allies, GSA, gay-straight alliance, French elementary school, advocacy, activism, safer space, rainbow flag, workshops, training teachers, questions, gender identity, preferred pronouns, language
Chantale: So I’m an educational assistant.
Chantale: So I work with special needs and different behavioural situations within the entire school. But from year to year, I can be assigned to different casework or work in different class depending on where the need is. But I’ve also been working with my staff -- one of our resource teachers and myself because it’s important for us to act as allies for the LGBTQ community. It’s important for both of us. So we’ve been trying to work on how to get a kind of GSA at an elementary level. Because GSAs are more and more known and more and more available in secondary schools.
Chantale: But how to bring it about in elementary school is new. And we would actually love to be the first French elementary school to have gender neutral bathrooms and certain, you know, awareness to different types of families and different gender types and so, um--
Tara: How’s that work going? Is there an openness? Or what are some of the things you are working on?
Chantale: Um it’s -- I got mixed feelings about - Right now it’s very much in the beginning stages.
Chantale: Of like, we’ve just put -- we’ve created, like uh, safe space. Like, we are -- that’s actually one of the workshops that was offered, was LGBTQ safe spacing. And how to present yourself as somebody who is of support and acceptance. So you can come to me if you want to talk about anything your questioning or anything you’re going through, you know?
Chantale: So we’ve created a safe space and um. So on some of our classrooms and some of our doors we’ll have the safe space sticker.
Tara: That’s how we started at UofT as well. Exactly the same way.
Chantale: Safe space stickers are there. And uh, the rainbow flag is painted in our main entrance.
Chantale: And uh, different posters just showing ‘love is love’. Like it’s very just lets show, you know, lets normalize this. Let’s show that it’s here and it’s okay.
Chantale: So it’s beginning stage, but it’s an important--
Chantale: It’s an important beginning stage to just show the openness and the normalcy of it, um--
Dan: Still kind of in the educating the staff before going to the children.
Chantale: Yeah, yeah.
Chantale: Because and we understand that some people aren’t comfortable as-- with being like a safe space. They’re not comfortable talking about those things and that’s fine. But we want them to still be accepting and aware that it--
Dan: It’s there.
Chantale: So we have certain staff members that are more than willing. Like, “yes I will be an ally, an advocate”, yeah. And others are just curious. And that’s, uh, that’s actually a good step.
Chantale: You know, it’s okay. Ask questions. I have a lot of staff members that come to me with their questions.
Tara: Interesting. What are some of the things that they’re interested in?
Chantale: Well now it’s very much the gender.
Chantale: The pronouns and the, you know, transgendered --um, different transgendered situations. And just ask if the pronouns and, you know, the gender nonbinary, gender noncomforming. What does it all mean?
Tara: Right. Language.