In the beginning of my second year as a Pathfinder, I figured out that I was gay. Being in the closet was really hard for me. I felt like I was hiding such a big part of myself from everyone else. I was worried that if I came out, the other Pathfinders or even the leaders wouldn’t want me in the unit. Finally, I decided to ask my leaders. I made up a story about how I had a gay friend who wanted to join Pathfinders. I was so worried that my leader would say that she wasn’t welcome. Instead my leader told me something I’ll never forget: “Girl Guides accepts any girl no matter what.”
Later that year at district camp, I decided I was ready to come out to my unit. Over midnight snacks of hot chocolate and porridge, I came out. The words flew out of my mouth before I knew what I was going to say. “My name is Nerissa,” I said, “and I am gay.” Immediately, there was a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. A weight I didn’t even know was there. My friends and leaders were more supportive than I could have ever imagined.
After coming out at Pathfinders, I was far more confident and able to be myself. Coming out inspired me to get involved in the LGBTQ+ community. I am now in my school’s Gay Straight Alliance (GSA). Through the GSA, I have helped to plan and initiate several events such as Pink Day assemblies for over 500 people, and Pride Speak Presentations for elementary schools.
As a third year, I joined a new Pathfinder unit. Right away I decided that I wanted to make sure that our unit was a safe and inclusive space for LGBTQ+ girls. I organized for QMUNITY, our local queer community centre, to offer a “Pride Speak” presentation for our unit at the beginning of the year. At the presentation, our unit learned about everything from gender identity and sexual orientation to gender roles and sexism. I feel like the presentation was really successful for our unit. It led to great discussions both after the presentation and all throughout the year.
In September, I will be starting Rangers. My goals are once again to try and make our unit as safe as possible for LGBTQ+ girls. I also want to reach out to people in Guiding, not only in my district, but my province, and country. I want to help them make Guiding safer for everyone in the queer community. Making sure that your unit is safe for LGBTQ+ girls is easier than you think. Here are some tips!
- Heterosexism is when you assume that everyone is straight. It seems like a harmless thing to do, but it can be a very negative experience for queer people. Especially if they are still in the closet. For example, when talking about healthy relationships, don’t always say “your boyfriend.” Try using the word “partner” instead.
- Organize a presentation from a local queer community centre. It’s not just for older girls – they often have age-appropriate presentations for girls as young as Sparks.
- Know what to do if a girl comes out to you. If a girl comes out to you, be supportive! It’s important to ask them if they’ve come out to their parents, because being accidentally “outed,” especially to family, can be devastating.
Guest post by Nerissa K. She is a first year Ranger in B.C. and recipient of the 2015 Confidence Girl Greatness Award. Nerissa has also recently received her Canada Cord.