Blog | January 31, 2015

By Bill Mah, Edmonton JournalEDMONTON - Krista Leddy doesn’t want to think about where her daughter Aura would be if she hadn’t gone to a school with a gay-straight alliance.“My daughter went through a really rough patch through junior high and high school, and a GSA honestly did save her life,” said Krista.The Leddys were among the speakers who shared their experiences on gay-straight alliances on Saturday at We Are Listening.The event, described as a public conversation on GSAs, invited lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, questioning and transgender (LGBTQ) youth, parents and teachers to an auditorium in the Winspear Centre, where they could talk and listen in a safe and welcoming environment.“It’s very important for me to share this,” said Krista. “When my daughter was in junior high, she was bullied and had a very rough time.“We approached the school, the teachers, other parents. We tried to do everything we could to create a better school experience.”None of it helped and her daughter battled depression and needed medical help.Things brightened only when Aura moved to a high school with a GSA — essentially a support group where LGBTQ students meet with straight friends.“It was like night and day. Within a few months, she went from this dark place to having friends and being a leader and being a part of the school environment, being very sociable and taking on responsibilities that she would never have before.”Aura said it was important to share her experience at the conference.“I don’t think we’ve fully appreciated everyone’s story when it comes to the LGBTQ community. This is the perfect opportunity to see how important the issues are facing that community, especially within our schools, which I don’t believe has been fully examined,” said Aura.“I came from a very dark place in junior high with a lot of bullying and not a lot of support in the school. Then coming to a high school first with a GSA and transferring to another high school and being able to create a GSA, that’s something for me to give back to that community and to support others who have gone through the same sort of turmoil.”We Are Listening is sponsored by the City of Edmonton Youth Council, Edmonton Social Planning Council, Edmonton Pride Centre and Public Interest Alberta.Event co-ordinator Michael Phair said the event is a response to the Alberta government’s introduction of Bill 10, which could force gay-straight alliance meetings off school property if school boards object to their presence.Facing a mounting backlash, Premier Jim Prentice put third reading of the bill on hold in December, pending further consultation with Albertans.“We were concerned that there was no one listening to young people,” Phair said.“What do they know about GSAs and why do they think it’s important? We hope that by doing this today, it will help everyone see, particularly at the political level, that it makes a great deal of difference to many young people.”An electronic recording of the event will be sent to MLAs, Phair said.bmah@edmontonjournal.com
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