Yellowknife school hosts talk on issues affecting transgender kids

The Yellowknife Health and Social Services Authority hosted a conference on sex and gender diversity at the city’s Range Lake North School on Thursday.

Presentation addressed bullying, discrimination, pronouns and bathrooms

Mickey Wilson, the executive director of the Pride Centre of Edmonton, gave a talk on transgender issues in Yellowknife Thursday night. (CBC )

The Yellowknife Health and Social Services Authority hosted a conference on sex and gender diversity at the city's Range Lake North School on Thursday.

Delivered by Mickey Wilson, a transgender man and the executive director of the Pride Centre of Edmonton, the talk covered a variety of topics, including what pronouns to use to describe a transgender child.

About a dozen people attended Wilson's talk. (CBC)

"Names are integral to our identity so if someone is mis-gendering you all the time, it's painful, it hurts," he said.  

Wilson also talked about the struggles faced by transgender people, such as bullying and discrimination.

"I think probably the biggest issue in my experience is that people think of trans people as predators," Wilson said.

"People are concerned about them being in bathrooms. We go to the bathroom for the same reason that everybody goes to the bathroom."

Transgender student faced discrimination

The mother of an eight-year-old child who was born as a boy but now identifies as a girl, was one of the dozen people who attended Wilson's talk.

She says her daughter has faced discrimination from students, teachers and administrators and has changed schools three times.

"She kept ending up in the office for things like crying because she wanted a pink cupcake over a blue cupcake and bringing makeup to school in her bag and telling people she was a little girl and kissing a little boy on the cheek."

She said her daughter is frustrated that people aren't accepting of her.

"She's identified with being a girl since she was a toddler and she fully transitioned at a very young age and she's still very young and she gets very upset when someone refers to her with the wrong pronouns."

'Safe to talk about it'

She wants to see facilities accommodate children who are transgender.

Courteney Lizotte, the principal of Range Lake North School, says 'we provide support for all students and their individuality.' (CBC)
Range Lake North School, where Wilson's talk took place, has a zero tolerance policy toward bullying. Its school counsellor has received training and extra support in gender diversity.

A transgender student at the school recently changed her name from a name traditionally associated with boys to a girl's name, says Courteney Lizotte, the school principal.

"It's been a gradual process where she's been allowed the opportunity to express herself in a safe environment, whether it be through clothing or through her art and having an opportunity to feel safe to talk about it."

Lizotte says staff and students celebrated the first time the student came to school in a dress. She added that the student is open to use the girl's washroom and there's also a gender-neutral bathroom in the school.

"We allow her to choose because we want her to feel safe and comfortable."

A slide from Wilson's talk, on the proper use of pronouns for transgender people. (CBC)

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