Staff meetings at Riverside Secondary have been discussing SOGI, and how to make Riverside more inclusive for LGBTQ+ students. SOGI stands for Sexual Orientation Gender Identity and can also be written as ‘SOGI 123’. 123 are the different levels of SOGI: one is policies to assure schools human rights policies in place; two is having an inclusive environment, which might mean having an LGBTQ+ club; three is having LGBTQ+ representation in the curriculum.
SOGI is about trying to include LGBTQ+ people in the curriculum and recognizing that there are lots of different people and different kinds of families.
Ms. Sheri Thomasen
Ms. Sheri Thomasen, a teacher at Riverside and advocate of the LGBTQ+ club, was the one who directed the staff meeting discussion. “I talked about how it’s important to know different terms and I also gave everyone a worksheet to help them understand that who you love is very different from your gender identity,” said Thomasen. “I then asked all the teachers to add their pronouns to their email signature.”
Thomasen says normalizing the practice of saying pronouns may lead to it being more accepted. “The more the staff do it, the more it becomes accepted. Then it’s not such a big deal anymore,” said Thomasen. Some teachers have already added their pronouns to their email, but others not yet. “I think some teachers don’t know how to do it. But that’s up to them to ask someone and get help,” said Thomasen. “A few teachers are uncomfortable, but I think the reason they’re uncomfortable is because some don’t understand that your gender identity is different from your sexuality.”
There are anti-SOGI people who say schools and teachers aren’t equipped to be student’s therapists and deal with these issues. “There’s nothing in SOGI that says teachers have to be therapists. We have counsellors for that. It’s just about recognizing, representation, and inclusiveness,” said Thomasen.
It’s important to understand SOGI’s goals before forming opinions. “I don’t think people have done enough research. SOGI isn’t trying to ‘convert’ children or teach them ‘how to be gay’. SOGI is about trying to include LGBTQ+ people in the curriculum and recognizing that there are lots of different people and different kinds of families,” said Thomasen. SOGI describes a human rights code more than anything else.
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