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Pride Day celebrated at CBHA

Staff and students at Cape Breton Highlands Academy celebrated Pride Day with Angela Butts (R). Photo: Farries)

-by Anne Farries

    If you are different, school can be a hard place, but hang in there, because you won’t always be alone.
    That was the message from social worker Chantelle Butts to students at Cape Breton Highlands Academy last week as the school celebrated Pride Day with rainbow-coloured flags, posters, cupcakes, and t-shirts.
    “When I was in elementary school, I got picked on quite a bit,” Butts told students in grades seven to 12 who sat quietly on gymnasium bleachers, occasionally breaking into gentle laughter at Butts’ jokes as she stood alone in front of them, speaking frankly for an hour, thanking the students for making the school “safe for people like me, at least one day a year.”
    Butts learned early that her family believed homosexuality was dismaying.
    “I remember coming home from (elementary) school one day, and Oprah had an episode about gay men – well, men who were married to women, but would have sex with men on weekends,” she said. “My father said, ‘that’s disgusting’.”
    “That was my first exposure to people who did not (feel attraction to) people of the opposite gender.”
    “I didn’t know it was a thing until then.”
    Butts spoke of feeling different in junior high and “not knowing what it meant,” of refusing to participate in an interpretive dance with coloured ribbons in gym class, the ensuing argument with parents and school principal, and her compromise of sitting quietly by herself while the other girls continued.
    She told the CBHA students about being bullied and then becoming a bully herself, of her journey through drugs and alcohol, which faded after she switched to a much larger school, where she found people who were “open and accepting,” when she realized that she was a lesbian.
    “I met my first bisexual person. I met my first gay woman,” she said. “(Until then), I had zero inkling.”

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