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Ethnic Community Leaders Should Support LGBTQ Youth

Recently, CBC reported the criticism directed at the Alberta Teacher's Association "Professionals Respecting and supporting Individual Sexual and Gender Minorities" (PRISM) resource for secondary schools.

The resource is meant to help foster inclusivity for all students. However, the argument of accommodating gender and sexual minority students at the expense of isolating racial minority students is both dangerous and false.

Specifically, a Calgary immigration lawyer asserted that the resource could create challenges as "most immigrants and second-generation Canadians tend to be much more religious than native-born Canadians." He mentioned Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims specifically and stated:

"You are going to have them deal with, perhaps an insinuation or unconscious, subconscious sort of assessment that their belief systems are primitive or they binary viewpoints of the universe are outmoded or outdated"

This criticism is unfounded. Immigrants are not necessarily more conservative and host nationals are not always more liberal. Moreover, such criticism ignores the existence of immigrant and refugee LGBTQ persons from Sikh, Hindu and Muslim backgrounds.

As an example, recent Syrian refugees find mosques in Germany too conservative for offering prayers. There have also been out gay Syrian refugees who now call Canada home.

There are many Muslim, Hindu and Sikh LGBTQ youth of colour who experience racism from xenophobes and hatred from homophobes. The recent news of a 21-year-old Sikh youth, who was abandoned by his own parents after coming out in Vancouver, is the latest of such harrowing stories.

The last thing they need is for ethnic community leaders to create false binaries between religion and sexuality. To do so would be to give into Orientalist tropes that somehow non-Western religions are backwards.

According to University of Toronto Professor Christopher Cochrane, there is a substantial diversity in Muslim opinions on same-sex marriage and only a small percentage of Canadian-born Muslims oppose same-sex marriage.

Indeed, Islam and the dharmic (Indian) faiths have accommodated gender and sexual minorities. The Prophet's household was visited by the mukhannathun (gender variant persons) of Medina. Some who defied binary gender categories have guarded his tomb for centuries.

The recent fatwa (legal edict) affirming the marriages of khawaja saras (transgender persons) in Pakistan is another example of accommodating gender minorities. In India, Ruth Vanita and Saleem Kidwai have compiled writings on same-sex love that span over 2000 years of Indian literature.

In 2012, Nobel Laureates, Shirin Ebadi of Iran and Muhammad Yunus of Bangladesh joined Desmond Tutu to affirm that their "cultural values" allow them to speak out against the discrimination of LGBTQ persons. Likewise, Asian, Hindu and Sikh parents have offered powerful videos, in languages including Punjabi, in support of their LGBTQ offspring.

As such, the criticism leveled against the Alberta Teacher's Association PRISM resource on the basis of isolating racial minorities is moot. Ethnic community stakeholders can offer leadership by unreservedly supporting the resource and facilitating their own courageous and resilient LGBTQ youth.

In facilitating safe spaces for ethnic gender and sexual minority youth, the following LGBTQ leaders offer ethnic community leaders their unstinted support as allies.

Dr. Kristopher Wells

Rob Wells

Todd Herron

Mickey Wilson

Roz Zulla

Dr. Junaid Jahangir

Rev. Dr. Nancy Steeves

Rev. Mark Chiang

Sue Brewer

Dr. Alvin Schrader

Gil Charest

Frank Testin

Jay Smith

Steven Townsend

Murray Billet

Gary Simpson

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