Students of all ages yearn for opportunities to express themselves, through dance, writing, drawing and other forms of art. But for one Canadian high school student, an attempt at exercising healthy creativity just backfired horribly.
At the end of January, 16-year-old Kaela Wilton designed an in-school mural intended to show support for people who are gay or who may be afraid to come out. According to a CBC News report, Wilton's idea was approved in advance by both her school's principal and her art teacher. But soon after it went up, school officials began receiving complaints, and a few days later, officials hid it behind a bulletin board.
Reportedly, the school has traditionally allowed students to express themselves on school walls, but the sight of two men kissing apparently crossed the line.
Principal James Trodden told CBC News that the school doesn't allow kissing in the hallways, so a mural depicting kissing shouldn't be allowed. "At the time, we should have put more thought into the bigger picture," he told CBC News. "There are a bunch of issues ... What is appropriate? Should it be in a school, should you allow kissing? Should you allow same-sex couples to have a picture of kissing?"
Of course, all schools have rules and regulations their students must follow. It's one thing to ask students to avoid public displays of affection such as kissing while on school grounds, but the image of two people sharing a common and relatively mild expression of emotion should hardly be surprising, let alone offensive.
"Parents kiss, and people on the street. It's just natural," Wilton told CBC News. "I think it's because they are two guys that it's such an impact. We're not used to seeing people of the same sex kissing."
Indeed, although circumstances have improved significantly for people in same-sex relationships, there's a long history of those displays of affection being censored or otherwise being pushed to the margins. Depending on one's location, sharing a kiss or holding hands with someone of the same sex has subjected people to harassment and even physical attacks.
In the media, same-sex affection has been controversial for years, exemplified by incidents like the Cartoon Network censoring a brief kiss between two gay characters on its new show Clarence. And when cameras captured Michael Sam sharing a kiss with his boyfriend during last year's NFL Draft, the Internet exploded with negative reactions, if not homophobia.
If anything, high school students need to be reassured that there are healthy ways to show affection, regardless of one's sexuality. Whether it takes a mural painting or classroom instruction, it's a conversation that has potential to be both affirming and even life-saving.
h/t LGBTQ Nation