Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Burnaby and Tennessee

Burnaby, Burnaby, Burnaby.

My relationship with today's problems started years ago. It was my first year of University. I was sitting in my education advisor's office, talking about what classes I should take to best prepare me to teach curriculum, and that got us started.

My advisor is the most respected authority on evaluation and social studies curriculum development in Western Canada. She was doing a study on this new curriculum for the B.C. government. A year-long course required for all graduating high school students, combining Canadian History with Indigenous Studies and Social Studies with a focus on Social Justice.

Sounds cool, hey?

At the time I never would've thought about it, but it only makes sense now. One of the units is about gay rights, or, more specifically, the history of gay people in Canada.

Some parents don't like this. The vocal ones seem to live in Burnaby. They perceive this as an attempt at social engineering through curriculum - the government trying to convince children to comply with things that are objectionable.

I have a couple, complicated responses to this.

Firstly, the point of social studies curriculum, expressed in every text book and article I have read and written on the topic, is to engineer society into something that is more civically coherent. It always has been the purpose of Social Studies. Always will be. Does that make it right? No - but I will defend it anyways. It is the great equalizer that can serve to enlighten children by providing them some lens through which they can begin interpreting the world other than their parents. And it has been somewhat successful - we are seeing a better integration of immigrants than ever before in Canada (though these tend to be the children or grandchildren of immigrants), for example. Just one example of social cohesion increasing (though there are perhaps valid arguments that it is not - though you'd have to consider pandering to extremists to buy into them).

Secondly, gay education does not exist. It does not even need to be about the sexual realities of being gay - for the majority of the human population, this is of limited interest (if of any at all). What should be of interest to everybody is the way that homosexuals are treated by, perceived by, or themselves perceive society. And starting to break down the barriers that exist between our cultures by educating people about a fuller breadth of gay society than that presented in the media during Pride Festivals or that is read on the walls of the bathroom stall. This is done poorly in education generally whenever discussing a minority, but by offering a voice to them, something is being accomplished - even if it only acts as a spark for interest later in life. It is not bad to introduce people to another culture. We are everywhere - you cannot hide from us. Not even at your church (we are likely your organist, choir conductor, and lead tenor all wrapped in one...)

Thirdly, we should not be presented separately in curriculum. We should be fully integrated into it. This concern is a major feature of feminist curriculum theory - one that has not been listened to well by curriculum writers by has started to affect curriculum delivery in the classroom in the past ten years. We are part of society - we are everywhere - we are not separate or hidden in a ghetto. Don't place us in one at school, particularly not in curriculums. It produces frustration in teachers and in students - "Oh, we're going to do the GAY unit?" (dramatically roll your eyes).

Early this year I read Felice Picano's Like People in History. I did not love it. I did not buy into it entirely. I didn't like the drugs - I think that is what turned me off. But I'll be damned if it didn't help raise my personal awareness of how homosexuals have always been around - always been interpreting the world through a slightly different lens. Changing with the times. Sometimes changing faster than the times - sometimes slower, but always changing. With society - not separate from it.

To the B.C. government (who is doing a lot of right things with this curriculum renewal): Include us in the curriculum. But don't toss us into our own unit. We are an integral part of society, and have been here since time immemorial. We need to be included in curriculum just as heterosexuals are - if only to present a more realistic image of society.

To the parents of Burnaby: Yes, what your child is being put through is social engineering. It is the nature of education. Go read about the goals of education, particularly public, mandatory education - read the books and articles written by academics - and you'll realize that it has never been otherwise. And though you are a stakeholder in the system (and this has been my stance on education ever since I was in high school), you are perhaps the least important of all. Take a back seat and let your child learn about the world in which he lives in the class that is designated to teach him about the world.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Tennessee and Burnaby (hey that rhymes!)

Let me start with Tennessee.

The middle of May 2011 has not been kind to teachers in Tennessee. Or to gay people. I can't imagine being both at the same time. The Tennessee Senate has passed a law that will prevent teachers from discussing homosexuality with their students. This is being called the 'Don't Say Gay!" law (what a deceptively exciting title!).

Instead, any discussion of sexuality will be limited to natural-health sexual-reproduction.

Which, aside from being a reality that no longer exists, is essentially the sexual education that I was provided with and that has completely failed to prepare myself or many of my peers for sexual health as gay or lesbian men and women. And I have made it clear in the past that I feel this is a moral oversight.

