What's in your backpack?

CCRCE News: 
Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Let's Talk About Sexual Orientation

Every day, each one of us carries an invisible backpack. That backpack is filled with all of the things that make us who we are. 

CCRSB’s Race Relations, Cross-Cultural Understanding and Human Rights Social Justice Framework helps us to understand what’s in another person’s backpack, and compels us all to approach one another with compassion, empathy and respect. 

Our Social Justice Framework identifies five pillars that might be in our backpacks: Race, Class, Gender, Sexual Orientation and Abilities. These pillars fill our backpacks all the time, but sometimes one pillar can feel heavier than others. 

The pillar of Sexual Orientation focuses on how a person defines themselves, with respect to whom they consider themselves attracted to emotionally, physically and sexually. If you identify as female, and you feel attracted to males, then you most likely identify as heterosexual or “straight”. If you identify as male and you find yourself most attracted to other males then you probably identify as homosexual, though “lesbian” (for females) and “gay” tend to be the terms that most people use and prefer. People who feel emotionally attracted to both males and females may identify as bisexual. 

Our CCRSB community includes thousands of people – staff, students and volunteers – and for many of our community members the pillar of Sexual Orientation weighs heavy in their backpack. That’s because these community members may often still suffer discrimination at home, school, work and in their local communities. 

Sometimes discrimination happens and we don’t even realize it. What we say has an impact on others. What we do has an impact on others. Being gay, lesbian, bisexual or “Queer” is not something to be ashamed of. So, why do so many people use those terms as an insult? 

As connected, caring, respectful community members we need to look at each other’s backpacks and take care with not only what we say and do, but how we think about each other. 

Our sexual orientation is private, it belongs to us as individuals. No one has the right to make another person feel bad for who they are. The essence of Social Justice is understanding and respect. 

By focusing on the needs of others, and opening our hearts and minds to respect, empathy and compassion we can help to make each other’s backpacks a little bit lighter.