Students at a small town Nova Scotia high school rallied to support the victim of bullies who was targeted because he wore a pink shirt, which (of course!) made him gay. (Thanks to Bike Rally buddy Owen for passing this on.)
The story has been picked up internationally, and now the school is being contacted by others who want to bring “Pink Shirt Day” to their schools. A powerful meme about tolerance is released, and a million pink shirts bloom.
My friend Owen does amazing work in the small Ontario town of Peterborough and the Kawartha Lakes region. Among other work for PARN, Owen works with student GLBTQ groups and helps students set up groups in their schools. He told me of a school near the cottage country town of Bobcaygeon (pop’n: 3,000) with a vibrant queer youth group that includes many straight participants. I was astounded. As a kid who grew up in Owen Sound (pop’n: 22,000) in the 80s, I just couldn’t imagine that level of awareness, openness and support in a tiny rural Ontario town.
Bronski Beat’s “Smalltown Boy”, an anthem for kids growing up gay in the 80s, tells the story of a gay boy who has to leave his small town, soaked in the melancholy that implies. Of course, this is still an all too frequent story, but one that is becoming less and less common thanks to the work of students, community activists and the culture at large.
As I reflect upon the change that has happened in our culture, it gives me hope in so many other aspects of life.