“It gets better” has become a rallying cry for supporters of LGBTQ youth, who want them to understand that their struggles to find a place in the world won’t last forever.
From gay-straight alliances to washroom access for transgender students, legislation and policies affecting sexual and gender minority youth in Alberta schools have been a much-discussed topic in the past few years.
Gianmarco Visconti occupies a privileged position in society, and he knows it. Born and raised in Edmonton, the Master of Library and Information Studies student in the Faculty of Education is also gay and Muslim--facts he can choose to disclose, or not.
“My mother is of Arabic descent, raised in Kenya by adoptive parents. She deliberately didn’t give us Arabic names to protect us from being targets,” says Visconti.
Brent Saccucci has a vision of how his future classroom will look. He pictures a massive piece of paper on one wall of the room, with a heart painted in the middle and this question written underneath: “What makes this classroom a place for you to be heard and accepted?”
All around the heart, Brent imagines there will be quotes from his students (or, as he calls them, “my kids”), saying what makes that room a place in which they can be present, a place in which they want to learn.
It’s early March, and I sit with a group of undergrad students in EDPS 401: Sexuality, Gender, and Culture in Education.
I feel like I’m taking part in history: it’s the first year the course has been offered in the Faculty of Education, and it happens to be the week Bill 10 was passed in Alberta’s legislature, allowing gay-straight alliances to form in any school where students want them.
The course was created by professor Kristopher Wells, one of Edmonton’s most prominent voices for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and queer (LGBTQ) rights.
A passionate advocate who works tirelessly to ensure equal opportunities and protect the rights of sexual and gender minorities and LGBTQ youth has been honoured by Avenue magazine as one of Edmonton’s 40 most exceptional community leaders under 40 years of age.
The University of Alberta’s first-ever Pride Week (March 13-22) lineup is as colourful and diverse as the rainbow flags that have come to symbolize the LGBTQ community.
“Our goals for the week are visibility, awareness and celebration,” explains Alexis Hillyard, Pride Week organizer and education coordinator with The Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services (iSMSS). “Because this is the first Pride Week at U of A, we said ‘go big or go home.’”