NEWS: Detractors should stop spreading harmful misinformation about GSAs, presenter says

Supporting GSAs doesn’t end with legislation. It is important that we support educators with resources & tools, and that we always speak out against mis-information about GSAs. Today, our director spoke at the Greater Edmonton Teachers’ Convention  (Alberta Teachers’ Association) running a day of workshops, include strategies on running GSAs.

Please check out the article below about our ongoing activism on GSAs in the region.

Detractors should stop spreading harmful misinformation about GSAs, presenter says

Jeremy Dias laughed when they heard that some detractors call school gay-straight alliances groups “ideological sex clubs.”

Read the article on the Edmonton Journal here; and the Edmonton Sun here.

Jeremy Dias, executive director of the Ottawa-based Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity, which produces and offers resources to help organizations become more inclusive of LGBTQ people, spoke at a teachers’ convention in Edmonton on Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019.SUPPLIED

SHAREADJUSTCOMMENTPRINT

Jeremy Dias laughed after hearing that some detractors call school gay-straight alliances groups “ideological sex clubs.”

Tongue in cheek, the executive director of the Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity said they wish it were true.

“The last thing we’re talking about is sex,” said Dias, who uses the pronoun “they,” in a Thursday interview. “The No. 1 thing we’re talking about is the violence that trans and non-binary people are facing. The No. 1 thing we talk about is how being gay or being ‘a fag’ is the No. 1 (term) people use to make fun of people.”

Dias gave a series of presentations to Edmonton and Fort McMurray teachers at the Greater Edmonton Teachers Convention at the Edmonton Convention Centre on Thursday, including how Catholic and Christian schools can better include queer and trans people, and how to create a positive space in school.

In a GSA 101 session, Dias gave a crash course in how to prepare to supervise a school extracurricular club that offers support and social connections to LGBTQ students.

Misunderstandings about GSAs

People oppose the clubs because they don’t understand what happens in them, Dias said. False narratives about what happens in the groups are harmful to LGBTQ people, they said.

New legislation took effect last year in Alberta that requires school principals to allow students to create a gay-straight alliance immediately upon requesting one. Schools must provide an adviser to supervise the group and students can choose the name. Bill 24 also requires schools and boards to adopt and publicly post policies affirming privacy and human rights for students and staff — steps meant to protect LGBTQ students.

Some critics say the amended laws require school staff to keep secrets from parents and guardians. A group of parents, private schools and other organizations are challenging Bill 24 in court, saying it infringes upon their freedoms of religion and expression.

Some groups have also claimed students were taken off school property or exposed to sexually explicit material through the clubs.

On Thursday, Dias showed teachers resources they could use, including LGBTQ glossaries, guides to using gender-inclusive language and school climate quizzes to prepare to launch a GSA. It will be more work than advisers expect, Dias said.

If kids feel safe just hanging around and talking during GSA meetings, the club is a success, Dias said. If the students are looking for more formal support or information, or would like to organize awareness campaigns or fundraisers, that’s great too, Dias said.

They recommend students create agendas and run club meetings, under the watchful eye of the adviser, that meetings include a short game or activity, and that no one be cajoled into participating.

Dias, who spent their early childhood in Edmonton, founded the Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity with colleagues using money they were awarded in a human rights case against a high school in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.

jfrench@postmedia.com

@jantafrench