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Story and photos by Jared Storey
WSD teachers and
staff gathered at Prince Charles Education Resource Centre on Nov. 24 for the debut
of the Healthy Minds Learning Series, a WSD initiative to support and enhance
mental health literacy.
The first installment
was on the topic of supporting transgender and gender diverse students. The
session kicked off with speaker Joseph Moore, the school LGBT2sQ+ equity and
inclusion coordinator at Rainbow Resource Centre.
transgender man, discussed the difference between sexual orientation, gender
identity and gender expression, as well as the difference between cisgender,
transgender, non-binary, two-spirit and gender creative identities.
Caption: Joseph Moore, school LGBT2sQ+ equity and
inclusion coordinator at Rainbow Resource Centre, explained the importance of
listening to the individual when it comes to supporting transgender and gender
sexuality, these things are fluid,” Moore said. “Thank goodness we’re not the
same people we were when we were 14 and little jerks to our parents. It’s the
same thing with these identities. They can change and that doesn’t mean people
are confused, it’s just part of our exploration as humans.”
the importance of preferred pronoun usage. He said the secret to getting it
right is simple: practice.
“If they feel
awkward to use, if you’re not used to it, well, it’s not about you, it’s about
the child’s safety.”
Moore stressed that
people know the difference between a mistake and being malicious. However, he
said a student might still get mad when misgendered.
“Realize that they
may have heard the wrong pronoun 40 times that day and this was the breaking
point. If that happens, you have to not be defensive and apologize,” Moore
Dr. Simon Trepel,
a child and adolescent psyschatrist at Manitoba Adolescent Treatment Centre and
the Gender Dysphoria Assessment and Action for Youth Clinic, also spoke at
He cited Every
Class in Every School, a survey on homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in
Canadian schools, to illustrate what certain students are dealing with on an
“Ninety per cent
of trans youth hear transphobic comments daily or weekly,” Trepel said. “If you
thought about a sexual orientation group complaining about that or a race,
ethnicity or religious group complaining about that, then you can imagine how
significant that number is.”
Moore said many
schools are already accommodating their transgender and gender diverse students
quite well, but that the work doesn’t stop there.
“We’re trying to
create safe spaces for our students, but we need to move toward belonging,”
Moore said. “I can’t teach you how to belong. It’s a mindset change. You need
to think about different values you may have, and challenge them.”
“Someone can feel
safe in a space but they may not feel like they belong.”
final speaker was Brock Corydon School principal Ara Morris. She spoke to her school’s
experience of supporting a transgender student.
“It’s really not
an extra. It’s imbedded into what we do. We’re already doing really great work
about acceptance, tolerance, understanding and belonging,” Morris said.
Caption: WSD staff take part in an exercise where
they discussed their weekend without using any gendered language, for example,
saying “my children” instead of “he” or “she.” Most participants reported
making an error during the exercise.