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Eliminating Social Isolation Among 2SLGBTQ+ Youth: A Closer Look at SOGI 123 Inclusive Education

sogi
Photograph By SOGI 123 GRAPHIC
Article
June 25, 2019

June 1st marked the beginning of LGBT Pride month across the globe. As well as being a month long celebration, Pride month is also an opportunity to peacefully protest and raise political awareness of current issues facing the community.1 This month is important because it provides  opportunities to educate individuals on the 2SLGBTQ+ community, strives to improve the attitudes of “society” and encourages inclusivity for all. In the spirit of fostering social connectedness and highlighting positive initiatives that better support 2SLGBTQ+ individuals today, SOGI 123 Inclusive Education is the perfect place to start. 

All of us have a sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI). It’s an inclusive term that applies to everyone, whether they identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, two-spirit, heterosexual or cisgender.2 Unfortunately, we live in a heteronormative society that socializes us into viewing heterosexuality as the normal and natural expression of sexuality.3 This is problematic because if you’re not heteronormative, you’re often forced to explain yourself, while cisgender and heterosexual people don’t have to. This process often leads to social exclusion and isolation of 2SLGBTQ+ individuals due to stigmatization. 

Challenging heteronormativity is not about challenging heterosexuality. It is about questioning the idea that heterosexuality is the only normal, natural, or good form of sexuality.4 Progressive initiatives such as SOGI 123 Inclusive Education help challenge the public discourse regarding sexual orientation and gender identity by teaching children at a young age that gender and sexuality are complex and unique to everyone. The B.C. Ministry of Education announced that all British Columbia boards of education and independent school authorities were required to reference sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) in school district codes of conduct. This directive follows the July 2016 amendment to the B.C. Human Rights Code, which added gender identity and expression as a prohibited ground of discrimination, joining the already existing inclusion of sexual orientation.5

Ten key components for effective SOGI-Inclusive policies and procedures include: common language, safety/anti-harassment, self-identification, confidentiality, dress guidelines, gender integrated/inclusive activities, educator training, facilities, and inclusive learning.6 These key components are referred to as “Best Practices” in the SOGI Policy Guide. They are informed by current research and jurisdictional scans as effective in promoting learning environments that are welcoming and inclusive for all members of the school community. Adopting a human rights perspective, SOGI 123 strives to create a healthy learning environment that fosters diversity and saves lives of children and youth. Although this initiative was adopted three years ago in British Columbia, SOGI 123 Inclusive Education matters because still, in 2019, millions of people around the world who identify as 2SLGBTQ+ experience extreme forms of discrimination and social isolation within society. 

Every year, an average of 500 Canadian youth (ages 10 – 24) die by suicide (Statistics Canada). Increasingly, however, studies confirm that suicidal ideation and behaviour are disproportionately prevalent among 2SLGBTQ+ youth in comparison to their non-2SLGBTQ+ peers.7 Schools adopting a SOGI 123 curriculum represent the efforts being taken at both a micro and macro level to help reduce the stigma, and polarization between those who identify as 2SLGBTQ+ and those who do not. Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity are important topics that are interwoven through several curriculum areas, most notably, physical and health education, language arts, and social studies. How the topics are introduced to students is dependent on the age and stage of their development and may also be discussed as they arise in the daily lives of students.8 By reconstructing discriminatory ideologies, educational institutions can collectively work towards creating a safer and more inclusive society for all. 

When thinking about how other institutions can work on eliminating social isolation among historically marginalized demographics, SOGI 123 Inclusive Education serves as a strong example. Although not perfect, this progressive initiative is a step in the right direction of addressing a large systemic issue of inequality and discrimination. By embracing and respecting differences, SOGI 123 Inclusive Education aims to eliminate the social isolation of 2SLGBTQ+ youth within the education system by producing an environment that fosters social connectedness. This is done at both the policy level and within the classroom. Afterall, one’s education should not be negatively affected by their gender identity or sexual orientation. 

As we continue to take steps towards creating a safer and more equal society for all, I encourage readers to spend some time researching your own province’s education policies regarding sexual orientation and gender identity. The education system is a powerful institution that influences our ideologies and worldviews that should not be underestimated. To learn more about SOGI 123 Inclusive Education, please click here. Hopefully, one day soon, we will start to see SOGI 123 inclusive practices adopted in every school across the country. 

1.“Pride Month 2019,” Awareness Days International Awareness Events Calendar, accessed June 4, 2019, https://www.awarenessdays.com/awareness-days-calendar/

2. “What’s Happening in British Columbia?” SOGI 123, accessed June 4, 2019, https://bc.sogieducation.org/.

3. Meg-John Barker, “What’s Wrong With Heteronormativity?”, Last modified August 17, 2011. https://www.rewriting-the-rules.com/gender/whats-wrong-with-heteronormativity/

4. Ibid. 

5.  “What’s Happening in British Columbia?” SOGI 123, accessed June 4, 2019.  https://bc.sogieducation.org/

6. Ibid.

7. “What You Should Know About LGBTQ Youth Suicide in Canada,” Egale Canada Human Rights Trust, accessed on June 4, 2019. https://egale.ca/backgrounder-lgbtq-.  

8. “Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity (SOGI),” Government of British Columbia, accessed June 4, 2019. https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/erase/sogi