By Annie Ohana (she/her), teacher, Surrey
Several years ago, I was at an event about community safety and heard from parents that teaching 2SLGBTQ+ curriculum was wrong, went against parents’ wishes, and that being queer was a sin and had no place in their home.
My thoughts, believe it or not, were not of anger but rather of sadness that love had not conquered the hearts of these parents. That they could not see that schools were safer, students healthier, bullying lower, rates of substance use lower, and that spaces were more inclusive for all.
This is why I am so proud to have been part of a team that helped build the official teacher’s discussion guide for Emergence: Out of the Shadows, a feature documentary film by one of the very few South Asian 2SLGBTQ+ support groups and charities in Canada, Sher Vancouver. Under the guidance of Founder Alex Sangha, his second film celebrates faith, identity, love, and family. It is very much built for a secondary classroom. The coming out stories of Kayden, Jag, and Alex himself, along with their families and how they dealt with their children living their truth, are truly special. I believe they make the film a game-changer.
Upon watching the film, my heart and mind soared as I realized how many conversations this film would spark. Without judgment and without denigrating parents, this film and the accompanying guide are tools for teachers and students to start a conversation around why being proudly out is the most empowering and uplifting experience of all.
Within the families depicted in the film, I see heroes and teachers that lead the way in supporting students and our communities. Their journeys help wrench away the settler-colonial racist mindsets that created queerphobia in the first place and formed a doubling down of oppression on QTIBIPOC* folx. It celebrates faith and cultural identity as powerful amplifiers of how “loving the child first” unifies and strengthens families.
This film also provides much needed representation. This is one of the very few films on 2SLGBTQ+ issues that feature families of colour. The film is also directed by Vinay Giridhar who is an immigrant from Kerala, India. Vinay is making his directorial debut with Emergence: Out of the Shadows.
In addition, queer families, like Jag’s family, allow us to normalize all love and all families. The choice made by Jag and Alex’s parents to “love the child first” will tear down the fear and anger that is still prevalent in so many homes.
I thank Alex, Jag, Kayden, and their families. They have given me a positive way to “call in”—instead of calling out parents. The film allows us to use traditions, cultures, and identities in a positive way to start conversations. It also provides avenues to support students who may fear how they emerge in their truth.
Let the conversations begin.
Emergence: Out of the Shadows can be viewed at www.emergencefilm.net, where you can also find the teacher’s discussion guide.
* The acronym QTIBIPOC refers to folx who are queer, trans, and intersex and Black, Indigenous, people of colour.