Equality for Everyone (Especially in Terms of Respect and Dignity) Means NO Designated BCTF EC Seat Based on Sexuality and/or Gender Identity/Expression

Rather than build barriers and divisions in our union by discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and/or gender identity/expression, the BCTF should continue to push for equal respect and equal dignity for all members, all students, and all people – regardless of sexual orientation and/or gender identity/expression.

Proposals, if adopted, that would deny a designated seat on the Executive Committee for straight/cis members, by only allowing members who are not straight/cis to hold that seat are discriminatory. If adopted, these proposals build barriers and add divisions to our union.

The aim of the union should be an end to all forms of workplace and union discrimination on the basis of one’s sexuality and/or gender identity/expression. In addition, as union of teaching professionals, our aim should be schools that treat all students equally. Equal respect for all. Equal dignity for all.

As a union, out job is first and foremost to build unity. We do this by working together for common values and interests. Equal dignity, equal opportunity, and equal respect are unifying by everyone benefits when we are all treated on an equal basis.

The job of achieving equality in our union is not as easy as saying “everyone should be treated equally, regardless of their sexuality and/or gender identity/expression”. But we cannot achieve equality on this basis without setting this out as a goal. And we can never achieve equality by building structures in our union that make divisions and discrimination explicitly part of how we govern our union.

The BCTF should not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and/or gender identity/expression because every member, regardless if they are asexual, bisexual, heterosexual (straight), homosexual (gay or lesbian), pansexual, trans or non-binary (not cis), or two-spirit has an equal right to voice, vote, and role in the union. Let’s unite as a union, working together for equality and non-discrimination on the basis of one’s sexuality and/or gender identity/expression.

Beyond the principles of equality and treating everyone with respect and dignity, there are practical reasons to not build discrimination on the basis of sexuality and/or gender identity/expression into our union. First, is the practical value of unity. Equality unites, rather than divides, the union.

Second, is the practical value of not building barriers into out governance structures. If we create a special seat for only non-straight/cis members, we create barriers for members of both the excluded and included group. We make it harder for members of the “designated” group to demonstrate the merits of their leadership and to represent the union as a whole.

Finally, there is the value of shared responsibility. Every leader in the BCTF – straight or not straight, cis or trans – has the responsibility to stand up for equality, respect, and dignity for all BCTF members all B.C. students and families.

Tom Kertes is a public school teacher in Prince Rupert, in the territory of the Ts’msyen.