Kids from all over the country will be coming to Toronto to discuss and learn more about Gender and Sexuality Alliances (GSAs) in schools.
Starting May 11, 2016, and running for five days, the National GSA Forum is run by the Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity (CCGSD). It’s is an opportunity for LGBT youth and allies to come together and receive training on how to run, or even start, a GSA back home.
“It’s an initiative started by the youth we work with,” says centre director Jeremy Dias. Along with running the national forum, the organization regularly runs workshops and lectures on topics ranging from diversity to acceptance in schools across Canada.
Now in its third year running, the forum in Toronto is a capstone of the work the centre does year long. “It seemed natural for us to then do a national forum, with some of these cool people doing cool work, wanting to connect and do things with each other. It’s super neat to see that come into fruition,” he says.
This year also marks the first time the forum is receiving grants from the Exchanges Canada Program, which helps facilitate youth forums around the country. “We have funding now to bring 85 kids across the country,” Dias says.
Applications for kids 14–17 are still open. Participants will be brought to Toronto, and can expect to learn not only about running a GSA, but become leaders in topics such as anti-bullying, diversity and mental health.
But while the forum is mainly for youth, Dias stresses the event is equally important for adults. Some of the feedback Dias says he regularly receives from older volunteers is the realization that there is still work to do for the LGBT community. “I think as adults, especially in a post–equal marriage revolution . . . there’s still so much work to be done,” he says.
“[GSAs are] for all of us,” Dias says. “When we talk about creating a safe space, it’s not just about queer and trans kids, it’s about a safe space for everyone.”