MONTREAL — A survey conducted as part of the SAVIE-LGBTQ research project reveals that 43% of LGBTQ+ students in Quebec report feeling unhappy or depressed due to a hostile environment in their school.
Despite an evolution in mentalities in recent decades, homophobia and transphobia remain problems present within the Quebec school system. The case of the 15-year-old transgender teenager violently beaten up in an Alma secondary school in October bears witness to this.
According to Pascal Vaillancourt, director general of the Interligne organization, this proportion is explained by a certain lack of knowledge within schools. Young people, especially in high school, are in a period of questioning their identity, and this search can sometimes create a certain vulnerability.
“It’s often the lack of education that makes the environment unsafe, even hostile,” he explains. Unfortunately, the scourge of bullying still exists in schools, where we are going to tackle the vulnerability of a young person.
Data from the Canadian Health Survey of Trans and Non-Binary Youth published in 2020 reveal that 66% of these young people have been victims of bullying, teasing or ridicule in their community during the of the previous year.
Some staff members are also unaware of how to welcome and interact appropriately with young LGBTQ+ people, which can reinforce this feeling of depression linked to the school environment.
The need for inclusive measures
Mr. Vaillancourt affirms that the introduction of more inclusive measures within the schools could attenuate this tendency and allow a better reception of the students of the community in their learning environment.
The vocabulary used is also one of the main vectors of communication, he points out, and the fact that staff are aware of the good words related to the community can help to establish a healthy dialogue between the walls of the company. ‘school.
“The words we choose to exchange with LGBTQ+ people are often the basis of a relationship of respect. If we do not use the right words, or we choose words that are insulting or invalidating for the identity of a person, it is sometimes what cuts the bridges in the conversations”, specifies the director.
Respecting pronouns and establishing gender-neutral spaces – including washrooms and locker rooms – can also send a message of inclusion and allow the entire student population to feel safe. More and more schools are also creating LGBTQ+ alliances, spaces open to anyone who offers training or activities related to sexual diversity and gender diversity.
In the eyes of Pascal Vaillancourt, the inclusion of LGBTQ+ students in the education network is not only the responsibility of schools.
“I think these are shared responsibilities, and the government clearly has a role to play in that,” he said. The Office for the Fight against Homophobia and Transphobia should normally be part of the government’s priorities”.
In addition to initiatives stemming from the government, school service centers and schools, the director believes that parents must also be made aware of the issues affecting young LGBTQ+ people in order to ensure constant support.
Although there is still a long way to go to guarantee the inclusion and safety of LGBTQ+ students in schools, Pascal Vaillancourt says he is confident that this problem will be improved. Himself a teacher for ten years at the secondary level, he claims to have seen “a great evolution” of these issues over the last decade.
“There are alliances that exist, there are activities; schools have even started to transform their facilities, he adds. I am thinking, among other things, of certain school service centers in the Montreal region which have implemented reception procedures for trans children in order to make their environments safer.
In order to fight against this problem, the National table against homophobia and transphobia in the education networks, the Interligne organization and the Research Chair for Sexual Diversity and the Plurality of Genders at UQAM will present , November 24, 25 and 26, the 5th Colloquium to prevent and counter homophobia and transphobia in education networks.
During this symposium, eleven training sessions and a discussion panel will aim to raise awareness and train the personnel of the education networks and the student population on homophobia, transphobia, racism and sexual violence.
This article was produced with the financial support of the Meta Fellowships and The Canadian Press for News.