2SLGBTQIA+ Inclusion in the UGDSB
Gender-Specific and Gender-Neutral Pronouns:
Each of our schools is committed to providing its students with a positive school climate. We know that when students feel safe and supported in a healthy school climate, they have greater success. Through board specific initiatives as well as the province’s Well-Being Strategy and Equity Action Plan we are committed to creating the healthy, positive spaces in schools that our students need.
Many of our high schools and elementary schools have Gay Straight or Gender Sexuality Alliances (GSAs) and Equity clubs. These clubs are safe spaces for our students, staff, and allies of the Rainbow community to come together and discuss issues they may be facing and topics that matter to them. Our GSAs and Equity groups are places that our students feel comfortable being themselves and can take action in supporting the equity of all people.
In our elementary schools, through the Health and Physical Education curriculum, students learn to understand and respect things that are the same and different from each other. This includes that not every family looks the same. Some families have a mom and a dad, some just have a mom or a dad and some families have two moms and two dads.
What supports are available to staff and students in schools regarding 2SLGBTQIA+ issues?
In addition to our GSAs and Equity groups, all of our schools in both Elementary and Secondary have an Equity and Wellness Teacher Representative as a contact and support for their schools. For several years, the board has offered Egale and Harmony training to our staff to support their knowledge. School Administrators have also had equity-based training and are aware of our UGDSB 3-Year Plan in accordance with Ontario’s Education Equity Action Plan.
How do I talk to my child about various sexual and gender identities?
Since everyone parents in different ways, it is difficult to answer this question. You will know best on how to speak to your child about accepting and including people who identify as 2SLGBTQIA+.
For elementary aged children, we suggest focusing your discussion on love and relationships and explain that people love each other in different ways. When talking to children about people who identify as transgender, explain that in their head and their heart, they feel that they are a boy, girl or combination of those traits. Sometimes it takes a person more time to be comfortable to express themselves as who they really are and sometimes how people express themselves changes over time.
We recommend the following books to help guide your conversations:
- Molly’s Family by Nancy Garden
- George by Alex Gino
- Transphobia: deal with it and be a gender transcender by j wallace skelton
- Pride: celebrating diversity & community by Robin Stevenson
- And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
- Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress by Christine Baldacchino
- My Princess Boy by Cheryl Kilodavis
- I am Jazz and Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen by Jazz Jennings
- Red: A Crayon’s Story by Michael Hall
These books can be found in many of our school libraries as well as our local public libraries.
The Human Rights Campaign in the United States has a guide for parents on discussing 2SLGBTQIA+ issues with students.
Celebrating and Supporting Sexuality, Gender and Pride Clubs in the UGDSB
What is a GSA/Pride Club?
A Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA), Gender-Sexuality Alliance (GSA) or Pride based groups are student-initiated and led clubs (supervised by a staff member) found in many UGDSB schools. These clubs are a safe and supportive environment for members of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community and others to work within allyship*. These groups address marginalization and promote advocacy with the intent of supporting safe UGDSB schools free of discrimination, harassment and intolerance.
Student-initiated and led GSA/Pride Clubs function within several UGDSB elementary schools (for grades 5 and older), as well as UGDSB secondary schools.
Through Bill 13, the Accepting Schools Act, the Ministry of Education requires school boards to allow students to form groups at their school to raise awareness and understanding of important topics including gender identity and sexual orientation.
Students and staff who have straight and cis-gendered** identities or family members and friends who identify as 2SLGBTQIA+ are often part of the GSA/Pride work within our schools. Working within allyship, these youth and staff can share their passion to make our schools safe for all 2SLGBTQIA+ people.
*Acting in allyship – supporting a marginalized group though not necessarily identifying as part of that marginalized group.
**Cis-gendered – a person whose gender identity and/or expression match the sex they were assigned at birth.
What do GSA/Pride Clubs do?
In these spaces students discuss, plan and lead actions (supervised by a staff member) focused on creating awareness and reducing ignorance, stereotypes, homophobia and transphobia. Each GSA/Pride Club within the UGDSB is unique based on student interest and community need.
Often times schools have social justice or equity themed clubs that address issues of oppression across a wide spectrum of concerns (racism, poverty, ableism etc.). These groups will often celebrate, support and facilitate 2SLGBTQIA+ needs similar to those of a GSA/Pride Club.
Why are GSA/Pride Clubs important?
GSA/Pride Clubs are important as they increase awareness of 2SLGBTQIA+ identities and foster safe spaces for marginalized students, families and staff. The work of these clubs also serves to provide new information and understanding about 2SLGBTQIA+ people and families.
As a safe space for marginalized students and those wishing to work within allyship, GSAs and Pride Clubs can support students as they learn about identities and grow as adolescents and into adulthood. The safe space created in a GSA/Pride Club can help reduce feelings of isolation and increase self-esteem and self-worth.
Another benefit of GSA/Pride Clubs is the action work that comes from many of these groups. As a venue for student voice, students within these groups can lead information and awareness campaigns or activities supporting their school communities to be better informed about gender and sexuality. From this advocacy work, schools can continue to be safe and inclusive places for all students, families and staff.
What if having a GSA/Pride Club is against my personal values and beliefs?
We believe that our schools are safe and inclusive spaces for everyone. Everyone has the right to be treated with dignity and respect. Additionally, regardless of your personal values and beliefs, we all must follow the Ontario Human Rights Code that protects marginalized groups from discrimination and harassment. We support GSA and Pride Groups and our Rainbow events as a demonstration of our commitment to stand up against discrimination and harassment of any kind within our board.
How does my child become involved in a club such as these?
Students are encouraged to speak to any staff member or administrator at their school about an existing club or group, or to find out more about starting a club. All schools within the UGDSB have an equity representative on staff who can provide more information and connect them with system supports. Jessica Rowden, the UGDSB’s Equity and Inclusion Lead, may also be contacted at [email protected].
Who can we contact with questions or concerns?
Please contact your child’s school administrators with questions or concerns.