If most of the people you go to school with or know seem to be straight, it can feel like there’s nobody to talk to about your sexuality or gender-identity—and that can get really lonely. It’s important to remember that, even though you may not be able to spot them, other LGBTQ people are everywhere! If you reach out for support, you might be surprised at the friendships you’ll make and mentors you’ll find.
Look for Support in your School
Start by looking right in your own school. Many Ontario secondary schools have LGBTQ youth groups or Gay Straight Alliances (GSAs) that are led by a supportive teacher. If there isn’t already a group like this in your school, consider starting one. (For information on how to do this, click on the MyGSA link in the Resources section). You can also talk to your guidance counsellor for help or support.
Contact Community Organizations.
If you can’t find support at school (or if you’d rather not) there are also organizations and community groups that can help. Some, like EXPRESS (a group run by Serving Our Youth, Toronto) are specifically for newcomers to Canada!
One great resource that’s available province-wide is YouthLine. It’s a free service, provided by LGBTQ youth for LGBTQ youth. If you have a question, need help making a plan to deal with bullying, or just need to talk, you can call, email or go online to chat with a peer who can offer support and information. They can even refer you to other organizations that provide services in your community. (See the Resources section for a list of other organizations and a link to the Youth Line referral database.)
If you’re being bullied because of your sexuality…
A study done by Egale Canada (a group fighting for equality for LGBTQ people) showed that two-thirds of LGBTQ youth don’t feel safe in school. One-fifth are physically harassed or assaulted because of their sexuality, and half hear homophobic comments at least once a day. It’s completely unacceptable.
If you’re being bullied or harassed because of your sexuality or gender identity, it’s important to reach out for help. There are Canadian laws to protect you from bullying, people you can talk to and places you can turn for support. Nobody has the right to make you feel unwanted or unsafe, whether it’s at home, at school or in the community.
What can you do if you’re being bullied or harassed? First of all, remember that it’s not your fault and that you don’t need to handle it alone. Next, find out what your rights are, then learn where to go for help and support if those rights aren’t being respected.
Know the laws that protect you...
The Charter of Rights and Freedoms:
Your race, colour, religion, sex or sexual orientation doesn’t matter what . Everyone living in Canada has the right to the same protection and treatment under the law. In fact, this is part of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms—the first part of the Canadian Constitution. What it means is that nobody, under any circumstances has the right to discriminate against you because of your sexuality. If somebody is violating your rights, speak to an adult you trust or contact one of the organizations listed in the Resources section for advice.
The Safe Schools Act:
Ontario’s Safe Schools Act is a law that helps to make schools safer for both students and teachers. It states that all school members must:
- respect and treat others fairly, regardless of race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age or disability; respect differences in people and in their ideas and opinions.
- If there’s an incident or ongoing problem with bullying, your school’s principal is responsible for responding to it while also protecting your privacy. Make sure you let them know what’s going on—not only for your own safety, but for the good of other LGBTQ youth at your school, too.
If your principal doesn’t take the problem seriously, or doesn’t respond strongly enough, your next step is to contact the school board.
Whatever you do, don’t go it alone!
The most important thing to remember is that, if you’re having problems with bullying, or even if you’re just feeling alone, help is available! Everyone deserves to feel included and, most importantly, safe. It can be hard to reach out for support, and even harder to take a stand against bullying and discrimination, but there are people who want to help, and once you find them, you can start to build a better, safer community for yourself, and for other LGTBQ youth.