Wednesday, May 9, 2012

I’m an Ally for LGBTT*

This week I became an official ally of gay people.

With about two dozen colleagues from Red River College (all but three were women … hmmm) I spent a day with Brad Tyler-West, a healthy-sexuality educator from Winnipeg’s other RRC, the Rainbow Resource Centre.

Brad took us through a quick history of the oppression and liberation of gay people.

He provided definitions, including distinctions between gender, gender identity and gender expression.

So what on earth is LGBTT*? Well, it stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and two-spirit people.

The asterisk denotes people elsewhere on the spectrum of sexual orientation. That means all of us.

Most compellingly, Brad laid out his history of growing up gay and repressed in Australia, then coming out in Winnipeg. He has a 20-year-old daughter (no, she is not adopted).

My colleagues and I made commitments to challenge homophobia. We promise to be safe persons and to provide safe spaces for people to discuss sexual orientation or gender identity issues.

To proclaim our orientation, we post rainbow Ally cards in our work spaces. On the first day of each of my courses I will explain this commitment to my students.

None of this is difficult for me. I am not converting to anything or from anything.

I have seen the barriers placed in the way of the gay men and lesbians in my family and among friends, and I want to help remove those barriers.

Besides, there is a strong connection to the gay community among Creative Communications students and graduates.

Just check the official Pride Winnipeg Festival Guide. The editor, Scott Carman, and all three listed contributors, Braden Alexander, Brenlee Coates and Chad Smith, are grads of our program.

The guide is packed with interesting photos, stories and ads, including a map of the world that highlights lesbian and gay rights.

Want to feel your skin crawl? Check out the five countries in red that mandate the death penalty for same-sex acts.

Or consider the good burghers of North Carolina, who have just approved a state constitutional amendment that bans same-sex marriage and civil unions.

Canada, of course, is a world leader in acceptance of gay rights.

Or so it seemed until a couple of weeks ago, when Raymond Taavel, a former chair of Gay Pride events in Halifax and an editor for Wayves magazine, was beaten to death by a man who used homophobic slurs, according to witnesses.

So we have a way to go.

But U.S. President Barack Obama declared his support today for gay marriage.

So it’s looking good for the Allies.