INCLUSIVE SCHOOL COMMUNITIES: SUPPORTING LGBTQ2S+ STUDENTS IN PHYSICAL ACTIVITY ENVIRONMENTS

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Written by: Katie Mahon, Provincial Projects Coordinator, Ever Active Schools 

This past fall, Ever Active Schools launched GO! Run – a ‘Girls Only!’ run club program that aims to create safe, welcoming and inclusive spaces for girls’ participation in physical activity. GO! Run was launched in an effort to support the ongoing work within school communities to create gender equity in sport and physical activity.

The Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women in Sport and Physical Activity (2015), defines gender equity as “the process of allocating resources, programs, and decision making fairly to both males and females without any discrimination on the basis of sex…and addressing any imbalances in the benefits available to males and females.”

However, the effects of gender inequity in sport and physical activity spaces are not experienced by girls only. Children who identify as LGTQB2S+ can also feel excluded from sport and physical activity opportunities in school communities.

In fact, according to the Canadian Trans Youth Health Survey (2015), more than half of younger kids who identify as LGTBQ2S+ have never participated in before school, after school or lunchtime activities organized by their school. Also, the same survey found that only ten per cent of kids who identify as LGBTQS+ have participated in physical activities with a coach.

Students who do not identify as a boy or a girl, who are transitioning or who find identity within the LGBTQ2S+ community may also feel more safe and inspired to participate in a GO! Run club. Within the GO! Run Handbook, we’ve highlighted some tips for creating an inclusive environment in GO! Run clubs, which are highly transferable to all gendered physical activity endeavours in healthy school communities.

Here are three ideas:

INCLUSIVE BATHROOMS

Many kids who identify as LGBTQ2S+ don’t participate in sport and physical activity because they don’t make it past the change rooms or bathrooms. Creating an inclusive bathroom at your school allows for all children to have a safe space to change into their physical activity clothing.

GENDER NEUTRAL LANGUAGE

Try using, “Hi Team” instead of  “Hi Guys” or “Hi Girls.”

ALLOW STUDENTS TO SELF-IDENTIFY

Acknowledging at the start of your season that all students have the option to use whichever pronouns they choose will go a long way in supporting students who may not feel included in the use of the pronouns “he” or “she.”

For more info on creating supportive learning environments, check out Alberta Education’s Guidelines for Best Practices: Creating Learning Environments that Respect Diverse Sexual Orientations, Gender Identities and Gender Expressions.

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