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Charla Huber: Rainbow crosswalks are a powerful statement to LGBTQ youth

When I heard that the rainbow crosswalk at Royal Bay Secondary School has been vandalized with spray paint and hateful slurs, I shook my head in disbelief.
From left, Royal Bay Secondary School Grade 12 student Oskar Wood, teacher Missy Haynes and Grade 12 student Jay Ruryk paint a rainbow crosswalk at the school. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

When I heard that the rainbow crosswalk at Royal Bay Secondary School has been vandalized with spray paint and hateful slurs, I shook my head in disbelief.

The next day, I was very impressed with the social media campaign School District 62 started to spread love and provide an opportunity for people to share their support to the LGBTQ community.

I am 39 and I know many readers would still consider me young, but when I was growing up, there was not as much support for the LGBTQ community as there is now. The vandalism we saw last week has no place in 2021.

During my childhood, I do not recall seeing any LGBTQ characters on television or in books, and I never met a child who had two same-sex parents. In hindsight, I am sure that from kindergarten to Grade 12, I went to school with children who had gay parents, but they probably made sure not to let it be a well-known fact.

When I was in the seventh grade, my friend Alan came out to me as we rode bikes in a cul-de-sac. He told me that he was gay and then followed with: “You don’t have to be my friend anymore if you don’t want to.”

I told him that I would still be his friend and I remember being very curious about him being gay, because he was the first gay person I had ever known.

He did not come out at school and I never told anyone his secret. The following year, he came out to another girl, who told the whole school, and his life was made so much more difficult by the bullying and teasing he endured from everyone. It was absolutely awful to witness. I tried to help, but I could not stop it.

I like to think that our world is getting more respectful and supportive of people from all backgrounds, genders and sexual orientations. Painting a rainbow crosswalk is one way that this is done.

To some, it might not seem to be more than a colourful crosswalk, but to students like my grade-school friend Alan, it could have meant a lot. When a school welcomes a rainbow crosswalk, it is a public statement that people from the LGBTQ community are welcomed and wanted. For a teen walking into school, being reminded that they are accepted for who they are is a powerful way to start the day.

When non-LGBTQ students walk on the crosswalk into their school each morning, they are also reminded that LGBTQ people have a place in the school and there is no room for hate.

I was watching old re-runs of Modern Family with my daughter and there was an episode about when gay marriage became legal. My daughter turned to me and expressed shock that there was a time where people of the same sex could not be married.

My daughter has friends who are openly gay, who are transgender and who have gay parents. She reads graphic novels about two boys in love, and I find it pretty incredible that she is being raised in a time where LGBTQ stories are being told.

To the people who vandalized the rainbow crosswalk, shame on you. I am grateful that the community rallied around to demonstrate the acceptance and support that everyone deserves.

Charla Huber is the Director of Communications and Indigenous Relations for M’akola Housing Society.