BACK2SCHOOL: Gender, Sexuality and Support 24 September 2017.
"Students in our school said GSA was too binary and chose Gender Sexuality Awareness and Appreciation Club (GSAAC)." –Lyla MacAulay
"The makeup of the school has changed and that may have changed the way that students express themselves in the junior/intermediate years." –David Kruger
Going back to school can be an exciting time for students, yet for others a source of anxiety. Youth who fall under the LGBTQ rainbow are prone to abuse and bullying at a far greater rate than their heterosexual counterparts. Recent changes in legislation such as the adoption Bill C-16 coupled with the number of schools now embracing Gay/Straight Alliance (GSA) groups have created a more tenable situation for queer youth. But what effect has this cultural shift had on the teachers? My Gay Toronto spoke with two school teachers, Lyla MacAulay who teaches grade six through eight and identifies as gay and David Kruger who is straight and teaches junior and senior kindergarten. If you take away one thing from this article it's that we have made progress because we not only have groups like GSAs but teachers are willingly volunteering their time to lead them.
Since you've started teaching what shifts (if any) have you seen in the comfort level of LGBT students to be open about who they are?
DAVID "I teach JK/SK, and have for most of my teaching career. That said, I've been in JK-8 schools for 15 years, and in Parkdale the students seem more comfortable expressing their sexuality and/or bucking trends, than in Regent Park. There are more individualists in Parkdale but I haven't taught in Regent Park since the renovations were done at Nelson Mandela Park"
LYLA "I am gay and we have students whose gender identity is ambiguous/fluid. Further I've heard some teachers be not anti gay but kind of tittering (okay I guess that is anti) or using gay as a possible reason a student is being bullied. I've been teaching for fourteen years though. I once had a VP tell me if I came out to my students they couldn't support me with the parent community (which was predominantly Muslim and probably didn't care). I have seen kids be bullied and excluded, and I* also notice that we do things as a group that sort of gloss over homo and transphobia, like Day of Pink being not explicitly about these issues."
Has the shift towards LGBTQ inclusiveness had on you as a teacher?
DAVID "I've been teaching as long as I've been active socially and politically in the gay/lesbian/queer community. ACTUALLY a year less in fact. I've always been comfortable with LGBTQ inclusiveness in my practice, and with more picture books catching up with my desire to buck trends and break down walls… It makes it easier."
LYLA "When I started teaching in 2004 there have been huge changes. Students did NOT admit to being gay in the schools I taught in Scarborough, in fact vehemently denied it. I had a teacher who once said, in front of staff and students, to me 'That's too much, you don't want him to be gay' about my son being affectionate with his best friend. Now I would say downtown it's okay and some kids are out. Others have told me they aren't out but their friends know. Many of them do not come out to their parents. My children just finished high school and they mostly had a different experience. However they were in gifted programs, which means a curated student groups tilted towards white and middle class."