Student gender orientation information evening coming to Courtenay

Groups collaborate for evening of information and discussion at Mark Isfeld Secondary

The experience of transgender students going through transition while still in school can be a dangerous and frightening time for everyone involved. Creating a welcoming and safe school culture that recognizes the wide diversity of students in our schools is a necessary first step.

Despite a confusing and difficult start a number of years ago, the Comox Valley school district has been making steady progress in providing a safe environment for students and families who are gender diverse, transgender and with a variety of sexual orientations. These issues will be explored at an evening of information and discussion at Mark Isfeld Secondary Multi-Purpose Room on Wednesday, Nov. 14, from 6:30–9 p.m.

I know way down deep where the music plays is an evening of information, discussion and documentaries about transgender students’ experience of transition during school.

It is being presented by the Community Justice Centre, in partnership with local churches, School District 71, teaching staff, the North Island Immigrant Welcome Centre, North Island Pride, and the North Island College Students Union. The event is funded by a grant from the Province of British Columbia, Multiculturalism Branch.

The evening will include two short and powerful documentaries. Handsome and Majestic is the story of Milan Halikowski of Prince George. She knew from an early age she was really a boy. She began transitioning, with the support of her parents, at the age of 12. He is now a confident and successful advocate for transgender rights and respect in his own community and across the country.

The second short documentary is called To Be a Man and is the story of Levi Nathan Hansinger who transitioned at the end of high school in Penticton. His transition was filmed for this documentary. He and Danie Easton, the director of the documentary, will be in the Comox Valley for the evening and will talk about the experience they had during transition and in the making of the film.

Another part of the evening will include a summary presentation of Mark Isfeld vice-principal Karma Taiji’s recent thesis on requirements for a climate of inclusion for LGBTQ students in the schools. The District’s Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Policy requires schools to provide safe and inclusive cultures for all students and Taiji’s work contributes to the implementation of that policy requirement.

The District SOGI Policy, was originally developed and adopted in 2010, with extensive Management Regulations adopted in early 2011. It established a framework for providing a safe and welcoming and inclusive school climate. At the time of adoption, it was only the 11th such school district policy in British Columbia.

The original 2010 policy was developed in a totally unique process, led by the Teachers’ Association’s Social Justice Committee and the Community Justice Centre using a broad-based consultative process between 2008 and 2010. It included LGBTQ students and their parents, members of Parent Advisory Committees, School Trustees, SD 71 teachers and support staff, VIHA staff, and members of community groups engaged around the issues. Seven years after its adoption, it was re-visited and revised by SD 71 superintendent Dr. Dean Lindquist, and the revised version was adopted by the Trustees in June 2017.

The evening event will also include a panel discussion and audience interaction on the issues raised.

The panel will include the main presenters as well as students who have transitioned during their school years in the Comox Valley and a wide range of informational brochures and important documents available for the audience.

For further information, and to reserve a free ticket, please call the Community Justice Centre at 250-334-8101 and leave your name and phone number or e-mail contact information.

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