A virtual workshop was hosted recently by the Vankleek Hill Collegiate Institute School Council; parents, educators and others could participate.
The virtual event was hosted by “Get REAL”, a Canadian non-profit organization focused on combatting 2SLGBTQ+ discrimination, racism and bullying in schools, summer camps and workplaces.
The workshop offered parents and educators increased knowledge of 2SLGBTQ+ identities, terminology as well as practical steps and creative ideas on how to support a child that comes out or currently identifies as 2SLGBTQ+.
It was my pleasure to meet with Rosie Woods (school council member) who initiated the workshop along with the support of Christie Walker (school principal) to chat about the importance of offering this type of opportunity.
Just to give some context, the Trevor Project’s 2022 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health found that 45% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year. More than half of transgender and nonbinary youth and LGBTQ youth are more than four times as likely to attempt suicide than their peers (Johns et al., 2019; Johns et al., 2020). There’s no question on how important it is to create awareness around the issues 2SLGBTQ+ kids struggle with, such as bullying.
I believe in the power of education over ignorance and schools are at the forefront in providing LGBT+ kids with spaces where they can feel like they belong. You might have heard of GSAs “Gay–Straight Alliance, Gender-Sexuality Alliance or Queer–Straight Alliance” which are student-run organizations that unite LGBTQ+ and allied youth to build community and organize around issues impacting them in their schools and communities. GSAs have evolved beyond their traditional role to serve as safe spaces for LGBTQ+ youth in middle schools and high schools, and have emerged as vehicles for deep social change related to racial, gender, and educational justice.
As the workshop continued, one of the exercises suggested to us was about exploring the question “If you could say something to your younger self, what would you like them to know”?
As adults, we often forget how vulnerable we were as children, how dependent we were on those adults who care and provide for us and how much our self worth was based on how much they love and support us. I believe that regardless of being gay, trans, straight or cis, we all have stories where we were bullied and desperately afraid to even tell anyone!
(You can find the links to Get Real and other non profit groups that offer workshops easily online)
About Julie Cheff
Julie Cheff, pronouns (she, her, elle)
Julie is a queer, transgender, Franco-Ontarian woman who is a local artist and LGBTQ2S+ activist on issues such as healthcare, disabilities and senior housing in Glengarry-Prescott-Russell and she lives in the beautiful city of Clarence-Rockland.
She graduated from Algonquin College in Fine Arts and Graphic Design in Ottawa, continuing her education as a mature student at Carleton University with an interest in psychology and social work.