Dear Premier Prentice;
I graduated from high school in Alberta ten years ago, and I am gay. I like to think there are more interesting things about me, but these are the relevant points right now. At my school, there was no such thing as a gay-straight alliance, but you might know that already – I went to the same private school as your daughter.
We’ve met a couple of times, not that I’d expect you to remember me – I gave you a demonstration at our school’s science night that you seemed interested enough in, given you were busy being an MP at the time. And I met you when me and two friends who are just as nerdy as I am decided to visit all the MP’s constituency offices in Calgary – you were one of two Members of Parliament that we met. You seemed … perplexed. I get that. I too would have been perplexed by the trio of youngsters who decided to spend their free time visiting politicians, had I been in your shoes.
You seem perplexed by the issue of gay-straight alliances now – and what you should do about them. You seem not to know if there’s a good enough reason to make sure that every student that wants to start a gay-straight alliance has the ability to do so.
I didn’t come out of the closet until the end of my first year of university. I didn’t feel that there was much support, or that I would have been treated fairly or with kindness, had I been open about my sexuality while I was in high school. I didn’t know what the reaction of my classmates would have been. I was scared, terrified, at being more of an outsider than someone who visits constituency offices for fun already is.
I know now that many of my classmates would have been supportive. I know them to be progressive, welcoming, and kind people. I think that had I given them the chance to accept me, they would have done so. Instead, I waited. I sat in the closet and internalized the darkness that surrounded me.
Kids do not get to choose what schools they go to. I didn’t choose to go to the school I attended. This is not to say that it was a terrible experience for me, and I still think I received an excellent education. But there was darkness. And there were times where I felt unbearably alone – that nobody I knew would ever speak to me again if I told my classmates who I was.
I’m still friends with many of them, and I know now that I was wrong then. What I wish, Premier, is that I had known then that I was wrong. I wish I had known then that I would have been accepted. I wish I had not spent so many nights in high school wishing and hoping that I wasn’t gay.
I want you to know that a gay-straight alliance would have helped me to know then what I know now. I want you know that some kid who you shook hands with a decade ago on science night would have been less afraid of everyone around him had he had that resource available. I want you to know that you have the power to help other kids that are in the same position as I was, kids who are surrounded by and afraid of people who would have accepted them, regardless of whether they go to a public school, or a Catholic school, or that private school that you chose for your daughter, and my parents chose for me.
You have the power to help. Isn’t that why people get into politics?