Previously, it was a curricular concern - and teachers mostly choosing not to deviate from the guidelines of the curriculum. Soon (as early as 2012 - when the bill will be taken up by the House) it will be illegal to deviate from this curriculum and talk about homosexuality in a sexual health course. Or at all.

Because my numerous memories about being properly instructed about having sex with men made me want to have sex with men. Just like my numerous memories of being instructed on how to insert my penis into a vagina made me want to do that.

Wait a minute.

This is an example of a law that has been written by a government that is directed by belief rather than proof. Constitutions should be adopted where proof is recognized as the only viable means by which a law can be produced, non?

And, on a personal note, in having gone through this re-examination of my own existence, I was aware of my attraction to men well before completing middle school. Was I confused by it? Hell yes! Would I have approached a teacher and asked questions about it? Hell no! But only because the language did not exist for me to do so.

Burnaby next time. It angers me more - but only because I can relate to it more.

And honestly, the result of this law in Tennessee is likely going to be beneficial. The backlash that will result, whenever it happens (and it may not be for twenty years), will force homosexual sex curriculum into the sexual curriculum of young peoples - a place that it has never held before. And, the reality is that homosexuality as a topic may be discussed in a middle or elementary school, but it isn't examined. Students can't comprehend sexuality at that age - they are just learning it. And teachers don't want to teach about homosexuality - it is a topic so few are familiar with, and a topic that they do not want to field questions about.

So, ultimately, this law is not going to change how education is practiced in the state of Tennessee. It will just formalize how it cannot be (and has not been) practiced, solidifying the curriculum in the early 90s until the state is forced by society to catch up to other parts of the states.

Once again, that could be twenty years from now - and there will be many lives hurt and lost in the interim - but the end result will be very, very beneficial for gay education in public schooling.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

More later

I am a teacher.

And if you've been following Saskatchewan's news at all recently, you'd surely know that I spent the past two days on strike.

I am a teacher.

And I am a gay man.

I am a gay teacher who happens to be a man.

I am a man who happens to be gay and a teacher.

I am a teacher who happens to be gay and a man.

I am not happy with my government. I don't know if I will be happy with them when an agreement is made regarding the funding of teachers in our province. I know that the current goals of teachers are unrealistic if only because the public thinks it is demanding too much - in reality, it is about where we should end up, if not aiming a little low. We won't end up there though. We will have to give up more than a third, maybe half, of what we want and deserve in a raise.

But I am not going to complain about politics. Or my job.

I am going to complain about being a teacher who happens to be a man who happens to be gay (which means I happen to like men).

Because education is a big part of where my heart is, and I am seeing it mix with sexuality in some pretty disastrous ways right now.

In Burnaby, B.C. (my future home). And the state of Tennessee (which I doubt is my future home).

More on both later.

Monday, May 23, 2011


I am not a big fan of professional sports. If I were to construct my ideal world, they would likely not be on the list of things I would remember to reproduce. But I'd make sure athletes were included - and that these athletes were on my soccer team, or worked out at the gym that I work out at. I would hate to miss out on being around them.

But it is the Stanley Cup playoffs. And Vancouver is doing well. And I am Canadian, so I find myself interested in what is happening in sports. For some reason - and I assure you that I am pretty much completely confused about why. I asked somebody yesterday how the game went. I was working while it was happening, so I couldn't watch. Would I have anyways? No. Did it give me a momentary conversation topic? Yes. Did I know what the consequences of the game were? Yes. Mostly.

And then the past month has blown my mind. In sports. (Did I just type that? - who am I, and am I still lost in the world of that beautiful man that I have not yet seen again?)

(yes, I can confirm that I just wrote that. Weird)

One of the blogs I follow, Gay Persons of Colour, has been popping up on my dashboard for the past couple weeks with headlines like Dutch gymnast Jeffrey Wammes comes out, and Sean Avery endorses marriage equality with video. Sorry. What?

How about Carolina Panthers linebacker Nic Harris in support of marriage equality.

Pheonix Suns President Rick Welts comes out; players featured in pro-gay PSA.

San Francisco Giants to produce "It Gets Better" video.

Is this the same world of professional sports, filled with the same dumb-ass, homophobic jocks that I grew up with? The fans that I remember hating the idea that I may be gay?

I was out for a visit with some friends this evening. One of them is a former varsity basketball player - a lesbian who admitted that she hadn't watched a single professional basketball game since ending her basketball career years ago. And then she mentioned this story.

