Ever since I can remember, my sister has broken every mould. The youngest child, with five years between her and my younger brother, she was always surprising.
Before she even started school, my father had an offer he couldn’t refuse—at the end of the world, or so it seemed—in Fort McMurray. We were uprooted and transplanted. I was a teenager and thought my life was over. My sister was a pre-schooler and didn’t know the difference. Her life was just beginning.
She started school in Fort McMurray and endured more than her share of drama, from a tuberculosis scare to schoolyard bullying, she prevailed against the odds. As an exceptional athlete, and with my father as her baseball coach, she rose above the tomboy taunts and bonded with her teammates.
While she was on an extended school field trip south, our father passed away from a heart attack at the age of 42. She was still in elementary school. When she arrived back, I was left to explain it to her in my limited experience as a 20-something university student. My mother was devastated. He died too young. What else can you say?
Meanwhile, my sister had already begun charting a course of her own. From her pre-teens through to her high school graduation, she had an affinity that could not be denied. When she came out as gay in her later years, it was more of a relief than anything. We could finally speak openly about something we always knew to be true.
Yet, even with a supportive family, we could all see her struggling with the stigma. Despite stable, long-term relationships, she will not deny that she felt isolated, depressed and besieged.
Loud and proud
Then, two years ago, I invited my sister to march in the Calgary Pride parade with the Kent Hehr float. Having lived in rural communities her whole life, my sister seemed nervous about the up-front and no-shame nature of the parade, but showed up that Sunday morning with her mind made up. Full pride. Full stop.
She was vocal. She was proud and she felt totally at home with Kent.
My daughter, a university student studying political science, had spent the summer as a student working in Kent’s office. She was also there, having lent her artistic skills decorating the float. She had grown up with her auntie’s gay partners and didn’t really understand. What is the big deal?
It’s not all rainbows and love
I think it became very real to her that day at the parade. This was not just all about rainbows and love. This was about recognizing reality, facing facts and righting wrongs. Homosexuality is natural and normal. There is no reason for anyone who is gay to be discriminated against. None. Whatsoever.
My proudest moments were during that parade. My daughter waving the rainbow flag on Kent’s float, my sister shouting “loud and proud,” and my friend, Kent leading the charge. He was his usual unwavering supporter. His mom and dad were there, waving the rainbow flag.
Courage against the hateful Bill 44
Kent gave my sister (and others like her) courage with his stand against Bill 44, a hateful piece of legislation that panders to the religious zealots who would impose their will and judgment on the moderate majority. The so-called “Progressive” Conservative Party of Alberta (PCAA) passed that shameful bill, despite the public outcry, pandering to misplaced fear. The bill remains in force, continuing to suppress the rights of a significant sector of the population.
Kent followed up with a stand against homophobia with his Motion 503, urging the Alberta government to take action against schools (receiving taxpayer dollars) who do not allow their students to form Gay-Straight Alliances. Again, the majority of the elected PCAA members, claiming to be more progressive than the Wildrose Party, joined with the wrong-headed social conservatives in an unholy alliance and voted it down.
Attacking the vulnerable
By doing so, they virtually assured the continued suppression of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, two-spirited, queer students at their most vulnerable – while still in school. Voting against Kent’s motion gave the homophobes permission to continue to discriminate against a large segment of the population for an entirely natural behaviour. This is totally, unequivocally unfair.
I’m proud to have supported Kent for a number of years, through many Calgary Pride parades (he was once even named the grand marshal of the pride). Since he was first elected, he has understood the responsibility to the LGBTTQ community that comes with his office. I know he takes it seriously.
This is one of the many reasons why I support Kent for Member of Parliament in Calgary Centre and why I am a volunteer on his campaign.
If you agree with me, please let me know and join our chorus of voices against intolerance. We need your help and your support. Thank you.