Panel discusses gender and identity during Generation Q conference

NANAIMO – Vancouver Island University hosted inaugural gathering.

By Dane Gibson

Their daughter spoke about her spirit as early as the age of two. At first her parents didn’t think much of it. “Isn’t that nice,” they said with a knowing smile. But as she got older and gained more words, she became more insistent.

“She said very forcefully and repeatedly that her spirit was a boy,” said the mother, who was participating in a Parent and Youth Panel at the Generation Q Conference held at Vancouver Island University in early February.

After sharing stories of her child being bullied outside the home and sibling confusion inside it, she talked about their family’s journey to accepting that their daughter, the youngest of four, identified as a boy – and was a boy in mind and spirit.

“All we ever wanted was for him to be his authentic self, to be happy,” she said. “He’s fully transitioned now and has no problem talking about it, but I remember those days back when he was in grades 2 and 3 when he would come to us crying because they forced him to go to the girls’ bathroom at school. I would say to him, does it matter about your parts? What does your spirit say? And he would always say: My spirit is a boy.”

There were eight youths and parents participating on the panel. They all shared stories about their families to help contribute to a more welcoming and inclusive community for transgender, two-spirit, intersex and non-binary youth.

The Generation Q Conference was held primarily for youth service providers.

Considering it hadn’t been done before, organizers A.J Macleod, Kerri Isham, Kathleen Reed and Haley Lackie were blown away when more than 220 people showed up at VIU’s Malaspina Theatre for the conference. Everyone from the Nanaimo RCMP, Island Health and the B.C. Teachers Federation to three different school districts, the City of Nanaimo, the Nanaimo Women’s Centre and Vancouver Coastal Health were represented.

Reed, who is also on the steering committee for the VIU Positive Space Alliance, an on-campus group that raises awareness of diversity in sexual orientation and gender identity, said delegates were receptive and interactive, which helped make the event a success.

Reed says the level of discussion the conference encouraged was enlightening.

“We found there was a lot of curiosity, particularly within the service provider community. They wanted to know how to offer services to youths that are transgender, intersex, two-spirited or don’t identify as male or female,” said Reed.

Macleod is a coordinator with the Generation Q youth group, which is hosted by the Nanaimo Boys and Girls Club with a mission to create a safe, supportive and inclusive space for youth to connect and openly express their concerns regarding issues impacting their lives.

“We addressed everything from surveys that ask respondents to identify if they’re male or female when it has no impact on the information they are collecting to looking at the way language is used. Not just being aware of the language, but being aware of the root of some of the terms that are used because often they are rooted in oppression,” said Macleod.

To learn more, please visit www.viu.ca/positivespace/genqresources.asp.

Dane Gibson is a writer in VIU’s communications department.