Report on Bullying, Discrimination and the LGBT2Q+ Community
Virginia Carraway Stark
** Please Note: A list of helpful websites is available at the bottom of this page**
I went to ‘Out in Schools’ on behalf of the South Peace Community Arts Council and StarkLight Press. Myself and Tony Stark with StarkLight Press were contacted by SPCAC as last minute attendees, because all other members of the SPCAC were unable to attend this afternoon seminar.
Out in Schools focuses on raising awareness against discrimination in all forms, particularly the LGBT2Q+ community. It was well attended by people who are extremely concerned by the situation of bias, discrimination and hate crimes against anyone perceived as not being part of the mainstream community.
The major focuses of the meeting were
- Connecting with allies
- Protecting vulnerable persons from discrimination and hate crimes.
The conclusions on these points were that Resources in the Peace River Region are sorely lacking as is a sense of community. Dawson Creek has been identified as a place in the province of British Columbia that is particularly prone to bigotry and discrimination. People leave the area rather than trying to deal with the storm of hatred in this area. This has caused province-wide concern.
SPCRS is one of the only groups that has any programs to assist the LGBT+ community. They are dealing with children and teenagers who are being kicked out of their homes by families that lack education and understanding. There was concern expressed about the lack of doctors for the LGBT+ community in particulary the Trans-gendered community.
Most resources eventually end up being routed through Vancouver. This and the extreme lack of understanding and compassion have caused most of this community to leave or to stay hidden. There are few community events and these events tend to be segregated from the community at large. This further isolates the LGBT+ population.
Both at the meeting and afterward, I connected with several people who said they were planning on leaving the area because of the unwelcoming environment. It was pointed out to me that there is little or no involvement of the LGBT+ community, People of Colour and Aboriginal population and the disabled community inside the arts community as a whole.
This has been noticed by provincial bodies as well and may affect future funding if diversity isn’t embraced.
The meeting served to connect allies with the LGBT+ community and the atmosphere at the meeting itself was warm and welcoming to all. Terms were gone over. It was discussed that a dictionary with terms should be made and the advocate from SPCRS discussed this matter with me and it was agreed that StarkLight Press would volunteer our services to make a dictionary based off of current terminology with a bold note in the front to let people know that these terms are highly changeable. Future editions of the LGBT+ dictionary will be an on-going project and something that is worked on in newer editions.
A side note to bring to your attention was discrimination in other fields not as yet legally recognized. These areas touched on the topics of those who look different having similar discrimination issues against them. This is particularly true for people with piercings, tattoos and alternative hairstyles including in some cases individuals with shaved heads. Freedom to express yourself should not limit your lifestyle or job options in an open society. These are things to keep in mind for the future and to be aware of in our daily conduct.
Support groups for men who are dealing with the subject of ‘toxic masculinity’ was breached. Many communities have started support groups to help men dealing with the suppressive atmosphere of emotion and sensitivity, essentially providing a ‘safe place’ for men to express their feelings. For many men this also includes emotional education and learning how to safely express their feelings after being taught in life and in the workplace that such things were not permissible.
It was generally agreed upon that this was something that Dawson wasn’t ready for but something to keep in mind for the future. If men should express a desire to start a group it is important that resources be made available for them to do so and that most of all community receptiveness is present. Toxic masculinity is a topic that isn’t addressed enough and many people aren’t even aware that it is a problem. Nevertheless, it induces feelings of hopelessness, loneliness and has resulted in many suicides and other acts of violence that could be prevented by opening this dialogue.
In addition, Self Advocacy was discussed at great length. It has been observed that abusers, bullies and those used to practicing discrimination rely on a regular course of attack on their victims to attempt to undermine and isolate them from the rest of the community at large. A Self-Advocacy booklet will go over the steps to reporting hate crimes, hate incidents and how to file claims with the various Human Rights Tribunals, the RCMP (as well as special Hate Crime division numbers to avoid any local problems from people attempting to go to the police who fear for their safety). Most of all this booklet will focus on how to speak up for yourself.
As a recent victim of discrimination myself, I have had the dubious distinction of learning more about how to file Human Rights Complaints and both how to speak up on my behalf and how the narrow-minded abuser will attempt to ‘mind rape’ people into being silent.
