We often talk about how our students are growing up in a world that is very different from the one we grew up in. The most obvious change is the rapid pace of technological development and the impact it has had on us as a society. But I think there is another change that is just as significant and far-reaching, and that’s the way we now approach the idea of diversity and inclusivity.
While previous generations opened up the conversation around racism and sexism, the conversation these days is centered more broadly on the idea of intersectionality, which is a complicated word that simply means that everyone’s lived experience is different. We all have a unique history and story that are grounded in our ethnicity, culture, faith, gender, and sexuality. These are elements that we have always tried to talk openly about with our students, as we want them to build a deep and authentic sense of empathy for everyone they will meet in their lives.
Over the past few years, we have widened this conversation to include both mental health and the experience of Indigenous peoples. This year, we have made a conscious choice to further widen that conversation by developing our faculty and staff’s understanding of gender diversity.
Back at the start of January, every member of the KCS faculty and staff took part in an extensive workshop on gender diversity that was run by facilitators from The 519 – a Toronto organization that promotes inclusion and respect of the LGBTQ2S community. It was an eye-opening experience for many of us, as it asked us to challenge our own lived experiences and our understanding of what it means to be a “boy” or a “girl”.
To understand gender diversity, you have to realize that there is a difference between one’s biological sex and one’s gender. Biological sex is the category we are placed in at birth, based on discernable physical characteristics. Gender is the identity or “face” we show the world. It’s really about each person’s sense of their own gender identity, which may or may not align with their physical biology. It’s also worth noting that gender is not always a simple binary distinction (i.e., masculine/feminine) – it can be much more fluid and complex.
With a student population of approximately 400 each year, we know that we have 400 different individuals in our school, all of whom are on their own unique emotional journeys. We know that kids can only learn when they feel that they belong and are accepted. We must meet our students where they are, and the simple fact is that we will always have students who do not neatly fit into the traditional preconceived notions of gender.
So, if we want to be as inclusive as possible, then we have to keep trying our best to make KCS a brave space where every individual can talk openly about who they are, regardless of their ethnicity, culture, faith, gender, and/or sexuality. This means being aware of the language we use and the preconceptions we carry around with us. We know that these kinds of conversations can make some people uncomfortable, but we also know that it’s the right thing to do. Our students deserve to feel accepted and understood, and they must also learn to accept and understand each other. In many ways, it’s the most important lesson they’ll learn during their time at KCS.
– Tamara Drummond
If you wish to learn more about any of our diversity and inclusion initiatives, please reach out to Tamara Drummond, Director of Student Life, at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like resources to discuss these issues with your own child in age-appropriate language, please speak to our librarians (or visit our online gender diversity collection) for books that can help start the conversation.