Minister Anderson proud to support LGBTQ2+ youth

By Shaye Anderson, MLA for Leduc-Beaumont

As you have by now heard, our government has enshrined into law the right to privacy for students who choose to take part in a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) or a Queer-Straight Alliance (QSA).

Every publicly funded school is now required to allow these extra-curricular groups, and teachers or administrators will be prohibited from disclosing a student’s participation in that group without that student’s consent.

I am proud to have supported this legislation. Vulnerable students and their friends and allies will be able to take part in a GSA without having to worry about whether school officials will out them to their parents.

The message we have heard loud and clear from LGBTQ2+ students, past and present, is we need to ensure that every student has the opportunity to be in a safe place, free from bullying, and with the support of their peers. We also understand that parents have a responsibility to be involved in their child’s social development, and would never want to needlessly come between parents and their children.

Bill 24 does nothing to prevent children from disclosing their sexuality or any other aspect of their life to their parents, or to anyone else they choose. Bill 24 is not about enforcing secrecy. I want to assure you that our government recognizes and supports the critical role that parents play in the education and success of their children.

However, we do not need to look too far to find stories of youth who come out as gay or as trans, and are then subject to physical or emotional violence. Some are kicked out of their homes and left to find shelter wherever they can - in a safe space or otherwise. We know these situations are rare, and that the vast majority of parents are loving and accepting, but even one incidence is too many.

The choice of when to come out as LGBTQ2+ or as an ally, and to whom, must be left with the individual youth. Bill 24 will empower youth to be able to make that deeply personal decision for themselves, if and when they are ready.

While I have heard concerns about GSAs being used as a tool to covertly teach students sexual education, this rumour simply isn’t true.

GSAs are not new to our province - they have existed for years. Black Gold School Division has a QSA. One of their most recent activities was Laser Tag. At their meetings, they bring snacks and they make crafts. They once organized a trip to see an educational talk given by Astronaut Roberta Bondar, the first Canadian woman in space.

GSAs provide students with safe spaces where they can support one another and find friendship. For some students, GSAs are the only place they have where they feel safe and accepted for who they are. Our LGBTQ2+ youth have made it clear to us that GSAs save lives. Bill 24 will strengthen supports for students who wish to form or join a GSA and protect the students who need these
spaces.

Ultimately, we all want the same thing: safe and happy kids, and I truly believe that Bill 24 will make our children safer and happier.

First published in the Leduc Representative, Nov. 24, 2017.