Many, if not most, people know first-hand what it’s like to be bullied in one way or another.
Sadly, too much bullying happens due to things the victim can’t, or won’t, change about themselves, which puts them in a truly no-win situation.
Add in social media and what once seemed like a situation confined to a single location suddenly rages everywhere 24/7 with little recourse.
Imagine having an inner struggle about identity while dealing with the external forces driven by misunderstanding, intolerance, and hate.
Aldergrove-based Anglican minister David Taylor knows all too well about the mix of internal and external struggle when trying to determine one’s fit in the world.
Taylor knew from a young age that he was gay and that he also wanted to work with the church. It was at a time, he recounted, when those two things didn’t line up as well as they could.
“Many LGBTQ people carry the weight of other people’s fears, phobias, and anxieties, as well as their own fears, phobias, and anxieties,” he shared with the Langley Advance.
While B.C. schools brought sexual orientation and gender identity policies into effect in the fall of 2016, it doesn’t mean everyone is happy with them or the subsequent curriculum that explores aspects of the Human Rights Code.
There are some in Langley, and neighbouring communities such as Abbotsford and Chilliwack, who have taken to their computers and placards over the implementation of what is dubbed SOGI 123.
Some of these small groups have even labelled the SOGI-friendly policies as being abusive to children.
Around the time the issues were being challenged, Taylor was added to a Facebook group.
“It was all accidental [that I ended up involved in the group discussion],” he explained. “Some people were saying some pretty inaccurate things. People were misrepresenting it. It just seems so problematic to take any extreme position.”
These new school district policies came as a result of the updates to the BC Human Rights Code in 2016 that focused on gender identity and gender expression as forbidden reasons for discrimination.
This goes beyond the issues of what bathroom to use and appropriate pronouns. The in-school Sexual Orientation and Gender Identification (SOGI) policies are about inclusivity, diversity, and respect.
“SOGI is a way for teachers to ensure that their classes are safe for every child every day that the kid is in the class,” Taylor said.
Opponents, like Langley-based Parents United Canada – which appears to be part of the organization Culture Guard – have been speaking out against SOGI 123 through executive director Kari Simpson and others.
Commentary on the Culture Guard website in video and print refers to the legal action the organization is taking to stop SOGI in schools and includes phrases like, “turning them, the students, into SOGI warriors,” adding that students are “taught a common language as defined by the sex activists,” outlines that transgender children are undergoing surgery to remove “perfectly healthy body parts” and describes SOGI in a number of instances as “brainwashing” and “child abuse.”
Simpson has also described SOGI as a political agenda.
It’s this kind of response that gave Taylor an awareness that others are misunderstanding what SOGI is and can be in schools.
Another group, Langley Parents for Inclusivity, has also formed to rally and express its side of the debate to support SOGI and the need to make all children feel included at school.
There are no easy answers. But, as was the case for Taylor, dealing with personal identity issues doesn’t come easy.
It was important for Taylor, when he took his job as a minister, to be a whole and complete person with his congregation and in all aspects of his life. He wouldn’t hide any part of his identity although some tried to change him in what was called reparative therapy.
“I want to live a life of integrity,” he said. “I will probably carry that scar [from being told to change and not be gay] for life.”
There were dark times for Taylor, just as for local youth who now are struggling with their identities and may go through dark times.
His options were limited by who he was. He loved the rituals of the Roman Catholic Church but knew there was no place for him there. Instead, he went to a seminary in Vancouver and was ordained in the Anglican church in 2009.
“I was wearing my rainbow necklace,” he said of his first day at the seminary.
He refused to hide who he was.
Interestingly, he was told, he wasn’t the first.
“I can’t say I was a trail-blazer,” he noted. “I worked in a church in Vancouver for about nine years and I loved it, but I wanted to explore what it was like to be in charge of the vision of a church.”
A little more than two years ago now, he joined the Anglican Parish of St. Dunstan in Aldergrove.
Taylor’s husband, Andrew is also an Anglican minister, but in South Vancouver. The couple, who have been together since 2002, were blessed in 2009 and legally married in 2011. They have a six-year-old son, Nathan.
“I innately trust the school system is going to do a good job,” he said. “I want to have my children raised in a way that they know they belong. Give them the tools to be who God has made them to be. Creating opportunity for children to be resilient, which is what I think SOGI does.”
Taylor takes no formal or informal role with the school system’s SOGI program, but he does want to help people understand and not be afraid.
“I am a spiritual leader and helper for people who feel afraid or oppressed or excluded and help find programs so they don’t feel afraid or oppressed or excluded,” he said.
“In my job as a priest, I won’t necessarily refer to psychological studies. I will refer to scriptures. I think I can find the same answers psychoanalysts have found in their studies.”
There has been an increase in the LBGTQ community attending Taylor’s church, plus, there has been an increase in the allies of this community attending.
Taylor saw many of his congregation take part in a September 2017 rally in Langley to support SOGI.
“It was so exciting to see young people have a different experience, and now the institutions are supporting it with SOGI,” he said.
“The burden is lifted from these young people. It’s not just for LGBTQ children, but for every child who comes in the school. How we treat people who are different from us is important.”