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Conference helps teachers support gender-diverse students

April 24, 2018 Jen Janzen, ATA News Staff
Lindsay Peace recounts her experiences with her transgender son Ace at the Diversity, Equity and Human Rights Conference in Edmonton on April 12. (JAN JANSEN)

It was on New Year’s Eve of his Grade 9 year that Lindsay Peace’s son Ace came out as transgender. Until then, Peace was sure that Ace, who was assigned female at birth, was gay.

“I thought, ‘It’s fine to be gay. We can have a party,’” she recalled.

Peace was one of the speakers at the Diversity, Equity and Human Rights Conference, held in Edmonton on April 12 and 13. The topics at the conference covered a wide scope, from tips on how to include Indigenous elders, knowledge keepers and family members in the classroom to combatting Islamophobia.

Peace’s seminar, which she co-hosted with Amelia Newbert, outlined ways that teachers could support gender-diverse students.

Participants play a game in which they sort out words that convey gender, sex, sexual orientation and gender expression. 


When Peace found out that Ace was actually transgender, she faced a steep learning curve. First of all, she wasn’t sure exactly what the term meant. The only frame of reference she had for transgender issues was a vague memory of Chaz Bono, son of Cher and Sonny Bono, and his transition story being in the news in 2009.

“I went to [Ace’s] teacher and I was sobbing,” Peace said. She feared for her son’s safety.

The teacher’s response?


Peace remembers the teacher immediately offering to use male pronouns and brainstorm ways to help Ace at school.

“She didn’t have a trans kid before, she didn’t know what any of it was going to look like, but she said, ‘Cool.’”

The entire school staff mobilized to support Ace in everything from gender-neutral bathrooms to reassigning him to the boys’ physical education class. If there was discord among the staff, Peace said she never heard about it.

Conference delegates participate in a brain architecture game that builds understanding of the role that experiences play in early brain development. 


“Being trans, you have to do everything,” she said. “You have to figure out what it is, you have to prove it, you have to do all of the work all of the time, so to have a teacher that said ‘we’ll do it’ was pretty awesome.”

Peace says teachers are in a unique position to “go to bat” for the students in their class, and she’s grateful to have had such a supportive teacher group iron out any wrinkles that Ace may have faced.

“I know teaching math is important, and thank you,” she said, “but you have the ability to save someone’s life.” ❚

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