Friday, October 9, 2015

Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Kristopher Wells
I listened to Dr. Kristopher Wells who is an Assisstant Professor and Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services (iSMSS) University of Alberta. He spoke about Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in Canadian Schools. You can follow Kristopher on Twitter here.

Here is some of what I learned:
  • After decades of silence, more and more of our public institutions (like our schools) want to have a better understanding for gender identity and sexual orientation. 
  • Kristopher started Homophobic language isn't always meant to be hurtful, but how often do we use it without thinking?
  • Kristopher worked with the Alberta Teachers Association to author a Safe Spaces Initiative.
  • For the longest time, the Edmonton Oilers would have nothing to do with supporting LGBTQ until Andrew Ference marched in the Edmonton Pride Parade with his Oilers jersey.
  • Understanding and allying with LGBTQ is about inclusion and humanizing schools.
  • What is LBBTTTIQQAAP? Lesbain, gay, bisexual, transgender, two spirit, transexual, intersex, queer, questioning, asexual, ally, pansexual.
  • Those who are not LGBTQ may be in the best position to use their privilege to ally and advocate for those who are LGBTQ.
  • LGBTQ are sexual and gender minority, an invisible minority, are disproportionate targets for violence and victimization, and are coming out at younger ages.
  • People who say "there are no gay students in my school" are really saying "there are no visible gay students in our school" because the school is likely not a safe space for them to be visibly gay.
  • Confidentiality for students is important especially when it comes to their sexual orientation and gender identity. When students are "outed" by breaches of their confidentiality they are put at risk.
  • Some parents might say "if the school knows my child is gay, I demand they tell me. I have a right to know". The real issue here is if a child is gay, and you are their parent, why don't you already know?
  • The most victimizers and victims of hate crimes are youth.
  • Are schools suppose to challenge our society's status quo or maintain it?
  • Boys and girls tend to become aware of their sexual orientation around 10. They tend to disclose this around 16. LGBTQ children can become aware of their gender identity around 6. 
  • What message are we giving children if they are told they just have to survive in isolation until they can grow up and find their own safe place elsewhere?
  • Generation Queer is the first generation of children who are aware and disclosing their gender identity and sexual orientation while still in school.
  • After Alberta had policies around Gay-Straight Alliances far more schools had Gay-Straight Alliances. Policy is important. It can liberate us or it can hold us back.
  • LGBTQ is our present day civil rights movement.
  • In schools, we should not be trying to "fix" our students. We should be supporting them.
  • If you want to know how dangerous it can be to be LGBTQ, hold hands with a same sex friend and walk around public places.
  • We have tolerance for a "tom-boy" but very little for a "sissy-boy"
  • Wren Kauffman: A transgender boy shares his story
  • Our binary understanding for male and female gender identity causes harm. Our concept of normal needs to change.
  • Preparing children for hate and ignorance is not the same as protecting them from it or stopping it.
  • Homophobia is in our schools and it is hurting our children.
  • Why do some people survive atrocities? Two things tend to get people through atrocity: 1. Hope that the future can be better 2. Support and love from family.
  • Diversity allows us to adapt and makes us stronger. Sameness is unsustainable and stagnant.
  • Teachers need to intervene when students say "fag" as often as they intervene when students say "fuck".


  1. This is typically a conversation that we steer away from as educators, but it is increasingly becoming an unavoidable reality in our schools. I've been hearing on the news that several school systems are going to implement classes on just this topic. I think it's crazy how far we've come in just a couple of years.

  2. None Of Us Are Free - Solomon Burke


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