October 13 to 17 marks Ally Week, a week in which diversity is celebrated and those who support the LGBT community are encouraged to step forward as social justice allies. I am rather excited about this; I had no idea there was such a week, and as someone who is helping with two Gender and Sexuality Alliances, or GSAs, I can see how Ally Week can be incredibly empowering for the generation that is currently moving through high school. It is an opportunity for social justice unlike anything I recall during my own high school years.
The interesting thing is, Ally Week has grown to such an extent that it is not just about the LGBT community anymore. It is about promoting diversity, in all its forms. Students at Ohio State University, for instance, are taking “Selfies for Social Justice” with the option of costuming themselves prior to entering a photo booth for the event. Some high schools in Canada are working on displays and intend on maintaining a hallway presence so that the conversation about Ally Week and diversity as a whole continues.
The diversity movement, though, is not limited to high schools. Elementary schools are also looking at establishing GSAs in Ontario, Canada, and more and more, preteens are starting to come out as part of the LGBT community. The very sad thing for these elementary school students, however, is they do not necessarily receive the support they should at home. Some parents question how their sons or daughters can identify themselves as being gay, lesbian, trans or bisexual, to the extent that there are some being sent to psychiatrists and psychologists for appointments they may not necessarily need.
It has long been proven that identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transsexual does not mean there is some sort of mental illness afoot. It is incredibly sad that these younger people are ultimately going to be dusted aside by the people who should be their strongest allies – their parents – in the whole coming out process. That said, there are also thousands of parents in the world who are incredibly supportive of their children regardless of their sexual orientation. Ally Week could go a long way towards helping younger students who are questioning as well as older students who might be curious about issues of sexual orientation and of diversity.
One of the most important ideals of Ally Week, however, is education. It is critical that students and adults alike realize that diversity is prevalent throughout society. There is no avoiding it; in fact, diversity is what helps separate us as individuals. If we were all the same, with the same tastes in clothing, partners, and so forth, we run the risk of building a society with a very strong resemblance to the Stepford Wives. We need to support each other regardless of our sexual preferences, our race, or religious practices. While Ally Week was established by GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network, it is important to know that in reality, supporting diversity and social justice as a whole is a must if we want to have a healthy, productive society.
Opinion by Christina St-Jean