Pride Month presents an opportunity for the Loyalist College community to show solidarity and respect for the LGBTQ2S community.
One way that Loyalist staff and students learn to be better allies is attending a two-hour Positive Space workshop with Loyalist counsellor Cassie Richardson.
“We want our LGBTQ2S students to feel accepted and safe, and to give faculty, staff and students the tools to help create an inclusive environment,” said Richardson.
The workshop walks participants through the distinction between sexual orientation, which describes the gender of the individuals to whom you are attracted, versus gender identity, which describes the way you think about yourself in relation to gender.
Discussion of language and terminology is followed by a series of case scenarios, where participants practice the values of inclusivity and respect.
Since beginning the program at Loyalist, Richardson has delivered several employee workshops and in-classroom training sessions.
“We’ve begun providing program-specific education upon request,” said Richardson. “For example, in a class of Nursing students, there is information related to health and clinical documentation for the LGBTQ2S community that would not be part of our usual workshop,” said Richardson. “We try to tailor the conversation to the needs of our audience, and make sure the learning process is collaborative, supportive, and engaging.”
Whether at home, work, or school, the workshop offers best practice tips for increasing inclusivity in our daily life.
Some suggestions include adopting a zero-tolerance policy for disrespectful or inappropriate comments, and avoiding assumptions about an individual’s identity. For faculty trying to implement inclusivity in the classroom, online or in-person, it is recommended that instructors provide an opportunity for students to identify the pronouns they use.
To avoid presumptions about an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity, Richardson recommends adopting inclusive language, for example, using the term ‘partner’ to refer to a significant other, and the gender-neutral pronoun ‘they.’
In March, Julie Marquette and Laura Mounsteven, who work at Loyalist Community Employment Services, attended a Positive Space workshop, looking to gain insight.
“There are a diverse range of identities among the people using our services,” said Mounsteven. “We want to be respectful and supportive, and make sure their needs are met.”
“It’s our job to advocate for people, and help them find work,” added Marquette. “Not only did the workshop provide us with strategies for supporting job seekers, it also helps us open up conversations about inclusivity with employers.”
Marquette and Mounsteven agree that the workshops create a welcoming environment for learning.
“Working through different scenarios with the group helps you to understand how other people view things,” said Marquette.
Following the workshop, participants are given the Positive Space sticker to display on a personal item or door, identifying themselves as allies to the LGBTQ2S community.
Although remote work and learning brought on by the pandemic mean that symbols of community solidarity aren’t as easily seen from home, the workshop’s goals, and the values of respect and inclusivity, remain vital to the health of the Loyalist community.
“A few weeks ago, I did a workshop for the Student Government,” said Richardson. “Meeting in-person is important, but even when we can’t, we have to continue to have these conversations. Pride Month is a great opportunity to draw attention to these issues, and expand the conversation.”
For more information on the Positive Space workshops, contact firstname.lastname@example.org