British Columbia

Langley parents and advocates to rally for LGBT education

A gay man who stayed in the closet during his school years doesn't want other kids to have the same experience. That's why he is joining Langley parents rallying in support of a new LGBT education program in Langley schools.

Creators of SOGI 123 say the goal is to foster a more inclusive environment

Parents and advocates will rally ahead of a Langley School District meeting Tuesday to support LGBT education. (CBC)

Colin McKenna wants LGBT kids in Langley to have an easier time understanding themselves than he did.

Growing up in the '70s and '80s in that city, he says he was teased and bullied by his classmates for his sexual orientation.

He desperately wanted to be "normal" and didn't come out to his parents as a gay man until well into his 20s.

"Had I had some education in schools to know that there is nothing wrong with being that person, my teen years, certainly, would have been a lot easier," he said.

"There's something about you that you need to tell people, but you don't feel safe doing so. If a school or education system is supporting those people, it's so much better for those kids as they grow up."

McKenna is now with the LGBT advocacy group PFLAG and will be rallying with members of Langley Parents for Inclusivity in support of education and acceptance of different sexual orientations and gender identities.

He says new guidelines in B.C. schools to provide that type of education is experiencing blowback and the two groups will express their support ahead of a Langley School District Meeting.

Aims for a more inclusive school

Creators of the guidelines, called SOGI 123, say the goal is to encourage more inclusive school policies, classroom environments and teaching materials. They say these help support LGBT students who might not feel safe or confident at school.

But correspondence received by the school district calls SOGI 123 a "pervasive attempt to poison the minds of children with sex activist propaganda."

McKenna calls that misinformation driven by "hatred and fear."

"We really want to be the voice to say the majority of parents in the district understand that inclusivity and diversity is a part of life. It's not something to fear," he said.

"It's really important that our children understand that being diverse is not a bad thing. … We want to give them a basis in education so they can ask questions and make decisions for themselves."

The Langley School District, in an email, affirmed its commitment to the SOGI curriculum and described the majority of community reaction to it as "supportive and favourable."

PFLAG and Langley Parents for Inclusivity will rally at the main offices of the Langley School District Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. The school board meets at 7 p.m.

CBC attempted to contact several people who have publicly opposed the SOGI 123 program but did not receive replies.

With files from Michelle Eliot and Natasha Frakes