, something that never would have happened ten years ago there, at least not with some severe challenges.

I realize a small town in Ontario, Canada is far from a small town in Mississippi or Alabama, but in some respects a small town is a small town. Small towns are where bigotry thrives in bubbles of underexposure to diversity. And this one in particular has historically had a hugely socially conservative outlook. So it gives me great hope to see evidence of suggestions that time is on our side, and that homophobia is largely a generational problem. And while this suggestion – and entire blog entry – might be totally idealistic and naive, there’s enough truth in it to warrant optimism.

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