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Award celebrates sexual diversity and education

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The Mark S. Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies at U of T is honouring advocates for sexual diversity and education.

This year’s recipients of the Bonham Centre Award include Linda Schuyler, a U of T alumna and the co-creator and Executive Producer of Degrassi. The other recipient is Dustin Lance Black, anAmerican screenwriter and director known for his academy award winning film Milk.
“We established [The Bonham Centre Award] in 2007 to recognize either an individual or possibly a group, who have made significant contributions to raising awareness and education around issues of sexual education and sexual diversity,” said Brenda Cossman, Professor of Law and Director at the Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies.

“This year, we have [presented the award] to two folks who have made very significant contributions in their cultural works,” continued Cossman. “Linda Schuyler [is] one of the co-creators and producers of the entire Degrassi series — a series that, in our view, has really pushed, challenged, and educated folks around many issues [surrounding] sexual education and sexual diversity.”

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The Degrassi series is well-known for its depiction of teenage life. It has brought to light issues including teenage pregnancy, sexual assault, and sexuality and gender. Through the experiences of the show’s characters, Degrassi educates its audience about sexual diversity and promotes inclusivity.

Linda Schuyler stressed the importance of sexual education in order to counteract bullying, which is a prominent issue amongst youth.

“The only way to combat [bullying] is to encourage acceptance of individual differences,” Schuyler reported to The Varsity. “Sexual education and acceptance…is key to creating an environment of tolerance and understanding. We need to live in a society where people can be accepted for who they are rather than their label.”

Simon Bredin, Public Affairs Director for LGBTOUT, was “…especially enthused to learn of this year’s award recipients [at] a time when our community’s ability to provide outreach to youth is endangered by close-mindedness.”

Corey Scott, UTSU VP Internal, responded, “It’s important to celebrate Schuyler, Black, and others that promote sexual diversity and challenge oppressive views.

“As students,” he continued, “we want to see sexual diversity studies not only at university, but at all levels of education. Especially given Tim Hudak’s recent queer and transphobic messaging around primary sex-ed curriculum, it’s important for us to celebrate diversity and continue challenging discrimination in our community.”

The Tories have ignited controversy across Ontario with their distribution of campaign flyers that encourage parents to vote against a Liberal sex-ed agenda that allegedly promotes “cross-dressing for six-year-olds.” The Liberals say that the Progressive Conservatives’ literature is homophobic.

SEC commended The Bonham Centre for recognizing Schuyler and Black’s contributions, and defended the need for sexual education in schools.

“Sexual education is important because access to information can help prevent decisions that [may] put an individual’s health at risk,” said Kayla Wright, Executive Director at S.E.C.
Bredin agreed. “By affronts like Tim Hudak’s vilification of sex-ed…we are reminded of the media’s imperative to portray role models for… youth.

“[Schuyler and Black] have produced a body of work so outstanding that it goes beyond just queer communities [and brings] an important message of hope and acceptance to millions worldwide.”