Since our last class, we had the opportunity to attend a gender and sexual diversity workshop put on by URpride called “Building Positive Spaces for Gender and Sexually Diverse Students.” As a cisgender, straight male, I have not experienced oppression based on my gender and sexual orientation. However, teaching and growing up in rural Saskatchewan, I have witnessed gender and sexuality oppression. Much of the oppression that I have seen in schools revolves around the lack of education on GSD. This includes improper terminology and the use of slurs often by male students as a form of toxic masculinity. I reflect on one experience regarding diverse books purchased for our schools on the topic of GSD. For the fear, of what I presume, of parent backlash, the school was reluctant to put the books on the shelf. This situation brings to light the resources we use and how we privilege the mainstream, the status quo, and continue to oppress those who do not align with the status quo.
As an ally there are steps that we can take regarding supporting members of the LGBTQ+ community.
- Respect people’s privacy.
- Respect people’s identities.
- Use proper names and pronouns.
- Stand up for gender and sexually diverse youth and colleagues.
- Be visible in your solidarity.
- Value, respect, and push for gender-neutral environments.
I believe these six steps are not strenuous things to accomplish. As educators, we have a responsibility to support and provide safe spaces for ALL our students. As Meg discussed by not discussing gender and sexual diversity in the classroom it then becomes part of the hidden curriculum. When this happens, we are privileging the dominant narratives.
As a former elementary school teacher, one thing that I made sure of is to ensure that I had a diverse classroom library collection that featured voices from oppressed and marginalized groups. I continue to choose books for our school division’s online library that represent these voices. However, I believe more needs to be done to ensure there are safe spaces for our students. This includes mandatory training for teachers on a workshop like “Building Positive Spaces for Gender and Sexually Diverse Students” and a willingness to have open conversations and dialogue on welcoming and supporting all students.