Home > Releases > Queer Ontario’s Letter to Dr. Chris Spence, Director of Education, Toronto District School Board, in Support of the TDSB’s Positive Space Campaign (December 5, 2010)

Queer Ontario’s Letter to Dr. Chris Spence, Director of Education, Toronto District School Board, in Support of the TDSB’s Positive Space Campaign (December 5, 2010)

January 21st, 2011

December 5, 2010

Dr. Chris Spence
Director of Education
Toronto District School Board
5050 Yonge Street
Toronto, Ontario M2N 5N8

Dear Dr. Spence,

Queer Ontario strongly supports the three initiatives that compose the Positive Space Campaign currently being rolled out by the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) which will establish a Positive Space representative in each school, educate students on how the media shapes and forms gender expectations and lastly, recognize and acknowledge Gay Straight Alliances (GSAs).

Indeed, if a 2009 study conducted by Egale Canada was of any indication, these initiatives have been long overdue since three-quarters of LGBTQ respondents felt unsafe in at least one area of their school, with half of the straight-identified respondents agreeing that at least one part of their school was unsafe for LGBTQ students. By ensuring that there is a teacher in each school who has been trained by a Positive Space representative, the TDSB is being proactive in reconfiguring these otherwise unsafe spaces into inviting ones where students can have peace of mind knowing that there is a contact person at their school whom they can turn to for homophobia- and transphobia- related advice.

Your organization’s second initiative, which will coach students in Grades 8 to 10 on how the media shapes and normalizes gender expectations, is also a step in the right direction since it will encourage students to question their own assumptions about gender and sexuality to finally realize that these markers of identity are not as “natural” or as “given” as they are often made out to be. Through this acknowledgement of the constructionist nature of gender and sexuality, students will also begin to be able to question how the discrimination leveled against both systems is also suspect given the unstable and artificial nature of the identities themselves.

And finally, through the official acknowledgement on the part of the TDSB in recognizing Gay Straight Alliances (GSAs), you will ensure that these organizations are recognized and promoted as legitimate groups within our elementary and secondary schools – and not just another extra-curricular program – which legitimizes the identities and bodies associated with them.

Queer Ontario is a provincially based network of individuals who are members of the gender and sexually diverse populations and their allies committed to liberationist and sex positive principles that focus on questioning, challenging and seeking reform to social norms and laws that regulate queer people. Queer Ontario engages in public education, political action, promoting access and diversity and coalition building.

This is without question an exciting time for LGBTQ students attending school in the City of Toronto. Through the establishment and promotion of programs to counter gender and sexuality based violence, the Toronto District School Board is stepping up it’s commitment to ensuring that schools are a safe place for it’s diverse student body. Moving forward, I hope that other school boards outside of Toronto — and indeed, province-wide! — will adopt programs like the ones developed by your board in an effort to ensure that schools across Ontario are safer for all students.

In solidarity,

Casey Oraa
Chair, Political Action Committee
Queer Ontario

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