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Supporting gender diversity

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.

Moore, a 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.

Joseph Moore, school LGBT2sQ+ equity and inclusion coordinator at Rainbow Resource Centre

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 diverse students.

“Our 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.”

Moore expressed 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 said.

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 Healthy Minds.

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 everyday basis.

“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.”

The session’s 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.

WSD staff take part in an exercise where they discussed their weekend without using any gendered language, for example, saying “

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.


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