Maurice Vellekoop was born and raised in a suburb of Toronto. He grew up the youngest of four children in a Christian Reformed family. He is a cartoonist, illustrator, and the author of a graphic memoir that will be available in February 2024 called I’m So Glad We Had This Time Together. He recently shared his story with Macleans Magazine and we are sharing it here as his story may resonate with many people in the Christian Reformed community.
I grew up gay in a conservative home. The emerging anti-LGBTQ+ agenda horrifies me. Parents are calling for a return to the dark age I grew up in, devoid of nuance, compassion or understanding”
In the past few months, I’ve been distressed to witness a relatively new phenomenon: social conservatives, inflamed by fear and misinformation, are advancing an anti-trans agenda. Last June, parents’ rights groups in New Brunswick scored a victory when they updated Policy 713, which now forbids trans and non-binary kids to use their chosen names and pronouns at school without parental consent—a policy that could force students out of the closet at home before they’re ready.
Recently Saskatchewan passed a similar law, which goes further: in addition to the parental consent rules, Bill 137 allows parents to withdraw students from sex ed classes that have LGBTQ+ content they deem inappropriate. I’m also seeing efforts to ban books with queer material in school libraries. Mental health experts in these provinces are concerned: studies have repeatedly confirmed that young people who aren’t supported in their gender identity are at far greater risk of poor mental health outcomes, including anxiety, depression, self-harm and suicidal ideation.
Of course, it’s only natural for parents to want to shield their children from exposure to potentially harmful ideas, imagery and information. The problem is that it’s practically impossible—and it has been for many years. I should know: the recent swing back toward silence and suppression is eerily reminiscent of my childhood experience in a conservative Christian household.