When I was five, in kindergarten, and living in a suburb of Montreal, I had a boyfriend, and his name was Jeff, and he was black. One day, during a particularly ethereal afternoon of drawing and colouring, I drew a picture of my beloved Jeff and myself, and I coloured us both a fantastic shade of green. Both of us. The same colour.
My teacher confiscated the drawing. My parents were called to the school. Discussions were had. This was the 70s, and apparently, a five-year-old not seeing the difference in the colour of her skin and the boy she liked best (we even held hands at lunch. How cute is that?) was categorically unacceptable.
As an aside, it’s important to explain a couple of things. My parents were not great parents. Children likely should not have been in their purview. Mostly, the lessons I took away from them were what not to do in life. But they did teach me one solid, amazing lesson that day, and they stuck by it through their lifetimes. We do not judge, alienate, or cause harm in any way, via words or actions to anyone based on their skin colour, religion, political opinions, choice of NFL or CFL teams, or their sexual orientation.
But I digress. After the ‘discussions’ at the school, my parents took me, and my drawing, home, and they put it on the fridge, and gave me the lesson I just described above. And however amazingly intolerant they were of most of life, they instilled the edict of tolerance and acceptance in me that day, and it stuck with me for 41 years.
And yesterday, I was, to be frank, shocked to discover that same ethos did not seem to have been taught to everyone in my community.
I knew that a proposed rainbow crosswalk was being brought to town council Wednesday night by the St. Stephen Middle School. They were asking only for permission. Not money, not town resources. And although I don’t have the space to dissect it here, council did not do what to me was a foregone conclusion, and approve the notion of the crosswalk.
The idea that children, who are promoting a symbol for a community that represents inclusion, regardless of your sexual orientation, are being told by the adults in power in that community their symbol is divisive and problematic has left me gobsmacked.
No, the fate of the crosswalk was not decided last night. The final vote takes place at the November council meeting.
I fully support each person’s right to agree or disagree. 100 per cent. You don’t have to love, or even like the idea of a rainbow crosswalk. I fully support any person’s right to that opinion.
But to tell children that they cannot, under their own steam and resources, create a symbol of inclusion that is finding its way onto streets throughout the province, the country, and the world, has left me with nothing but questions and dismay. I can only hope inclusion prevails in November.