I am always amazed by the talented, thoughtful and engaging people I meet in my workshops. Over the past several months, I have performed and facilitated workshops with participants ranging from 14 years old to 60 years old. Although there are a range of experiences, finding safe and inclusive spaces to be open and honest are crucial to each person.
How can they bring their true selves to the table?
I gave a workshop in November at the Emergence Symposium in Toronto on creative conflict solution through spoken word poetry with other artists and facilitators. It was a rich space for participants to explore conflict in their own lives and in their communities. I also facilitated several workshops at the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board’s Rainbow Youth Forum for LGBTQ+ students and allies. It’s beautiful to see how much has chanced since I was in high school.
In December, I facilitated a spoken word workshop at the Toronto Catholic District School Board’s third Inclusion and Belonging Retreat for students involved in gay-straight alliances at their schools. I have facilitated workshops and given talks at each conference and I’m constantly blown away by the courage and self-reflection of these students. I went to a Catholic high school more than 10 years ago and I couldn’t even imagine these conversations taking place. I am hopeful and encouraged by this movement, but recognize there is still a lot of work to create safe and inclusive spaces for LGBTQ+ students.
It is also exciting that teachers, social workers and principals in Catholic schools are also learning more about LGBTQ+ issues, and building safer and inclusive communities for LGBTQ+ students. I performed at a workshop with social workers from the Durham Catholic District School Board recently. Educators are asking these questions and it is exciting to hear their desire to support LGBTQ+ students and be allies in their schools.