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Schools & Child Care

LGBTQ Students

Celebrate the Rainbow!

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and questioning (LGBTQ) parents, students, and staff provide valuable insight on what works well and where improvements can be made to support LGBTQ health and well-being in schools.  In addition, LGBTQ school members bring their unique culture, history, and perspectives that enrich the whole school community. We encourage members of the LGBTQ community to play an active role in schools, to build awareness and support strategies that enhance school health and well-being. We also encourage school communities to increase their own awareness of LGBTQ issues and rights.

LGBTQ Students and the Ministry of Education

To support LGBTQ student education, the Ministry of Education has produced an Equity and Inclusive Education Strategy in which all students, parents, and other members of the school community are welcomed and respected, and every student is supported and inspired to succeed in a culture of high expectations for learning. For more information on Ontario's Well-being Strategy for Education, visit  http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/about/Wellbeing2.html.

Gay Straight Alliances (GSAs) and School Positive Space at School

Supportive school staff make students feel safer, miss less school, and consider college or university more often. Students in schools with a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) are more likely to feel like they belong than students in schools without GSAs. Research has also shown that when schools have anti-bullying policies that include harassment based on sexual orientation, there is a lower incidence of homophobic remarks and verbal harassment, and higher rates of intervention by teachers. Enacting these measures can help to make the school experience a vastly more positive one for LGBTQ students.
What is a GSA?
Gay-Straight Student Alliances (GSAs) are student-run and teacher supported, school-based groups that promote welcoming, caring, respectful safe and inclusive spaces for LGBTQ students and their allies. GSAs help LGBTQ students feel valued, respected, and empowered. They help build awareness for the whole school. It creates opportunity for interested students to become allies. A successful GSA promotes healthy relationships and welcomes diverse people in the school community.
Why have a GSA?
LGBTQ students may have particular challenges as they grow and develop. They may have more questions and concerns about how to talk to friends and family about their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. Many may be isolated because they are afraid of rejection or bullying from others. These students can be the most marginalized students in your school.

LGBTQ students suffer disproportionately from bullying and harassment, family disownment and conflict, homelessness, depression, suicide and suicidal ideation, and substance misuse. They are also much more likely to report skipping school due to safety concerns, and are more than twice as likely to report that they are not planning to pursue post-secondary education. When LGBTQ students do not see themselves reflected or acknowledged anywhere, it compounds their sense of isolation and undermines their ability to form a healthy self-concept.

GSAs can create a positive, caring, school climate that help LGBTQ students to have improved self‐esteem, friendships and supports, and confidence to be successful at school.

How to start a GSA at your school
Provide the same status and visibility to the GSA as you would to any other student group or club (for example, by making the club official, including it on your school web site, etc.) and make sure the teacher-advisor feels supported in their role. Promote the GSA as a positive peer support group open to all students and school staff who want their school to be a Positive Space. The group should explicitly welcome straight allies as well as those from the LGBTQ community, and be a safe place that is welcoming, inclusive and confidential. GSAs can be a space for friendship and support, and they can also organize and host events and activities school wide. There are many excellent Canadian resources for starting and running a successful GSA (see list below). Your school public health nurse can also provide direct support to a teacher-supervisor in starting or maintaining a GSA. If you do not know who your school public health nurse is, please call Health Connection at 705-721-7520 or toll free at 1-877-721-7520, Monday to Friday, 8:30a.m. - 4:30p.m.
Resources for GSA Teacher-Supervisors

The Canadian Teachers’ Federation has various publications available to support school staff in facilitating a GSA, including:

  • Gay-Straight Student Alliance Handbook. The definitive GSA resource for Canadian teachers and GSA student leaders.
  • Supporting Transgender and Transsexual Students in K-12 Schools: A Guide for Educators. Intended to increase professional knowledge, understanding, and sensitivity around transgender and transsexual students, whom research indicates are among the most at-risk students for bullying, discrimination, and violence in our schools today.
  • Challenging Silence, Challenging Censorship. A professional and practical resource for taking action and positively changing the educational and social climate for youth and children from same-sex parented families.
  • Seeing the Rainbow. Presents the social and political contexts of bisexual, gay, lesbian, transgender and two-spirited issues in education.
  • Lessons Learned. A collection of stories, articles and research studies providing insights into the bisexual, gay, lesbian, and transgender realities of teachers and students.

LGBTQ Community Supports

The following resources are accessible to students in Simcoe County and the District of Muskoka:

  • The LGBTQ Youth Connection is a drop-in and social space for LGBT youth ages 14-24, and is run by the Gilbert Centre (formerly AIDS Committee of Simcoe County). Groups are currently running in several locations in Simcoe County. The group is a place for youth to connect with each other and to community. In addition to the drop-ins, the group also holds special events such as tea parties, picnics, cooking classes, movie nights, education presentations, guest speakers, and more.
  • The Lesbian Gay Bi Trans Youth Line is a toll-free Ontario-wide peer-support phone line for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual 2-spirited, queer and questioning young people. The Youth Line also provides online peer support through the online forum and email response.

Additional Information

  • Egale Canada:  My GSA – Canada's web site for safer and more inclusive schools for LGBTQ students.
  • The Canadian Encyclopedia - plays an essential role in providing Canadians and others with fact-checked, updated information about our people and country.
  • International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia – Promotional resources (free and orderable), information and support for celebrating International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia on May 17.
  • PFLAG Canada – Supporting, educating, and providing resources to all individuals with questions or concerns (including parents), 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • The Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity – promotes diversity in gender identity, gender expression, and romantic and/or sexual orientation through education, health and advocacy.
  • Rainbow Health Ontario – works to improve the health and well-being of LGBTQ people in Ontario, and to increase access to competent and LGBTQ friendly health care services across the province
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