British Columbia

'More Chill, Less Wack' T-shirts designed by Chilliwack school trustee aimed at LGBTQ opponents

From a firestorm of controversy after a Chilliwack school trustee denounced trans people to council's recent decision to reject a rainbow crosswalk, some Chilliwack residents are saying despite the optics, not everyone in Chilliwack is divisive.
'Having a counter message to some of the whack comments that have been made is fun,' said artist and school trustee Willow Reichelt. (Submitted)

Willow Reichelt, a Chilliwack artist and school trustee, wanted to find a way to create a counter message to what she describes as homophobic and transphobic comments coming from local politicians in her community. 

Earlier this month, Chilliwack's council rejected a petition for a rainbow crosswalk in the city. And two years ago, a school trustee publicly shared his opinion that allowing transgender children to express their gender identity was "nothing short of child abuse." 

Reichelt doesn't support those views and came up with a way to make her position clearly visible. 

She designed a T-shirt using a play on words that calls for "More Chill, Less Wack."

She had a few printed in time for Chilliwack's inaugural Pride Picnic in August, hoping to share the message that Chilliwack is an inclusive community. 

"There are tons and tons of us who want everybody treated equally regardless of our sexual orientation and gender identity," said Reichelt.

"Having a counter message to some of the whack comments that have been made is fun," she said.

'I do my best to treat people based on their actions, and their words, not on things like their sexual orientation, race or any other attributes they were born as,' Marty van den Bosch wrote in a social media post. (Marty van den Bosch/Facebook)

Reichelt has sold 110 of the T-shirts so far and will be donating all her artist's commissions to the Chilliwack Youth Health Centre.

"It would be the first point of contact for a kid who may be having questions about their sexual orientation or gender identity who needed to talk to someone," she said.

On Sept. 4, a petition signed by more than 700 people was presented to Chilliwack council requesting a rainbow crosswalk in the city's downtown. 

All but one councillor voted to deny the crosswalk request.

"You cannot change attitudes by painting crosswalks," Coun. Sue Knott said during the meeting. 

In October 2017, Chilliwack school trustee Barry Neufeld sparked outrage when he said on Facebook that "letting little children choose to change gender is nothing short of child abuse."

Neufeld also denounced members of B.C.'s education system as "radical cultural nihilists" for their policies on gender rights. The post was in response to the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity program (SOGI) in B.C. schools.

Like Reichelt, Chilliwack resident Marty van den Bosch also felt the need to show his support for the LGBTQ community. 

In a colourful gesture, van den Bosch painted his driveway with an 11-metre-long rainbow and posted it to Facebook.

In the post, van den Bosch said in light of "recent events" — meaning council's rejection of the rainbow crosswalk — he and his wife, Kristy van den Bosch, decided to paint the giant rainbow because "diversity is important."

"I support the belief that everyone should be treated with respect, regardless of our differences," he wrote.