Seven Vancouver students have been invited to speak at an annual LGBT youth conference in Saskatchewan to share their experiences of the Vancouver School Board’s recent trans-friendly amendments to its sexual orientation and gender identities policy.
The students, all members of gay-straight alliances (GSAs) in the district, have been invited to give a plenary presentation to the Breaking the Silence conference, to be hosted by the University of Saskatchewan on March 21.
“It seemed to us that us that they were doing very exciting work,” says conference founder and chief organizer Don Cochrane. “It’s been a momentous year for the Vancouver School Board and they were heavily involved. We think that our people will gain some new ideas about advocacy.”
After several contentious public meetings, the VSB passed its trans policy revisions last June.
“Personally, I’m really hoping that we can bring some of the ideas and the passions behind the policies to Saskatoon, and the rest of Canada,” says Kate Fry, one of the invited students. “Being able to bring those ideas to the conference is something I’m really looking forward to.”
“I’m also really looking forward to talking to other people who are part of that community in Canada, and being able to bring their ideas back to my GSA and my community,” Fry adds.
Violet Read hopes the conference will have a ripple effect among Vancouver’s queer youth. She says youth leaders rely on each other to share knowledge and build safer spaces. She hopes all seven students can bring new ideas back to their individual communities.
She is also heartened that conference organizers actually want to hear from students.
“Student voice is something that’s really important to me,” she says. “I think it’s something that, at times, is a bit underrated. I think the fact that we got invited and that they want to hear what we have to say is so amazing. Like, hallelujah, you finally want to know what we have to say.”
Fry says the effects of the VSB’s amendments have so far been slow to materialize in her school, citing red tape and ongoing hesitancy among students. “There aren’t any openly trans students at Byng,” she explains, referring to Lord Byng Secondary School in Vancouver. “So it’s hard to see who it’s directly affecting. But we leave behind a space that’s prepared for anything. It could mean the world to one person, and that’s why we do it.”
The seven Vancouver students are attempting to fund their trip through fundraising and community presentations. They are still short of their goal of $3,000 and reaching out to the community through crowd sourcing. To learn more click here.