National Conferences: Mid-Year Update

Hello!

Amanda here with a mid-year update on all the fantastic places that Team Conferences has visited this school year. Our national LGBTQ2+ forums have been a huge success so far and have taken place from coast to coast. As always, we would like to thank our regional partners who make these events possible.

We LOVE travelling to different communities and meeting all the fantastic youth who are making a huge difference in their schools’ through activities such as GSA clubs. At each event, youth attend workshops, listen to inspiring keynotes, and have an opportunity to show their pride while engaging with youth from other schools who share their passion of making their schools and communities more inclusive for gender and sexual minority students.

Here is a recap of where we have been so far!

Vancouver, British Columbia

Our annual British Columbia GSA Forum took place at Moscrop Secondary School in Burnaby, BC on October 19th, 2018. We had over 350 students and educators in attendance which certainly makes this our biggest provincial youth event of the year.

Students and educators gathered in the gym for the opening keynote session. This year, we decided to highlight youth voices during the opening of the event. Cole, a student from Burnaby District School board spoke about his experience being a transgender student and embracing his authentic self. “We all deserve to live as our true self and we are all more than just our identity.” said Cole.

Students then heard from EJ Weston, a youth activist from Vancouver Island. EJ shared their story about how they became an advocate for access to mental health services for youth and LGBTQ2+ topics.

The event was attended and supported by municipal, provincial and federal elected officials. This included School board trustees, Burnaby North’s Member of the Legislative Assembly, Janet Routledge, as well as the Member of Parliament for New Westminster – Burnaby, Peter Julian.

Immediately following the opening keynotes, students were given the opportunity to attend two different workshop choices presented by local organizations, SOGI 123, CCGSD staff and more. Students chose workshops such as Healthy Relationships, HIV 101, Spoken Word by Vancouver Poetry House, Queer W

omen in History by the Archives of Lesbian Oral Testimony, Queer Yoga, Accessing Care for Trans Youth, and a workshop in French for French immersion students on embracing sexual minority students in schools. Teachers also attended two professional development workshops where they could learn how to support LGBTQ2+ inclusion

in the classroom.

Students gathered back in the gym after lunch to hear from Syrian-Canadian author Ahmed Danny Ramadan. He spoke about his journey coming to Canada from Syria as a refugee and how he navigates his identity as a queer Muslim man. Danny read from his book The Clothesline Swing and also spoke about his activism for other LGBTQ-refugees. Students were engaged whole-heartedly as Danny recounted the story of his journey coming to Canada and his passions as an activist.

Many students left after the final keynote as they had a long trip home, however, many students stayed for a post-conference get together they had an opportunity to reflect on the day and build further connections with other LGBTQ2+ youth from different schools. 

Cape Breton, Nova Scotia

Cape Breton’s LGBTQ2+ youth celebrated a milestone this year as this was the 10th annual LGBTQ2+ conference in the region. Student from Cape Breton Victoria Regional School Board gathered at Cape Breton University for this year’s conference.

Students listened to a keynote by Geordy Marshall before choosing between 13 different workshops to attend for the 2 workshop sessions. Workshop topics ranged from: Healthy Relationships, Non-Binary Identiti

es, Trans-identities,  Mental Health, Unicorn Yoga, Sex Positive Questions & Answer and a whole lot more. There were also a few arts-based workshops such as Theatre for Social Justice and How to Screen-Print. Teachers got to participate in a session about supporting racialized, minority & marginalized LGBTQ2+ students presented by our Executive Director, Jeremy Dias.

Some students highlighted that their favourite workshop was How to Build a Stronger GSA. Others enjoyed an interactive workshop presented by Kate Krug on the history of LGBTQ+ Activism. In this session, students could ask questions about what life looked like for LGBTQ+ folks in decades past as their favourites of the day. A student noted “My favourite workshop is always the Uncle Kate Show. She talks about topics in a fun, relatable way”.

Other students really enjoyed that they were able to hear the story of other people’s journey’s, with another student noting “I really enjoyed connecting with so many like minded, accepting and supportive people”.

We are excited to see what the next decade brings for the LGBTQ2+ youth in Cape Breton!

Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island

In mid-November, CCGSD travelled to PEI for two back to back events in Charlottetown.

LGBTQ2+ students from schools across the island were invited to a GSA Leadership Day at the Holiday Inn in Charlottetown, PEI. Mother nature had other plans and a snow storm resulted in many schools being unable to make it due to poor weather conditions. Ten brave students did arrive and were able to participate in the activities that were planned for the morning.

CCGSD partnered with Plan International Canada who launched a three-year initiative called Youth for Gender Equality. This project seeks to engaged youth across Canada in dialogues and discussions to create a youth-led plan on achieving the UN Social Development Goal, on gender equality at the the global, national, and local level. CCGSD helped Plan International organize dialogues that would engage LGBTQ2+ youth to ensure that the perspective of sexual and gender minority youth were heard in the completion of these dialogues.

Youth who participated has dialogues focused on gender equality in their local community. Many spoke about how traditional (binary) gender roles are still quite common on PEI. Students brainstormed barriers and solutions to LGBTQ2+ discrimination faced by queer and trans youth as well as lack of inclusive LGBTQ2+ education in relation to gender equality.

The following day, we joined forces with PEI Pride to put on a LGBTQ2+ Youth event at Holland College. After some icebreakers where youth and local LGBTQ2+ organizers got to know each other, PEI Pride engaged youth in an important conversation about how Pride can be more inclusive to local youth. One youth in attendance said said that half of all Pride events should be accessible to youth, who are not able to enter bars for traditional Pride events. Following this dialogue students heard from Jeremy Dias who shared the Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity signature keynote.

Students enjoyed pizza for lunch and completed a trivia challenge before reconvening for an afternoon of workshops. Students took part in our Behind the Scenes: Events and Advocacy workshop. In this workshop, students learn about advocating for a wide range of LGBTQ2+ topics and then participate in a hands on activity where they plan their own event that they could implement in their school or community. One group planned a “Self-Care Social” for trans and gender diverse folks. We were very excited when we saw that this event actually came to life in December by some folks who were in attendance. It is so lovely when we see that participants use the tools they are given to build connections and strengthen their community.

Next, the youth heard from two members of the community who are drag performers. They spoke about what drag on PEI looks like and brainstormed with youth how the drag scene on PEI can be more inclusive to youth.

The final workshop for the day was an outstanding panel on Transgender Identities. Ash Arsenault moderated the panel and spoke with 3 individuals which included Andrea MacPherson, a woman of trans experience, Alana

Daley, a parent of transgender youth. They answered a few questions from Ash about their unique experiences and advocacy and youth were able to ask them questions on how to navigate their trans identities. They were able to give youth advice on how to deal with co-workers and peers who are resistant about respecting their names and pronouns.

As always, we would like to take a moment to thank our regional partners, presenters and all the students who came together for these incredible days!

Our fall events were absolutely incredible and we cannot wait to see what January brings. First, up will be a conference at H.C Avery Middle School in Winnipeg, Manitoba this January.