Ryan Avola still remembers being a boy.

He loved soccer and formed many relationships through sports. He kept the other things he liked quiet.

"We get a lot of messages about what being males means," said the facilitator of iGuy workshops designed to empower nine to 12-year-old males.

"And it's great for me to be in that room because I can relate. There's a lot about being tough about being strong a lot about holding in emotions and kind of working out things through aggression and violence. We're trying to get away from that."

In his talks he breaks down gender and sexuality and talks about how fluid and complex human beings can be. There's no one way to be a boy. iGuy attempts to empower all kids to be themselves.

Painting fingernails is OK

Avola says he does more listening than talking and through dialogue the kids figure things out.

"Boys speak up and say sometimes I paint my fingernails and it's all okay."

The workshops are offered as part of Seleema Noon's Sexual Health Educators programs.

Noon's organization has been a presence in B.C. schools for years, while iGuy is a relatively new component.

Avola says there is a lot of role-playing and playing off of each other about topics he introduces before the students are excited enough to share their own stories.

Breaking the cycle of bullying

He says it's heartbreaking to hear kids say they've been bullied for years and have tried to be assertive but the pattern continues.

The iGuy workshop teaches young males how to stand up for themselves and for others when they see any harm being done.

Pink Shirt Day is February 24th and is marked by 25 countries around the world as an anti-bullying exercise.

The first Pink Shirt day was in Nova Scotia when classmates of a boy bullied for wearing pink came to school in shirts of that colour.

Watch Ryan Avola speak to host Jason D'Souza on Our Vancouver.

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