Manitoulin Secondary School encourages ‘embracing rural diversity’ at Pride Day

    Members of the Manitoulin Secondary School (MSS) Rainbow Rights Group including Kristin Mitchell, Meg Misner, Emma Chokomoolin, Carter Stoneypoint and group supervisor Child and Youth Mental Health and Addictions Worker Sarah Seabrook run the booth at the MSS Pride Day held last Friday. photos by Robin Burridge

    M’CHIGEENG—Manitoulin Secondary School’s (MSS) Rainbow Rights Group hosted its annual Pride Day event featuring special guest speaker Derek Forgie.

    The Rainbow Rights Group sold t-shirts and sundaes as a fundraiser for the group, joining local service groups who were set up in the cafetorium for the event during lunch time.

    A school-wide assembly followed with comedian and founder/chair of Heterosexual for Same-Sex Equality (HHSE) Derek Forgie.

    Mr. Forgie spoke from the heart, sharing experiences from his adolescent years and about promoting acceptance and equality.

    “I was in North Bay,” said Mr. Forgie. “And I remember hearing a guy at a bar actually say, ‘I got nothing against gay people but I don’t want them near me.’ ‘Wow’ I thought. Men seem to have this fear about being approached romantically by another man. Gay people aren’t wizards—they can’t make you gay—that’s not how it works.”

    Manitoulin Secondary School Child and Youth Mental Health and Addictions
    Worker Sarah Seabrook accepts a cheque from Bell Canada Regional Director of Community Affairs Sandy McDonald for $35,000 to fund Ms. Seabrook’s position at the highschool for a year.

    Mr. Forgie said that getting hit on by someone just means that you are smart, funny, kind, good looking; it’s a compliment.”

    Mr. Forgie also talked about his experience of being bullied in high school and how he learned later on in his life that his bully thought they were ‘friends’ and he was just teasing him. He also learned that he too had been a bully to one of his friends, but he didn’t know it at the time.

    “Oftentimes we have no idea that we are making someone’s life miserable,” said Mr. Forgie, giving the examples of when it is okay to joke around with your friends.

    He also shared a story about another bully he had in high school who he later learned was having a bad time in his home life. “You don’t know what’s going on with people, so you need to try not to take things as personally,” said Mr. Forgie. “It (someone bullying you) may not have anything to do with you.”

    Guest speaker at the MSS Pride Day Derek Forgie shares experinces from his adolescent years and about promoting acceptance and equality.

    He ended his presentation encouraging MSS students not to be afraid of ‘sucking.’ “To achieve your passion in life you need to take risks,” said Mr. Forgie. “You need to ask—find people who share your passion and collaborate. Don’t use being from a small town in Northern Ontario as an excuse as to why you don’t pursue your dreams.” He gave the example of James Cameron, who is from Kapuskasing, singer Shania Twain from Timmins and Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek from Sudbury.

    “I’m from North Bay and I changed ‘Kick a Ginger Day’ into ‘Kiss a Ginger Day’,” shared Mr. Forgie. “It started small with a Facebook group and grew until nine years later Conan O’Brian is talking about in his monologue, Harry Potter mentions it. I’m from Mattawa and I did that—there is nothing stopping you—you can achieve whatever you want. What inspires you?”

    Following the raising of the Rainbow flag, Sarah Seabrook, who supervises the Rainbow Rights group and is a Child and Youth Mental Health and Addictions Worker at the school was presented with a cheque from Bell Canada Regional Director of Community Affairs Sandy McDonald.

    There were plenty of different service providers set up as part of the MSS Pride Day event.

    Through Bell’s Lets Talk, Noojmowin Teg received $35,000 for Ms. Seabrook’s one year, part-time position at MSS. A portion of the funding also went towards the Pride Day event and a snow sculpture event held earlier in the year.

    “We received an application for the funding grant and through an extensive selection process this project came out ranking at the top of applications received across Canada,” said Ms. McDonald. “Bell Let’s Talk is all about increasing access to care and this project was a natural fit.”

    As part of her role at MSS Ms. Seabrook oversees the Rainbow Rights group, providing counselling to students in need, hosts an art therapy group, is currently organizing a graffiti workshop for students and works with youth in conflict with the law (working closely with the UCCMM Youth Justice Program).

    Derek Forgie accepts a gift from MSS Rainbow Rights Group member Meg Misner for speaking at the high school Pride Day event.

    “It means so much to me that on this day one year ago we celebrated the first LGBTQ2S Health Awareness Conference on Manitoulin Island,” said Ms. Seabrook following MSS Pride Day. “It’s events like MSS Pride Day that keep the positive momentum going in becoming a more inclusive and progressive place to live. The day was very special to me and the students of Rainbow Rights. Thanks to Bell Let’s Talk and Derek for making the day a success.”