Joakim Noah directed a homophobic slur at a fan. Is getting fined for it, much like Kobe was (and as I mentioned in a previous post). But, unlike Kobe, Joakim has come to the press with a complete apology for his actions and words. He provided no excuses. He said his comments were bigoted and wrong. And that he apologizes for the ideas he seemed to be promoting.

Sorry, what?

This is a changing world, my friends. If we can reach some of the most popular leaders of male, misogynist culture, and make them leaders in the fight for marriage and social equality, we know that this is a different world.

And my friend, the former varsity player, has said that she is going to start watching professional sports again. Maybe. She feels like she has a place in it again, or for the first time.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


I've not been able to sleep properly for days. Ever since Saturday night.

Saturday night I went dancing, and got lost in somebody across the dance floor and haven't been found yet. I fall asleep and I imagine his body and face and eyes. I wake up and am haunted by his body and face and eyes.

The man who I wrote about months ago - depressed, incapable of falling out of love with me - has managed to fall out of love with me. Or so it has been reported to me by a very good mutual friend of ours. And I'll believe her. And I will say that this frees me up to *ahem* pursue some of the *ahem* distractions that I see every now and then - and to do it in his presence, and to do so sparking his jealousy but not his sense of self-worth. Or so I hope.

So this man in whom I have been lost, I address you. When I next see you, prepare to be approached - because I need to find myself again, and it would seem that I can only do so by meeting you. Cause I'll be damned if I don't want to get to know you, and find out what it really means to get lost in your body and face and eyes.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

(not about really about silence but on the success of talking)

I went out with friends last night. Met some new people, and really enjoyed myself. Watched a drag show, danced until the world ended - classic kind of stuff.

Afterwards, as I was driving my friend home, she said something that made me really happy.

This friend of mine has worked for the on-campus GLTB centre for the past couple years as either a staff member or a board member. She has noticed that involvement in the group has declined in the past couple of years. Alarming, no?

She said involvement in urban-raised youth has particularly been reduced. Rural youth involvement is actually on the rise (but is a much smaller population than urban populations so it does not make up for the loss) - and their reliance on the centre as a social environment has increased.

But she has noted (and this is the happiness-inducing factor of my late-evening/early-morning) this:

Young gay people are much more confident now than she ever expected she would see. They exude happiness once they are out. They like who they are. Depression is on the decline. People are visibly happy in the gay community. And even though they hate themselves a little bit, they have never hated themselves less in history than they do now.

Smiles abound.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

A treatise on How Silence is Broken

A shout-out to Amak over at Queer Behind the Mirror for introducing me to this video earlier this week through his blog; it fits in well with what I am developing at the moment.

Thursday, May 5, 2011


And why do we get frustrated by our friends who are silent? This is a question that we must also ask ourselves, because it is more of a reflection on us than anything else.

Most of us grew up in fear, and a fear that is far more real than many perceive it to be. We hear the comments on the playground, and we see the hatred in people's faces - all directed at this mythical creature. The Faggot. And we create this creature - we draw it in our minds. It is ugly, and it is feminine, and it is not popular, and it is not well-liked by anybody. It is disgraceful. It is not worth defending in public. It is a monster, that eats children after boiling them in a cauldron of lust, that offers them candy and asks them to come into the car for some more, and then drives away and does things to them that everybody knows is bad but nobody knows what is.

And we do everything we can to make sure that this mythical creature constructed in our head looks nothing like us.

And so we are silent.

We also know that people direct these words at us - that people can smell it on us, somehow. And so we know that if we stand up for them we shall only confirm what they already think is true. And with that confirmed we can only imagine what life is going to be like - our skin will turn green, we'll grow longer teeth, and carry cauldrons in the trunks of our black sedans. All the words that have been thrown at us like spears will turn out to be true.

And so we are silent.

And our friends are silent because we are silent, and everybody continues to be silent except those who are particularly talented at throwing spears.

And then we decide we are gay, and that our skin is not going to turn green, and that we don't have to buy that black sedan if we don't want to. And that the image of a Faggot, the one that was so ugly so long ago, is slowly becoming more and more like the one we see in the mirror, and slowly it is starting help us affirm our own identity. And this bothers us at first and then it stops.

And we stop being silent, sometimes (but not all the time, we have to be safe still, right?).

And we somehow ask our friends to no longer be silent.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

"In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."

- Martin Luther King

Is this perhaps an explanation of why so many young gay men and women and inbetweens have such a hard time trusting others and exalting the relationship into the realm of true friendship rather than the dance between acquaintance and friendship that can only be termed business?

Perhaps the silence of our friends is more painful than anything else.