By Dane Gibson
Vancouver Island University student Julia Froese is hoping her research project will help raise awareness about the importance of safe leisure spaces for lesbian, bisexual, gay, transgender, queer, two-spirit and other youths of Vancouver Island and, when completed, offer helpful suggestions on how best to approach the topic of gender and sexual equality at public spaces, facilities and businesses.
Froese says her research focuses on three pillars – activities, infrastructure and staff – and is looking at how those things interact to make leisure spaces safe, or not, for LBGTQ youths. The research project’s overarching question is: What makes spaces safe for LBGTQ youths?
“These spaces may include Boys and Girls Clubs, swimming pools, after-school clubs and parks as examples. Basically, any places LBGTQ youth like to spend their free time,” said Froese. “I’m looking at exploring the experiences that they have in public leisure spaces and how a sense of belonging and inclusion is fostered through specific activities, infrastructure, and staff interactions that allow them to engage in meaningful leisure.”
Froese, a VIU master in sustainable leisure management student, was awarded the prestigious Canada Graduate Scholarship Master’s Award, which included a grant of $17,500 from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. According to the council’s website, the objective of the grant is “to help develop research skills and assist in the training of highly qualified people.” It goes to support students who demonstrate a high standard of achievement in undergraduate and early graduate studies. Froese was excited when she heard she received the award and saw it as an incredible vote of confidence in her work.
“It’s important that LBGTQ youth have a safe space to have an authentic experience and freedom to express themselves however they wish,” said Froese. “Often these youths’ stories go untold, which often results in them not participating in leisure or entering public leisure spaces.”
She says an essential aspect of the research is to allow the youths’ stories “to come forth and give testament to what they deem important.”
“Some examples have emphasized the importance of judgment-free sport settings that work to eliminate gender and sexuality stereotypes; having gender-neutral washrooms and change rooms available; and having staff express a willingness to learn more about LBGTQ issues,” said Froese.
Dane Gibson is a writer with VIU communications.