Students learn about gender, sexual diversity

Guest speaker, Chandra McIvor (right) from the Avenue Community Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity was in Meadow Lake Feb. 3 and 4 holding presentations at Jonas Samson Junior High School.

Guest speaker, Chandra McIvor (right) from the Avenue Community Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity was in Meadow Lake Feb. 3 and 4 holding presentations at Jonas Samson Junior High.

by Derek Cornet

Four presentations at Meadow Lake’s Jonas Samson Junior High School (JSJH) last week put gender and sexual diversity (GSD) in the spotlight.

Addictions counsellor Wendy Craig invited Saskatoon-based GSD educator Chandra McIvor to the school because, after talking with parents and students, she felt discussions on the topic needed to be held. The use of the term GSD expands on the terms lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) to include an evolving community.

“It’s important for us to continue to keep a safe and nurturing environment for all our students,” Craig said. “This provides answers to questions and simply brings more awareness about the subject.”

Before speaking with students at JSJH, McIvor held a special presentation for the public the night before. While everyone had different reasons for attending the presentation, after it commenced, it was clear many knew very little about GSD. When asked how many people in the public at-large belong to the GSD community, one man said one in 75 while a woman guessed one in 10. The answer – one in seven.

But, according to McIvor, that doesn’t mean one in every seven people are homosexual or bisexual. When dealing with gender, she said it’s a spectrum and most people fall between  male and female while some may not identify with either gender.

“We talk more about the complexity of human identity, distinguishing between biological sex and gender identity and how it’s different from romantic orientation or behaviour,” McIvor said.

Another reason McIvor said it’s important to have discussions about GSD is students in Saskatchewan are suffering. Not only do openly gay students get harassed at school, but many others are also bullied because of what fellow students perceive as homosexual behaviour. In the province, 64 per cent of GSD students polled said they felt unsafe at school and would not attend if they didn’t have to while 70 per cent reported hearing offensive words every day.

“How are students supposed to go to school and concentrate when this is the environment they’re subjected to?” McIvor asked the audience. “Students shouldn’t feel the need to end their lives because of the words they hear at school.”

By having these conversations, McIvor hopes to start creating a cognitive shift to create a higher conscienceness of GSD and equality.

“After I talk to the kids, they’re going to go home and they’re going to start talking about this to their parents,” she said. “I see the school as a microcosm of the larger society and it’s important to seize teachable moments in the community.”

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