On November 2, 2017 the Government of Alberta introduced Bill 24, An Act to Support Gay Straight Alliances. Protecting the privacy & human rights of Alberta youth and supporting GSA's has been something SOS Alberta has been active on for many months as allies of those who have worked on these issues for years. We are so pleased to see legislators putting forth legislation that puts students at the centre of policies that will ensure the protection of the safety, health and rights of some of our most vulnerable youth.
Calgary student Ace Peace and his mom Lindsay Peace both spoke at the announcement of Bill 24 about their experiences and journey. Their story and the stories of many students and families across the province are what guide and inspire us in our advocacy. Ace and Lindsay have kindly allowed us to post the speeches they shared. We hope every Albertan will read their words and be encouraged to see the great things we can do when we all come together and listen to the voices of those who are far too often silenced.
Hi everyone. My name is Ace Peace. I am seventeen and a grade 12 student in Calgary. I am transgender. This means that I was assigned female at birth but I am a boy. I have always been a boy.
I came out to my mum when I was 15. I was in grade 9. One of the first people we told afterwards was my teacher. She recommended some reading material to my mum. She and I started a GSA at my school. She asked me what name and pronouns I wanted to use and she made a presentation to help tell my classmates. A school psychologist provided me with the information and paperwork needed to change my gender marker. How awesome is that? AND I can assure you that no other students were harmed during this process. Seriously though, I can't figure out why some people think that this somehow might negatively affect other kids. To those people, please believe me, everyone is fine. No one has had to lose anything or give anything up for this to happen.
I was a bit nervous about going to high school the next year but after going to the orientation day my fears disappeared. There was a huge GSA!! I couldn't believe how many kids were in it. I came home that day with GSA stickers that said "I love diversity" stuck all over my face. Looking back, that part seems a little silly- but give me a break. I was pretty freaking excited.
Although I was the first openly trans kid at both of these schools, I knew that I wasn't going to be alone. I knew that I didn't have to hide. I knew I was going to be okay. I knew that I would be accepted and even more awesome, that my differences and diversity might even be celebrated. I knew that I had allies, friends, classmates and teachers who would have my back.
Although it hasn't been easy, my journey has been one that I have been surrounded by love, support, and acceptance every step of the way. As time goes on, I have been sad to learn that it's not always this way for kids like me. Some kids, for different reasons, don't feel safe to come out. Some kids aren't as lucky as me to have such an awesome family. For these kids, sometimes GSAs are the only thing they have. GSAs are the ONLY safe place they have. I don't want to imagine what it would mean for them if they would be outed for attending. I am scared to even think about it.
Being a kid can be tough. Being a queer kid can be even tougher. I can't understand why anyone would want to make it even more difficult for us. And as much as I try to, I don't understand what people are so afraid of or what they think happens in a GSA or why it would be necessary for anyone to tattle on a kid for going. It's pretty simple...there are kids who can't tell their parents they are queer. Like really can't. It might even be a safety issue. If that's the case, they need somewhere to go. There are also kids who are just afraid or nervous to tell their parents but will eventually, especially with the support of other queer kids. There are also straight kids who are just trying to be better people and make a difference in the world. Sometimes we talk about serious stuff. Sometimes we just hang out and chat. Sometimes it's even a little boring. I don't understand why this is so scary to some adults. As far as I can tell, it's only scary if you're the kid. It's only scary if you're the kid and an adult wants to out you and you're not ready or that would make you unsafe.
I don't actually like politics. Really, I don't. It's way too much arguing and talking for me. I'd way rather listen to music. And truthfully I'd rather be at home listening to music hanging out with my partner right now, just being a kid. But this is too important. And so, politics have become important to me, especially the more I learn. I am proud to be an Albertan. I have travelled all over the world and this is the place I love the most. I am proud of our government. I am proud of MY government. I am proud that I have a voice and that they listen to me. I am just a kid. A queer kid. But they listen to me and kids like me, because we know what we are talking about. We are the ones actually living this while everyone else is arguing about it. I am grateful that my government wants what's best for me and all kids, that they want us all to grow up to be kind and caring and compassionate. And safe. And I am the most grateful that they know and believe that all kids actually means ALL kids.
I would like to thank everyone for giving me the opportunity to speak today. I am thankful to have a voice.
Hi everyone. Thank you to Minister Eggen for allowing me the time to speak today. My name is Lindsay Peace, I am the proud parent of three teenage boys, one of whom is transgender. Through Ace's efforts to live an authentic life, I also have been on a journey of self discovery. It turns out that I am a fierce mama bear, with a lot to say. I have become an advocate for queer kiddos and their families. I have founded a nonprofit organization called The Skipping Stone Foundation that is dedicated to changing to the narrative of trans and gender diverse youth. I have had the privilege and honour of witnessing and walking beside and playing a small part in so many families' journeys. I feel confident in saying that I speak on behalf of many kids and parents today.
Make no doubt, that as fearful as some critics are of inclusive and protective policies and of comprehensive sex ed, parents of queer kids are much more scared of the alternative. And queer kids are terrified. And unlike the critics, our fear is fact based. Without a doubt, kids are suffering. Dr Kris Wells recently published a study on trans youth in Alberta. The rates at which these kids are facing discrimination and violence are staggering. This study clearly shows that this population of kids is subject to alarmingly high rates of self harming behaviours and a disproportionately high number of these kids consider and attempt suicide compared to their peers. These are facts.
Having safe and inclusive policies at school will greatly reduce these numbers. GSAs and being able to feel safe attending them will create safer learning environments, for these kids, as well as their peers.
I understand as a parent that I want to know what my kids are doing. I want to know who they are hanging out with, what activities they are engaging in. I want to know the decisions they are making. Because it's important to me, I talk to them. I ask them. Over all else, I create and maintain open dialogue with them and a sense of safety and security. If for some reason one of my children didn't feel that they could come to me, with anything, then I believe that is a reflection on me. That's my bad. And I would need to look at doing things differently. In the meantime I would be grateful if they felt that they could turn to a teacher. The more folks who support my kids and are committed to their health and well being can only be a positive thing. Also, I think it's important to point out that it's not an either/or situation. Ultimately, I believe that we are working together. Parents and educators. When it comes to GSAs, specifically to the outing of students, I think there is a misunderstanding that means that parents will never find out. That this will be some sort of dirty little secret between the student and the school forever. I have heard dozens of accounts from families in which it was teachers who actually helped their students disclose their queer identity to their families. I know a former student whose teacher actually helped him write a letter to his parents to tell them he was trans. I know many kids who are queer who spent a long time at their GSA until they became confident enough in themselves to have a conversation with their parents.
I also know that GSAs teach allies how to be better allies, how to be better people. I know that kids learn a greater understanding of the adversity faced by their LGBTQ2+ peers and learn compassion. GSAs allow students an opportunity to be apart of creating positive change. Although I do know as a parent how great it is to hear that our kids are wonderful and doing amazing things, I certainly don't believe that anyone needs to be outed for doing so.
Our kids spend the majority of their time at schools. Our future depends on our kids, all of our kids. We need to be able to send them out into the world armed with all of the skills, abilities, and tools possible. This requires safe and inclusivity learning spaces. I am so incredibly grateful to have a government that is so dedicated to creating and maintaining these spaces. Some of our kids lives depend on it.
- Lindsay Peace