foster home, bullying, lesbian, queer, guidance counsellor, closet, Pride, accepting, gender fluid, diversity, accommodating, racism, bullying, violence, school climate
Tara: Maybe you could talk about your own experience as a queer person in school?
Nicole: Night and day.
Mita: Night and day.
Alec: Maybe talk about your own experience?
Nicole: Well I grew up in foster care. Um, in and out, quite a few of them until I was about eight. And I was constantly bullied from the time I was eight until I was seventeen. And I didn’t know what my background was, but everybody else kind of knew [unclear]. And then in grade six somebody thought I was queer, and started running around going, “You’re a lezzie, you’re a lezzie”, and my guidance counsellor actually at the time she was really good. I went to go see her and I said “what’s this word ‘lesbian’?” It was grade eight, actually, I remember this, and she said “it’s a woman that loves a woman, do you think you’re a lesbian?” And I said, “I don’t know but their –the kids are calling me that” so I wanted to know what it was, and I was horrified when she told me because I knew instinctively, yah, that’s me, and then hid it for many, many years.
Mita: I cannot believe that the girls, when they were here for Pride they’re talking about gender fluidity. They’re so accepting of each other and nurturing of each other’s differences whatever they may be cultural or sexual or orientation. Whatever it is, they are very accommodating and accepting and that struck me as being night and day difference between my first experience when I came to Canada. Um, when I first came here my teacher said, “I’m going to call you Susan” and I said “that’s not my name”, and she said, “Well, it’s easier for me to say. So I’m just going to call you Susan”. And her name was Mrs. Satcha and I had an attitude and I said, “ I’m going to call you Mrs. Smith, and she said “that’s not my name”. And I said “I can’t pronounce your name, so you’re Mrs. Smith”. And she sent me to the principal’s office and I got in great trouble. This was grade four.
Tara: Grade 4.
Mita: And they called in my dad and said, “She’s being very, very difficult” and he said, “Well, you’re going to have to learn to call her by her name, she’s not going to answer to Susan. It’s not going to happen”. And the bullying was so bad. They used to beat me up. There was like a group of bullies that were horrible who would pelt me with ice snowballs and trip me and throw me to the ground. I would come home with bleeding knees every day, and when my parents went to the school and said this is a huge problem, their response was to let me out of class ten minutes early so I could have a head start running home. This was the solution. And I see that school experience and the one that the girls are having now and it really is night and day.