Last week, as a part of Consent Week, the TCSA presented a positive space training facilitated by members of the Centre for Human Rights Equity and Accessibility and the Trent Queer Collective.
Positive space trainings focus on marginalized sexual and gender identities, giving participants information on these identities, and most importantly, teaching them how to treat other individuals with basic human decency.
Recognizing the importance of these sorts of events is paramount. While the marriage debate in the United States is the hot button queer issue in the media, 25-40% of homeless youth identify as a marginalized sexual or gender identity, bisexual and trans people are over-represented in the demographic of low-income Canadians, and these marginalized individuals face higher rates of depression and substance abuse, with 45% of trans responders to an Ontario survey having attempted suicide.
Something clearly needs to be done, and while positive space trainings may not revolutionize the world, they can have a serious impact on the community.
It’s become a cliché that knowing someone who is “other” to your own identity makes you more accepting, but studies support this idea. Information is power, and the more marginalized groups are talked about and normalized in society, the less anyone will bat an eye – the less verbal, physical, and sexual violence these communities will face.
Positive space trainings should be mandatory as part of staff trainings, particularly in workplaces such as school systems and counselling or therapy, and a no-tolerance policy toward ignorance put in place.
Within Trent University, the number of times I’ve heard friends – specifically trans and gender non-conforming friends – complain about the cis-centric and trans-exclusive language used by a variety of professors in a variety of departments and who refuse to listen to complaints, makes me question Trent’s adherence to calling themselves a “positive space” (note the little rainbow triangle stickers all over campus). Ironically, the most reprehensible group seems to be the Gender Studies Department.
More accountability needs to be held for people working in education sectors and sectors featuring vulnerable populations (if we can’t just get it across the board yet) for discrimination both obtuse and subtle, as the damage to individuals of marginalized sexual and gender identities can be unmeasurable both in directly affecting those persons, and promoting discrimination in society.
The lives of sexual and gender non-conforming people need to be prioritized. As more and more individuals take the risk of coming out in their home and work lives, we all need to learn to be more welcoming to those who must struggle against the statistics stacked against them and the cruelty of a hetero- and cisnormative society.