Students gather to discuss homophobia in province's schools

Gay-straight alliance conference in Edmonton first of its kind in province, brings together students from over 40 different groups.

Students from across the province will meet Saturday in Edmonton to discuss how gay and straight students can work together to encourage tolerance in Alberta's schools

The gay-straight student alliance is the province’s first, according to organizer Dr. Kristopher Wells, a researcher at the University of Alberta's Institute for Sexual minority Studies and Services.

"Attitudes are changing in Alberta. You know, this notion of social conservatism is not a view that many young people ascribe to," Wells said.

"In fact, it's not the young people that have many problems with sexual orientation and gender identity. It's the adults."

He says there are 40 different gay-straight alliance groups across the province. The point of the conference is to build a sense of community among the different groups, and to teach students skills that they can bring back when they return home.

"This conference sees gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered youth coming together with straight youth, heterosexual youth, to hold hands together and show their school communities that homophobia and transphobia have no place within those communities."

He says he’s been encouraged by the response to the conference, which filled up rather quickly. Representatives from the Edmonton Public School Board and the provincial government are also involved in the event.

Wells hopes to expand the conference to southern Alberta next year.