Over 500 middle and high school LGBTQI2S+ students and allies across the Toronto District School Board came together over two days to connect with one another, celebrate their identities and explore issues LGBTQI2S+ communities are facing.
This year’s EnVision Conference focused on mental health and wellness. According to the TDSB’s Student Census, gender identity has a significant impact on students’ feelings of well-being. The TDSB’s commitment to equity, anti-racism and anti-oppression is leading to more welcoming and inclusive spaces for students. Understanding identity and its impact on mental health and developing and encouraging a sense of agency for students is a key component of that commitment.
Both conference days – one for middle school students and one for secondary – began with a Forum Theatre style production focusing on anti-homophobia and anti-transphobia work. The production invited students on stage to centre their voices, and ‘act out’ how schools, teachers and students can ensure identities are acknowledged and appreciated.
Students were excited to meet allies, other Gay-Straight Alliances, Queer-Straight Alliances, Gender Justice groups, and Equity clubs throughout the day. They made new friends, laughed, asked questions and delved into ways to celebrate gender and sexual diversity. Students participated in more than 10 different workshops, led by community organizations and students, that unpacked topics such as healthy relationships, consent, asexuality, aromanticism, bisexuality, pansexuality, mental health, intersecting identities and much more. Students connected with adults in the interfaith panels, and had access to a quiet space with support from social workers.
The impact of the two days was deep, transformative and necessary for both LGBTQI2S+ student’s allies and educators.
What students said:
“The organization that was created really helped me learn that I should love myself."
“I learned a lot about healthy relationships and in some ways strategies to develop them. I also learned or realized that no one is alone and there is a strategy to feel better."
What staff said:
“The students were empowered and showed strong self-advocacy!”