P.E.I.’s LGBTQ youth had an opportunity Saturday to learn how to become leaders in their schools and communities.
They also got the chance to share their own experiences and insight on gender and sexual diversity during the Youth Forum at Holland College.
“We have students who are described as silent or isolate or quiet in school. And today they’re coming out of their shell and sharing their experiences and they’re figuring themselves out,” said Jeremy Dias, director of the Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity in Ottawa.
The Holland College Youth Forum was one of about 52 events the centre hosts across Canada each year.
About 10 to 15 youth attended this year’s event.
“Especially for LGBTQ youth who might be the only ‘out’ one in their school, a day like this connects people across the province,” said Dias.
A town hall session also gave attendees an opportunity to tell Pride P.E.I. members what more they would like to see from the organization.
Bijan Adatia, interim chair of Pride P.E.I., said a common message was that half of the organization’s events should be tailored for youth younger than 19 who are not able to enter bars.
“So, that was a really great part and trying to figure out how we can involve them directly. And, instead of having them come to us, maybe we could go to them,” said Adatia.
Some youth wanted to know how Pride P.E.I. could better support them at school.
“We’re going to hopefully to take it back to the board and talk about what it is going to look like for us to support them. Does it mean that we have a specific committee that is youth-centred and goes to all these different groups and organizations?” Adatia said. “There’s just a lot of brain storming right at this point.”
In terms of the acronym, Dias said the centre is planning to vote on whether to change using LGBTQI2 (the ‘I’ referring to inner sex) to something else, such as GSD (gender and sexual diversity) as it used in Nova Scotia. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau uses LGBTQ2 while British Columbia refers to SOGI (sexual orientation gender identity) and in Alberta it is SGM (sexual and gender minorities), said Dias.
“It’s part of that evolutionary conversation,” he said.
Amanda Myerson, the centre’s national conference coordinator, made a presentation about building a stronger Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA) – which are student centred groups – in schools.
“Because it is student-centred, I’m of the belief that we need to teach them leadership skills in order to run this kind of group,” she said.
Myerson said GSAs would focus on inclusiveness as well as figuring out what needs to change in schools and advocacy.
“Many schools have them across the country, it really depends on the province in terms of what schools have GSAs. But more and more schools definitely have GSA clubs, and schools are more supportive of the clubs.”
Other items on the forum’s agenda included conversations about drag on P.E.I., inclusion in sports and a transgender panel discussion.
“Everyone is going to walk away with something different,” said Dias. “Some people will take away basic information and some people will take away really cool advocacies. So, it’s really exciting.”