Gay-straight alliances should be mandatory: Regina student

Tonight there will be a panel discussion to talk about gay-straight alliances in high schools. This coincides with the city's pride week and will focus on safe spaces, especially in the wake of the Orlando shooting.

'We're not safe yet,': Regina high school student Anna Robinson to speak on panel

Bernie Mathieson attended high school in Regina in the 1980s and said having the support of a gay-straight alliance would have made a world of difference. (CBC)

On Wednesday night, a panel in Regina will talk about the idea of gay-straight alliances (GSAs) in high schools. The panel coincides with the city's pride week.

Grade 12 student Anna Robinson will speak on the panel.

She attends Campbell Collegiate and is the co-president of her school's queer-straight alliance (QSA). Robinson said safe spaces, like QSAs, should be mandatory in high schools. 

"They are necessary," she said. 

She cited Alberta's legislation that mandates a GSA be implemented should a student request one. Saskatchewan doesn't have a similar legislation.

There are still schools in the Regina area without a form of GSA. 

School without support

Regina resident Bernie Mathieson knows what it's like to have attended a high school that didn't have a safe space.

He attended Archbishop M.C. O'Neill High School in the 1980s.

"My high school experience would have been a tenfold better [with a GSA]," he said.

Mathieson said the option to have supports from LGBT allies as well as people of his own lifestyle to talk to, would have made his high school experience completely different in terms of morale and involvement.

There was nobody you could talk to.-Bernie Mathieson 

"High school for me was pretty much classified as a nightmare," he said.

Mathieson didn't openly identify as gay then, but was beat up and bullied for being different. He was called "fag" and "gay" and bullied for being "feminine." 

He skipped classes and his grades fell. During that time, GSAs were unheard of. 

"Back then there was nobody you could talk to," he said, noting he didn't even feel he could approach a teacher or a counselor about what was going on.

"I've heard that since that things have changed there,"
Locals are gathering tonight in Regina to discuss what gay-straight alliances mean for city schools. (Dean Terry)

Making progress

Things have changed so much Mathieson could hardly believe Robinson when she informed him that Archbishop M.C. O'Neill High School was the first Catholic school in Regina to have a safe space for LGBT students.

Robinson is hopeful for the future of LGBT students in local high schools, and Mathieson is too, however, they both say there is still a lot of work to do.

"We're not safe yet," Robinson said. "I think that for everyone the [Orlando] shooting was kind of a wake-up call."

The GSA panel is at 7 p.m. CST at the Cathedral Neighbourhood Centre. 

With files from CBC Radio's Morning Edition