image from Shari Okeke/CBC
image from Shari Okeke/CBC article

“I learned that people are much more accepting even though there is hatred in the world, because I have experienced that. I learned that people are very OK with [who I am] and I should be OK with it, and that’s what the LGBT Club has helped me understand. It is OK to be ‘different,’ ” Bry said.

via Bry Bitar, Montreal LGBT teen, sparks school uniform revolution – Montreal – CBC News.

This really made my day on so many levels. First of all, they are only 13 years old.  Just goes to show how strong people can grow when they are supported. Sure I know some of us are stronger just by nature, but I think we’re all aware of how even a strong person can be hurt and feel diminished.

I also love that Bry doesn’t adhere to labels. Labels always seem like such a good idea, until they paint us as someone or something we aren’t. Suddenly everyone else falls for the label, and then sometimes we end up believing it too. I’m quite all right with the pronoun “they”. Let’s face it, using he or she in this case doesn’t actually tell the whole story does it? Maybe that’s exactly the point. We’re forced to look beyond a label. Using they makes us take a second look and reconsider our assumptions. For those who would suggest ‘it’, I agree with a commenter who explained that he, she, and they refer to people, but ‘it’ is used to refer to objects, things. Using ‘it’ in this case would also give a very poor message.  I think ‘they’ works just fine.

In my opinion I see a youngster who not only has an opinion, it’s a well thought out opinion and a well articulated one at that.

However, getting to this happy place, this place of support and love didn’t come easily.  It had many tough patches, a dark side that many people who are considered ‘different’ know all to personally.  At Bry’s other school they weren’t accepted and things became unbearable.

“I became depressed, like severely. I didn’t want to talk to anyone, I thought everyone hated me…. I did become suicidal and I attempted, but thank God nothing happened because I’m better today,” Bry said.

Bry’s parents and Royal West Academy in Montreal are proving to schools, parents, students, community and the world at large that change is possible. It’s not only possible, it’s needed.

Bry’s father explained that when Bry finally discussed how bad things had gotten at the other school Bry it was like a weight lifted, “I could see it in his face what a big relief it was for him.”

The LGBT club at the school is a safe place where the students are accepted and build community.  It would appear that the school takes their students seriously and does more than tolerate differences, they advocate accepting differences.

Recently Bry approached the school about wearing the girls’ uniform and even Bry was a little surprised when the school agreed. They are willing to look at options and ideas openly.  Their goal appears to be inclusion wherever possible. Navigating this territory is new for most of us, this school is appears to be doing an admirable job, just like Bry’s parents.

It’s not all rosy, not everyone in the community is as accepting or tolerant.  The safety Bry feels in school isn’t always available outside the walls.  But Bry isn’t letting those potential dangers stop them from being who they are, a cool kid who wants to live life, have fun and do some good in the world.  Now what’s wrong with that?

By supporting our children in their differences, in becoming who they are meant to be, we are setting the world stage for every person to be all they can be, to help others, to make the world a better, kinder, happier, accepting place where we can achieve anything.  Why? Because instead of extinguishing their light we let it shine brilliantly.

I truly hope that more communities, schools and parents take the lead from Montreal’s Royal West Academy and Bry and his parents.  The alternative is losing these brilliant lights that could provide so much.  Not a viable option.

If you have a story you’d like to share about support you’ve received as a LGBT person we’d love to hear it. Shine on and Rise Like Air. You’ll find your way.

edit 21mar2015

Raising My Rainbow shares another story about a 17 year old named Morgan whose school has not proven as supportive in accepting differences. The story has sparked #ClothingHasNoGender.

© 2015 JFries / Rise Like Air

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