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GSA conference raises awareness, provides resources for students

The lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community is something that has become more openly talked about throughout recent years.

Many events surrounding LGBT people are beginning to grow in popularity, and the discrimination against them is becoming less frequent.

On Nov. 25, the third annual Manitoba Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) conference, put on by the Rainbow Resource Centre, was held in Winnipeg. This year’s theme was “Our Voice” which focused on how youths can use their resources and their knowledge to bring equality among gay and straight individuals.

Seeing as this was my first year in Neelin High School’s GSA, and my first time attending the conference, I wasn’t sure what to expect from it; and what I got from it was more than I could have ever imagined.

Youth from across Manitoba and parts of western Ontario, along with teachers and other staff members, gathered together to partake in a day full of laughs, learning and a lot of spirit. Each student and staff member got to choose three workshops to attend throughout the day; these varied from topics such as body image, LGBT pride, prejudice, living well and also GSA 101, which gave ideas on how to create a group at your school and how to keep a successful group going.

After a brief welcoming introduction by Rainbow Resource Centre’s Mike Tutthill, Education Minister Nancy Allan and a short performance by Rae Spoon (transgender artist/musician/author), we attended our first workshop session of the day.

Some of the sessions I had the privilege to be a part of were GSA volunteerism as well as one about Gay-Straight Alliances and ways to have an effective and worthwhile GSA group within our school. Some of the ideas they gave us were about how to enhance our school’s own group, including things such ashaving a mission statement, and expanding our group to not only help the students within our school, but also within our community. Another idea they gave us was to join with other high school GSA groups and combine to host events together to have a larger impact.

The conference also had 20 or so booths that had pamphlets on how to start a GSA group, contact information if you needed someone to talk to, posters to post around schools to promote awareness, and so much more.

Coming home with a bag full of papers, buttons, stickers and everything else you can imagine did not come as a surprise to me because there were so many great and free resources that were provided there for everyone to take advantage of. All of the organizations that had booths were eager to talk to anyone and answer any questions we had. All in all, it was a fun, educational and worthwhile conference that I think anyone would enjoy going to whether they are in a GSA group or not. Not only was I surrounded by people who accepted each other for who they were, but I was also with a group of people who had so much energy.

Neelin’s GSA group consists of around 12 members and we meet every two weeks or so to discuss ways to create a safer place for all members of our school and to also bring awareness about discrimination based on sexual orientation. Our mission as a group is to create a safe space for all students, to provide education on LGBT and also to show acceptance to everyone. We are currently putting together an awareness week to have at Neelin sometime in the new year, which will include things like the national day of pink to raise bullying awareness or a public speaker to talk to the students and staff.

It made me proud to be a part of this generation when I saw all of the supportive youth at this conference because it shows that we can overcome inequality together. No matter what your background is or what your preferences are, we are all still human and need people there for us, and that’s exactly what the GSA conference provided. The information that I received was amazing. Never have I seen so many resources accessible in one place before and I think that is what many people need to help them feel like they belong. The people I met and the things that I learned while being there is something that I will take with me throughout life because nobody deserves to be discriminated against.

Hosting events like the GSA conference is a step in the right direction to a better future for not only the youth, but for everyone.

» Taylor Foxon is a Grade 11 student at Neelin High School.

Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition December 2, 2013

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The lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community is something that has become more openly talked about throughout recent years.

Many events surrounding LGBT people are beginning to grow in popularity, and the discrimination against them is becoming less frequent.

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The lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community is something that has become more openly talked about throughout recent years.

Many events surrounding LGBT people are beginning to grow in popularity, and the discrimination against them is becoming less frequent.

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