These tactics involve:
1 Calling the victim a trouble maker.
2 Calling the victim a liar.
3 Rallying around the central abuser. This is why Hate Crimes are often referred to as ‘a cancer in the community’ or a ‘community virus’. Justifying for the abuser and demonizing the victim brings more and more people into the conspiracy of discrimination in an effort to maintain the status quo.
4 Shunning the victim. Showing preference for the abuser.
These tactics were portrayed in a short film about a young trans-gendered boy in Prince George who nearly ended up committing suicide. He was not only expelled from school for speaking out about the abuse after being admonished by school administration to be silent, he was also chided in front of the boys who had assaulted him for daring to speak up and, ‘cause trouble’.
This pattern is one I witnessed after being called, ‘retarded’ by the president of the Pottery Guild of Dawson Creek and subsequently denied membership and access to the guild. I was admonished for speaking up about the abuse and discrimination on Facebook, to my husband and to friends. I was told that I had brought ‘bad press’ to the potter’s guild so now I would definitely not be given membership. This was after I was made to feel sub-human from Dori Braun’s characterizations of me as being mentally and physically too handicapped to be a potter. Even describing me as being, ‘unable to comprehend even the most basic of skills’ and as, ‘suffering from retardation’.
After continuing to speak out I was told in strong terms that I wouldn’t be welcome to perform at a public poetry event arranged by Donna Kane on behalf of the Peace Liard Arts Council because Dori was distressed that I was speaking about how she had treated me. Dori had now changed her story entirely, following the standard model of calling me a troublemaker, then a liar and finally gathering first the Potter’s Guild and then Donna Kane and other members of the arts community around her to validate her discrimination.
The result of this was that Dori performed and I was forced out of the community.
This is key to speak out about because anyone, regardless of the type of discrimination will see the same pattern. This can culminate quickly into violence or suicide and it is important to file a police report. It is also integral to intercede on behalf of the victim. One should never assume that a victim is not a victim because you have ‘known someone forever’. Every member of the community should have the same rights regardless of how long they have been in the community or what perceived or actual discrimination is being shown against them.
There is little to be gained in the material sphere for making claims against bullies. You are at once pressured by the abuser and their circle who try to vilify you and twist the situation around to the abuser’s advantage. It takes great strength to stand up against discrimination and speak out. There are few rewards and much pain and suffering.
If someone speaks out about abuse you need to listen. This is not ever a case of, ‘innocent until proven guilty’. Discrimination, bullying and hate crimes are often difficult to prove and it is the responsibility of every good-hearted person to improve society by intervening in this sort of behavior before more harm is done.
Protecting vulnerable people from hate crimes and discrimination is something that must be done as a community. Dawson Creek has received failing marks on this on all counts. Help for local victims of discrimination and abuse is almost always sought out from outside the community as the people of Dawson Creek fail again and again to fight these crimes.
Every Guild and Society must make it clear that it is open to all members. This is supposed to be clearly laid out in the charter of each group and when you sign for government funding that is one of the pre-requisites on nearly every form that the activity/guild/society be freely made available to all people. Rules of conduct and admission must be written up and clearly posted on your groups website and physical location if there is one.
This isn’t being done and is a violation of the reception of government grant money and loans.
In addition, a method of mediation for problems within societies should be clearly laid out. Communication should be transparent and the Arts Council as the one who holds the purse strings is responsible for ensuring that these steps are taken to ensure a friendly and inclusive environment for everyone. None of this is currently apparent.
I propose that someone be made responsible for this oversight and enacting the necessary changes to start making moves in the right direction. I also propose that a deadline be put on this activity to ensure that Dawson Creek doesn’t humiliate itself on the 75th anniversary of the Mile Zero celebrations by showing itself to be letting down its vulnerable population. Looking to the past and how the black population and the native population has been routinely ignored and abused I think it’s important that the current council not repeat the mistakes of Dawson Creek over the past 75 years.
- Virginia Carraway Stark is an award-winning author, whose short stories have appeared internationally. You can find her work at StarkLight Press, and on Amazon.com.
You can find more information about the Out in Schools program here:
South Peace Community Resources Society