SUMMERSIDE – Three Oaks Senior High School will play host to Shout Out P.E.I. 2014, a conference to increase awareness and support around lesbian, gay bisexual, transsexual and questioning kids and to deal with questions about and support around gender identity.
“We are somewhat behind other provinces and territories in visible community support for these youth with these questions or who have those lifestyle,” said organizer and TOSH school counsellor, Sandra Sheridan. “We’ve started a group at Three Oaks last fall, a small Gay Straight Alliance. We went to Dartmouth, N.S., in November and we attended the Nova Scotia Gay Straight Alliance Conference.”
She said an educational assistant at Three Oaks had connections with the New Brunswick organization as well and teachers in New Brunswick who had also been instrumental in starting these groups.
“We’ve been in contact with them,” Sheridan said. “We attended their conference and we thought it was a great idea and we should start one here and invite the other schools, junior and seniors high schools from across the Island to send interested students and have some information and support sessions around these topics.”
She said there is a government-funded, non-profit organization called the Youth Project out of Halifax that has been in existence for 20 years. They work not only in the Halifax area but also all across the province.
“They are coming to facilitate our sessions,” Sheridan said. “We also have some people from the Island step up and want to be involved as well. We’ll have people from ARC P.E.I. (the Abegweit Rainbow Collective), from AIDS P.E.I., people from the Canadian Mental Health Association, from the health clinic here in Summerside, from the Boys and Girls Club of Summerside and from the Human Rights Commission.”
She said there will also be a representative from Pride Education in New Brunswick to do a session.
“We have quite a variety of people coming to help out,” Sheridan said. “ARC and AIDS P.E.I. are both groups who support both youth and adults who are trans-gendering or who are from the gay and lesbian community.”
She said the conference will consist of group activities in the morning with an open session in the high school cafeteria.
“All of the different facilitators will sit…introduce themselves and talk about their own stories and who they are,” Sheridan said. “In the afternoon, the students and the adults who attend will get to choose four different short sessions. We're doing four different 45-minute sessions. We're making sure that in each of those four we’re offering three choices for the students and one choice for the adults in every session.”
She said any parent or interested community members or staff from schools who come with the students or who have an interest can attend and get information.
“The whole idea is about supporting and creating safer schools for all of our kids,” Sheridan said. “We are encouraging people of all orientations and genders to show up and be supportive.”
The conference is set for Saturday, May 17, with registrations at 9:30 a.m. and the opening will be at 10 a.m.