May 26th, 2017
More than 400 students and staff gathered in the gymnasium at Laurentian Public School to hear Brock McGillis, former Ontario Hockey League player and now public speaker, share his story about his life as a gay, professional hockey player.
“I don’t care how you say a word, how you mean it, or who you say it to–it’s a homophobic slur,” said McGillis. “If we educate and engage with people who may be hurting people they love with their comments, we are more likely to change habits.”
McGillis told students how he was a macho male athlete, who chewed tobacco, strutted down hallways, and dated girls – as many as he could – but he did it to hide behind a stereotype. McGillis was unsure how to approach the idea of coming out and avoided telling the hockey community. He decided to tell his brother, also a hockey player, first. McGillis said his brother’s response was simply, “I love you, brother.” Eventually, he told his family and close friends, but still avoided coming out publicly.
McGillis, an advocate for LGBTQ rights, is taking this opportunity to educate students, staff and “anyone who will listen” about how homophobia has no place in hockey or society.
“It disappoints me that kids communicate on daily basis with homophobic slurs. I hope Brock’s words have made a difference and this will change,” said Kasper Courtney, Grade 8 student at Laurentian. “Education is key. This event, along with GSA programs within schools, will hopefully continue to grow and help make a difference.”
The school’s Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) program is working throughout the school year to raise awareness on equity and inclusivity with all students.
“The middle school years are a critical point in a child’s education path. We need to provide them with opportunities outside of the classroom and Brock’s talk helped with that,” said Cameron Shaver, teacher at Laurentian. “When students have knowledge and education, the fear goes away.”