Emma Weston has seen how cruel people can be towards people in the LGBTQ+ community.
The 16-year-old Royal Bay secondary student knows there is a long way to go to reach complete equality and acceptance for those identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+). But she hopes a trip to Toronto for an educational forum on the issues can be a positive step in the right direction.
“Equality is very important and it saves lives, you look at stats and see how many committed suicide or (were) murdered,” Weston said. “(Gay rights activists) in Bangladesh being hacked to death. There will always be people that don’t accept, use violence against us. But it’s one step at the time that changes the world.”
The Grade 11 student said she has been bullied for being different. She hopes to take information and knowledge gained from this week’s forum to establish a West Shore Gay Straight Alliance (GSA), a meeting place where people in the LGBTQ+ community can meet to build and promote awareness and equality.
“When it comes down to it, we are all just (part of the) human species and it dumbfounds me there is so much hate for queer people. All we are doing is loving people,” she said. “We are receiving hate for loving.”
Weston applied for the forum on a recommendation from social justice teacher Danielle Huckulak. After an interview, she was selected as one of the 75 youth nationally to attend the event. The all-expenses paid educational opportunity winds up on Sunday (May 15).
Before she left, Weston said she was looking forward to being surrounded by others with the same focus in a city she will see for the first time. “I don’t know what’s going on in Alberta and Quebec, and (I hope to get) a sense of what is going on across Canada and what their attitudes are towards (these issues)” she said.
“I want to gain the knowledge and give it back to my peers.”
The future West Shore GSA will be available for anyone, whether they attend Royal Bay or not and regardless of age, ethnicity or sexual orientation, Weston said.
“I really believe this group will help the community. (It’ll) bring awareness to LGBTQ+ issues and education and diversify, even more, this growing community.”