Sunday, May 17, 2015

#IDAHOTB 2015 Toronto draws attention to youth

Today is The International Day Against Homphobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia. The occasion was honoured this past Friday, above Nathan Phillips Square at Toronto City Hall.

If you've never heard of IDAHOTB, don't feel too bad. The observance has only been around since 2005, after 24,000 individuals and several LGBT organizations had signed an appeal to support the "IDAHO Initiative" the year before. In 2009 IDAHO became IDAHOT, and just this year, it became IDAHOTB. So, the "B" is new, and the "O" is optional, so you can imagine the confusion some of us had hash-tagging our Tweets. 

Celebrated annually on May 17th, this year's IDAHOTB marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the removal of homosexuality as a mental health disorder by the World Health Organization. According to the IDAHOTB central website, "May 17 is now celebrated in more than 130 countries, including 37 where same-sex acts are illegal, with 1600 events reported from 1280 organizations in 2014. These mobilisations unite millions of people in support of the recognition of human rights for all, irrespective of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression."

Unlike Pride celebrations, which take place at different times of year around the world, IDAHOTB's international organizers see it as a "moment that everyone can take advantage of to take action." 

This year in Toronto that moment belonged to youth, with speakers calling for support for NDP MPP Cheri DiNovo's private member's bill, "Bill 77, the Affirming Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Act. The Act would prohibit conversion therapy for LGBT kids, and would prohibit doctors from billing OHIP for conversion therapy conducted on any patient." 

And speakers, including Toronto Mayor John Tory and local activist King from Supporting Our Youth, also called for support for Ontario's embattled 2015 Health and Physical Education curriculum, which, sadly, has come under fire from hardline religionists -- mostly for things it doesn't actually say about sexual health.

Pflag Toronto President Anne Creighton speaking.
Background, LTR: Toronto Mayor John Tory,
City Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam, and NDP MPP Cheri DiNovo
Photo: Gordon Nore
The closing address was given by Pflag Toronto President Anne Creighton, whose organization hosts the event. Anne's speech, which she kindly shared with me:

Hello everyone and thanks for joining us here today at City Hall.  This is my first Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia as President of Toronto Pflag.  I am grateful that the international organizers chose Youth as the theme because this is one area I know well.  
I am also pleased that the international organizers are calling out biphobia from now on.  We need to bury the belief that being bi suggests a lack of courage instead of recognizing that it is a thing on its own with its own place in the spectrum.
Let me introduce myself.  
I am the proud mom of Amy, my lesbian daughter.  Because of her, I found Pflag and because of Pflag I have found a calling and a community that is loving, passionate, kind and fair.  They have opened their collective arms to Amy and to me and I couldn’t be more grateful.
I am lucky to be a Pflag mom who is free during the day to visit schools and workplaces to talk about acceptance and celebrating differences.  We speak to kids from Grades 2 to 12.  
We tell these students our own child’s story and our message is always the same:
  • Be nicer to people who are different.  It isn’t nice to call them names or hurt their feelings.
  • Be an ally and stick up for people who are different.
  • And be the best role model you can be so others can follow your example.
You would be amazed how students take these simple messages to heart.  When we ask how they would have made our child’s time at school better, they have wonderful, generous ideas.
But in these classes there are kids who already know they are different.  We know this because they tell us quietly as we are packing up.  Some are nervous and some are wide-eyed with excitement after hearing our presentation.
You might be curious then to know how much explaining we have to do.  Do we have to tell children in Grade 2 what “being gay” means?  No. 
Are they surprised that Amy took a girl to her high school prom?  NO!!!! 
Do they know what all the letters in LGBTQ stand for?  All except Q!
So it will not surprise you that I am not one of the parents upset about the new sex ed curriculum.  I think it is a very measured approach to updating the curriculum.  I am totally confident the kids are eager for the information.
And for kids who are different it legitimizes the difference and declares it to be natural.  What a gift for a child who has not yet learned how to verbalize to their parents how they feel.  How great for that child to learn they are not alone; that lots of other people feel the same way.
For sure kids have questions.  Now they will get answers.
In closing, we know that our youth sometimes face huge challenges in school, in public and at home.  But I am an optimist.  I am convinced we are making progress.  
We have eager, accepting children.
We have a new shelter.
We have a new curriculum. 
And I hope after today we will have a few more allies and activists who will make their own spaces safer for us all.
Thank you.
As a teacher, parent, activist, and proud member of the LGBTQI community, these were exactly the words I needed to hear. It's been an awful slog, these last three months, listening to the horrendous propaganda and hatred spewed at the curriculum. Seeing gatherings of hundreds, and occasionally thousands, of protestors angry about things that will not be taught, and wildly misinformed about things that will. So much energy has been expended during this time just refuting all the nonsense, we've not gotten to that place where we talk about what a tremendous step forward it is. Hearing community leaders, especially King and Anne and Mayor Tory, actually get up and talk tangibly about the good this curriculum can do was refreshing.

Some excellent coverage of the event.

HG Watson's report for Daily Xtra: Toronto raises flag for IDAHOT.

Elena Gritzan for NOW Toronto: "Unlike that guy named Ford, mayor comes out in support of LGBTQ rights – and the province's new sex-ed curriculum."

Don Peat for The Toronto Sun: Mayor Tory supports new sex-ed curriculum.

Here's Anne Creighton's guest column for the Toronto Sun, Thursday, May 14th: Help all kids to be proud of who they are.

And here's me, captured by Daily Xtra's camera, when Anne Creighton was speaking.

Screen cap from Daily Xtra video.


  1. Thanks for sending me the link to this Gordon. Has the new sex ed curriculum actually been implemented? Is it being taught? Do I need to speak about it again? I am tempted to.

    1. The curriculum is to roll out this year. TDSB and Peel have said this. It's not a legislative matter. Catholic DSBs may hold off until their document is completed, which will teach the curriculum through a "Catholic lens. Training sessions for teachers are being rolled out, or soon will be.

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