In the morning of October 30, students and teachers alike gathered at Riverview Rural High School in Sydney, Nova Scotia in order to address issues of bullying, homophobia, and transphobia in their schools. The day started off with a keynote from Lukayo of the Jer’s Vision team, who performed a beautiful spoken word poems about being transgender.
After this, the students broke off into groups to attend workshops run by many guest speakers and organizations. These include Serena Matheson, a teacher at Riverview Rural High School who taught students and teachers how to create and maintain a GSA in their schools; Gerard Cormier, an Executive Staff Member in the Nova Scotia Teachers Union who spoke about the history of GLBTT issues in both the union and in Canada; the Caper Base Outreach Team, a dynamic group who spoke about safe places in schools and addiction; Dori Palmiere, the GSA coordinator at The Youth Project, a non-profit based out of Halifax; Crystal Sampson, a psychologist with the Cape Breton Victoria Regional School Board who is also a proud member of the Cape Breton LGBTQ community; and finally Scott Murchison, a school counsellor in the Cape Breton Victoria Regional School Board who spoke about his personal experiences of homophobia, and encouraged students to share their own in a supportive environment.
The students left feeling informed, excited, and ready to make a change in their schools and lives. Teacher Serena Matheoson said, “Lukayo’s words were beautiful and inspiring! His spoken word conveyed images that touched the hearts of every person in the room. Later, teachers were reporting that they were having deep discussions surrounding transgender issues in their classrooms. Students and teachers felt inspired to learn more and talk about the discrimination felt by gender queer students in our school. The climate in classrooms changed and our school moved toward making some important changes in attitudes.”