10.16.2008

Gay writer uninvited to New Brusnwick schools

Young and alone...

Alex Sanchez was invited to speak to students about gay youth and their struggle to find acceptance after going through his own struggles as a teenager in high school.

Excerpt from Rainbow Boys ...

"...He'd read about the group for teens in his school newspaper the previous spring. He'd torn out the phone number and carried it in his wallet for weeks. Every so often he would unfold it, stare at the numbers, then fold it up again -- until one evening, when his parents and sister were out and he was home alone, he uncreased the scrap of paper and dialed the number.

A man answered: "Rainbow Youth Hot Line." Jason slammed the receiver back into its cradle and jumped up. He couldn't believe he was actually going through with this.

After a while, his breathing slowed and he called again. This time he stayed on the phone. The voice on the other end of the line was friendly and warm, not at all what he expected.

"Are you gay?" Jason asked, just to be sure. The man laughed. "Of course."

Charlotte County schools in New Brunswick decided against having a gay writer speak to high school students after a protest from a few parents.

His break out book was Rainbow Boys...
"An important, groundbreaking book, Rainbow Boys takes an honest look at gay teen life today. The characters are enormously appealing and the situations as contemporary as the evening news. This is a book that could change thinking--and could very well change lives." - James Howe, author of The Watcher

Principals from the local schools were not comfortable allowing him to address their students after hearing from some parents. There does not seem to have been a ground swell of parents protesting the planned talks with students at several high schools.

Jay Remer, a spokesperson for one of the sponsoring groups, the Charlotte County Rainbow Support Group, told CBC, "Sanchez is a terrific public speaker whose message is about tolerance..." Remer added, "Sanchez’s mission is 'to help the gay youth in the community to feel less isolated and more part of the community as a whole.'"

The school district superintendent, Keith Pierce said he changed his mind about allowing the author to speak in area schools after meeting with school principals. "A few of them were getting pressure from a few parents, and they just weren’t comfortable going in that direction," Pierce told CBC.

Lifesite news reported that the principal of Fundy High School in St. George, Lynn Farmakoulas stated...

"We made a decision that we couldn't take any more time away from the learning of students. That was the reason we decided not the have the speaker in."

It seems to me that this is learning, its about making schools safe for all and its about understanding and tolerance. That is part of learning. This is an issue that schools in many parts of Canada fail. They fail all of their students, not just those that are queer or questioning their sexuality.

It is stories like this one that tell me we are a long way from acceptance and understanding what queer youth face in school. It's not good enough to say you support queer youth if they still don't feel safe or unable to be who they are without being subject to ridicule or abuse.

Sanchez's two New Brunswick appearances are listed below...

Mon Oct 20 - 7pm
Wesley United Church
77 William Street
St. Andrews, New Brunswick

Tues Oct 21 - 7 pm
Mary Oland Theatre
New Brunswick Museum
Saint
John, New Brunswick

Charlotte County is located in the South Western corner of New Brunswick. You can contact the school district with this information:

Keith Pierce, Superintendent
School District 10 Main Office
11 School Street
St. Stephen, NB E3L 2N4
Phone: 506-466-7301
Fax: 506-466-7868
website: http://www.district10.nbed.nb.ca


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2 comments:

Justin Hatt said...

I am from Charlotte County and I was in the area when I heard about this from my grandmother's housekeeper, who had just come from church after hearing the announcement that the speaker was "uninvited". She thought this was a great thing to occur, but when I asked her why the speaker was coming in the first place, she said it was because "he was coming to preach homosexuality".

I am a Christian myself, but my liberal views are completely different to her ultra-conservative beliefs. The problem you will get with Charlotte County is that they are a "closed community" that shuts itself away from the rest of the world in almost every aspect; in fact, having lived there previously, I can tell you that homosexuality is just the tip of the iceberg with some of the communities in the county. Also, Lynn (if I am correct) was my teacher once when I was at Fundy High School and I doubt that her opinions were against homosexuality, but rather an act to keep level grounding between the school and the community, which is another problem in the area, I think.

Although I am not gay, I do hope that there will be some peaceful way to get the story out in the future in Charlotte County. Good luck with this.

Rick Barnes said...

Hey Justin

thanks for that. Progress takes time and older views are being challenged all the time.