Virtual unicorn teaches kids about gender identity and gender expression discrimination in schools
KINGSTON -- Understanding gender rights and diversity can be difficult for kids and their parents, but a new resource for students in Ontario is hoping to help - in the form of a virtual unicorn.
It was launched by Lee Airton, an assistant professor of Gender and Sexuality Studies in Education, and Kyle Kirkup, an associate professor in the Faculty of Law at the University of Ottawa.
Gegi.ca is a virtual resource for students to know what their rights are at schools and within school boards across Ontario.
"Gegi brings together publicly available information like school board policies, definitions of grounds of human rights protection and translates them so that anyone can find them and understand them," says Airton in an interview with CTV News Ottawa.
Gegi the Unicorn is non-binary, who doesn’t exclusively identify as male or female, much like many of the students who could find themselves visiting the site.
Airton says they were drawn in a way that was gender neutral.
"The name Gegi is an acronym of gender expression and gender identity," explains Airton. "We wanted a unicorn because of the joy that the unicorn represents."
Airton explains they wanted a space to help teach kids how to advocate for themselves, and to know what their rights were in different situations.
The site touches on everything from what gender expression and identity are, to providing tip sheets into what a students rights are during school field trips and sporting activities.
"(It’s things like) having the expectation that a student wouldn't necessarily play on one or the other sports teams or that they'd wear one or the other school uniform, for example," they say. "Those are things that are pretty ingrained in school culture. But actually with these new human rights protections that might actually constitute discrimination."
While its focus is on educating students themselves at all school boards across Ontario, at least one school board has embraced the resource.
Suche James is the equity and inclusion consultant at the Limestone District School Board in Kingston.
"Gender in humans is much more complicated and complex than maybe what you and I grew up learning," he says.
James says he feels that the visual of the unicorn is something that can easily connect with people from Kindergarten to Grade 12, and that's important they have the information.
"It is actually more critical in terms of people's mental health, people's success in life later on, how they feel about themselves," he says. "And normalizing these types of conversations and this type of knowledge all goes towards that."
James says in the future, they expect to use it from councillors offices to classrooms, and as a resource for teachers as much as students.
"I'm just excited to be able to kind of use this in a number of different ways with staff, students, parents,” he says.