These students made tie-dye T-shirts (not pictured) for Pride Week at Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary.

These students made tie-dye T-shirts (not pictured) for Pride Week at Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary.

Opinion: A step forward for Surrey students

The opening of a gender neutral washroom at Lord Tweedsmuir adds new layers to the term, ‘Panther Pride’

Let’s take a moment to acknowledge an important step on the road to justice and equality at one of our schools.

Kudos to students, staff and administration at Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary, where they recently celebrated their first ever Pride Week in support of LGBT students, and opened a gender-neutral restroom (“New restroom ‘a big step forward,’” May 11).

The principal and a student representative of the school’s Gay Straight Alliance performed a ribbon cutting ceremony that was followed by a parade from the new restroom to the school’s gathering spot, the Hub, capping off a week of activities that added new layers of meaning to the school’s motto,  Panther Pride.

“The ribbon cutting and parade had an amazing turnout, it was better than we could’ve imagined,” student MacKenzie Jasper told us Friday.

A school milestone, to be sure, but we weren’t sure how the news would be received by all of our readers.

After all, Cloverdale is one of Surrey’s oldest town centres, forged by pioneers and farmers, a place synonymous with rodeos and somewhat stodgy-sounding heritage attractions.

There have been important benchmarks in the quest for understanding and recognition of LGBT rights – from legalizing same-sex marriage in Canada to Caitlyn Jenner’s transformation from Olympic medalist to reality TV parent to trans cover girl.

As Cloverdale’s local newspaper, it seemed important that the moment not pass undocumented. Not quite knowing what to expect, we also posted photos to our Facebook page of students making tie dye T-shirts to show their LGBT support, and the door to the new, gender-neutral bathroom, a single-occupant facility that is wheelchair accessible to boot.

Then we braced for online trolls.

http://webpapersadmin.bcnewsgroup.com/portals/uploads/cloverdale/.DIR288/wRainbowstreamers.jpgIn the ever-evolving world of social media, the reaction from alumni and students was swift and prolific.

“Awesome! Way to Go,” said one. “This is so great,” said another. “Proud of my high school,” added a third. In other words, overwhelmingly positive.

Our May 3 post garnered our biggest number of “likes” (329), shares (160), and reader engagement stats (reaching nearly 13,000 people – not bad; the page is just shy of 1,000 followers).

Commenters stepped in to moderate. When one asked – in  “a tone” that was not well received – what a gender neutral bathroom is, another replied:

“Gender neutral washrooms are for anybody to use of any sex or gender. They are especially useful and nice to have for trans or unidentified peoples. The purpose is for no harassment or discrimination. Everybody is a person, no matter what or who they identify as.”

In covering the story, what was impressive was the enthusiasm of the students who organized the Pride Week events, and who lobbied, strenuously, for the restroom to begin with. Jasper stressed the importance of setting a good example as student leaders to younger students and, with graduation looming, to leave the school a safer place for the students coming up behind them.

“We were so proud to achieve the gender-neutral bathroom at our school, which was our first big step,” she said. “I believe this really proved to us that we may be young, but that our voices matter.”

– Jennifer Lang is editor of the Cloverdale Reporter

 

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