As educators who are a part of Harmony Movement’s Inclusive Schools Action Network, we are committed to creating safe, caring, and inclusive school communities for all students. The recent push that parents must be fully involved in a student’s decision to use gender-affirming names and pronouns, recently supported by Minister of Education Stephen Lecce, poses a direct conflict with the safety and well-being of many students. This policy is contradictory to the spirit of providing safe, caring, and inclusive school communities.
Coming out is a deeply personal aspect of the lived experience of 2SLGBTQI+ people. It is not a single event, but a lifelong process that requires understanding and support.
Choosing to come out can be a very challenging task for a young Queer person. They must first come out to themselves and then make important decisions about who among their family members and friends will know about their identities.
When someone who is 2SLGBTQI+ decides to come out, it means that they have chosen to reveal their authentic selves to another person whom they feel will be open and supportive. Students will make decisions about coming out to their families based on the level of understanding and support they expect to receive and when they themselves feel confident enough to be open about their identities with family members.
Students may choose not to identify themselves to family members because they fear rejection and harm. Students may already have to navigate a number of barriers in schools aimed at their socio-economic status, race, ability, religious background, and newcomer status.
A non-affirming family can pose many risks for 2SLGBTQI+ students. Being subjected to shaming, abuse, and violence often results in homelessness and has a significant impact on their mental and physical well-being as well as their academic achievement and aspirations.
Students may decide instead to share their identities with school staff whom they see as trusted adults. This can be a very important and confidence-building first step. However, if an educator is required to contact parents/caregivers in order to receive their consent to use their child’s gender-affirming names and pronouns, that important relationship of trust between the student, the educator, and the school system itself will be compromised.
This breach of trust can lead a student to conclude that school is not a safe space and can result in disengagement and academic failure.
This is particularly important in more rural areas where there is often a shortage of support services for these young people. Students are able to access mental health support through school educators and social workers who can help build stronger relationships between students and their families. Trust in the school system and its staff is essential to building this bridge in a safe and accessible way. In these settings, schools become community hubs in addition to being educational spaces and help provide an affirming community for students who feel unsafe at home.
While it is ideal that families be a part of a young 2SLGBTQI+ person’s journey, it is not always the case that home will be a refuge for them. However, when families are open to learning how to be supportive allies, educators, social work staff, and community health professionals can help broaden their understanding of gender and sexual diversity and become more knowledgeable and affirming advocates.
The Inclusive Schools Action Network is committed to these values of creating and maintaining safe, caring, and inclusive school communities. To further develop our learning and understanding, we welcome you to join us in taking personal action so we can work together to go deeper and expand our understanding.
Attend a webinar or workshop:
October 23, 7:00 - 9:00 pm EST - By donation
Open to OSSTF/FEESO Members only. Sign into the members' section of the provincial webpage to register.
Access resources and embed 2SLGBTQI+ inclusion in your classroom:
- ETFO Resource list
- Egale Back-to-School resources
- What’s So Bad About “That’s So Gay’? Lesson Plan from Learning for Justice
Have resources you think should be added to this list? Email them to [email protected].