"So you think I
should be shot?"
by Lisa Jeffs
When I walked into a downtown Toronto school last fall to speak to a high school class, I didn't expect a warm and fuzzy reception. As I would be talking about issues of concern to lesbians, gays and bisexuals, I anticipated the usual amount of subtle heterosexism ("I don't mind gays as long as they don't flaunt it"), or the occasional display of blatant lesbo/homophobia ("One of them queers had better not come on to me, man."). What I didn't expect was to be told that, because I am a lesbian, I should be killed.
As representatives of the Toronto Board of Education's Human Sexuality Program, Steve Soloman and I had been asked to speak to this particular class because the teacher thought the students were lacking awareness on lesbian, gay and bisexual issues. The students were disruptive throughout our presentation, and most of them spent the time laughing, whispering, or divulging their worst experiences with lesbians, gays and bisexuals to their neighbours or to us. I suppose we could have walked out. Or we could have asked the most disruptive students to leave, which would have left us with an audience of about three. Instead we decided to persevere (1).
The comment on the value of my lesbian life came about three quarters of the way through the presentation. The class had been getting increasingly rowdy when a student sitting near the front stated loudly, "All of them should be shot." In the few seconds my mind had to formulate a response, I thought of how one of the main reasons for going into classrooms as an out lesbian was to personalize the issue for young people. If a name and face can be attached to "queers" then we will no longer be somewhere "out there" (on Mars, for example); we will be living, thinking and feeling human beings. Since I had been talking with this class for almost an hour, I thought maybe I had become a real live person, who also happens to be lesbian. With this in mind, I questioned the student's sincerity. "So you think I should be shot?" I asked. Without a second's hesitation she answered "Yes."