A colleague of mine recently attended a workshop on working with LGBTQ+ families, and has kindly allowed me to re-post their report on it here!
I attended Working with LGBTQ2S+ families, a two-day workshop offered by Westcoast Childcare Resource Centre and facilitated by Qmunity. Qmunity is currently (April 2018) auditing WCCRC’s library for inclusivity and adding more LGBTQ2S books (see list below).
Most workshop participants were Early Childhood Educators from different preschools, especially neighbourhood houses.
Day 1 focused on terminology used by LGBTQ2S individuals and families to describe themselves. Those definitions are available here. (Note that this document is currently being updated.) The major takeaway was that you should mirror the language used by the individual.
We also learned about the binary model: female genitals = girl/woman identity = feminine expression = attracted to men. In this model, each category has exactly two options. However, in life, none of these are binaries. People may be intersex, be attracted to people of many genders or attracted to nobody at all, identify as a gender different than the one they were assigned at birth, and so on.
The Gender Unicorn is a more nuanced tool that individuals can use to describe their gender. It can be used with children.
On Day 2, we practiced using they/them/their pronouns to talk about one person. Some workshop participants found this very challenging and the practice was helpful in getting used to using “they” in a context where messing up wasn’t a big deal.
We were also encouraged to think about ways in which gendered or heterosexist assumptions are coded into our spaces. For example, are the costumes divided into boy and girl costumes? Is the dress-up corner near the kitchen and far from the blocks? Are children asked to divide themselves into groups by gender? In a library context, we might think about representation and gender in the stories we read and the songs we sing. What kinds of families are represented in the posters around our spaces?
We also talked about gender non-conforming children. The preschool years are a time when children explore their gender, and it is normal for them to experiment. It is important for them to be supported in their exploration and to hold off on making determinations about their gender. The three key words for recognizing a transgender child are persistent, insistent, and consistent in stating that their gender does not match what they were assigned at birth. ECE workers see themselves as acting as advocates for children, especially when a child is exploring gender in ways that make the parents uncomfortable, such as when all of the children want to paint their nails.
Other resources that were mentioned:
QTBIPOC Road Map (Queer and Trans Black, Indigenous and People of Colour): graphic synthesis of a discussion between 50 Queer, Trans and Two-Spirit youth of colour from across BC about available services and service gaps. The library is not mentioned, but there are definitely some needs we can fill!
Two Spirit Resource Directory, developed by Harlen Pruden, VPL board member. East Coast in focus, but still useful.
A Map of Gender Diverse Cultures: PBS resource exploring cultures that have always recognized multiple genders.
Qmunity hosts a drop in for LGBTQ2S youth drops-ins for ages 14-25, and tween drop-ins for ages 10-14 with their parents. These are staffed by Youth Workers. They also offer counselling and referrals.
Westcoast Childcare Resource Centre offers a variety of workshops typically aimed at “parents, Early Learning and Child Care Professionals, and others working with young children and their families.” Their office is located in Vancouver, although they do occasionally offer webcasts or webinars. To see a list of their upcoming workshops, click here.