The Importance of SOGI Education in Schools
In 2016, The ARC Foundation launched the SOGI 1 2 3 program in British Columbia. The SOGI 1 2 3 program seeks to unite educators, LGBTQ+ advocates, and students by providing resources that embrace diversity and cultivate inclusive environments.
The acronym “SOGI” stands for “sexual orientation and gender identity.”
The concept of SOGI is relevant to everyone, as everyone has both a sexual orientation and gender identity. This means that SOGI concepts and teachings still apply to people who do not identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community.
As former B.C. Minister of Education Rob Fleming stated in 2019, SOGI education not only “helps save lives,” but also fends off discrimination within school communities. This further enforces that SOGI education is a team effort that is making positive changes in students’ lives.
My School Experiences
When I was in high school, there were a few presentations that explained LGBTQ+ terminology and how to support the community.
I remember watching short films such as “Peking Turkey,” a film about a Chinese-Canadian man bringing his French-Canadian boyfriend home for the holidays, and “I Don’t Want to Go Back Alone,” a Brazilian film about a budding friendship (and something more) between a new student at school and a student who is blind.
The frequency and reception of these presentations were much more positive than when I was in elementary school. In Grade 6, I was sick on the (only) day where there was a presentation on the LGBTQ+ community.
When I asked what I had missed, it seemed like the information wasn’t that important. In fact, all I heard from my classmates were insults towards the presenter. I wish that discussion about the presentation was taken more seriously.
The present-day 23-year-old version of myself still wonders how much 11-year-old me, the one struggling to understand her romantic feelings toward another girl, would have been impacted by a presentation like that.
Support from Teachers
According to a 2011 Egale study, 64% of LGBTQ+ high school students in Canada felt unsafe at school.
I was part of that statistic. Sometimes I was closed off about my sexuality, and other times I was very open with close friends. However, for most my time in high school, I did not feel safe.
Support within schools doesn’t only come from presentations provided by organizations and/or advocates. Teachers, and the classroom environments that they create, can also offer support that students may not have elsewhere.
I joined my school’s GSA in Grade 12. It was called the “Gay-Straight Alliance,” but another meaning for GSA can also be “Gender-Sexuality Alliance.”
I loved being part of the GSA. It was so freeing to be around people that I didn’t need to hide my identity from. It was one place where I knew that I wouldn’t be judged.
The teacher who sponsored the club was also my creative writing teacher that year. His classroom, which doubled as the GSA club room, was a safe space. This meant that I didn’t need to worry about any consequences with including LGBTQ+ characters in my creative writing assignments.
As an anxious 17-year-old at the time, having that support meant everything. The opportunity to include characters like me in school assignments was just the icing on the cake. I will always be grateful for that experience.
Teachers and SOGI Advocates Together
According to a 2021 Egale Canada study, 62% of LGBTQ+ high school students in Canada felt unsafe at school. In a decade, the number of LGBTQ+ students who felt unsafe in Canadian schools fell by 2%.
Even with a small decrease, this shows that progress is trending in the right direction.
The key to success of SOGI education is not just the resources provided by programs such as SOGI 1 2 3, but also the efforts of teachers. Regardless of the types of problems faced by students, teachers can provide them a safe place that they may not have elsewhere.
SOGI 1 2 3 continues to work with school boards, LGBTQ+ groups and advocates, and parents to cultivate safe environments for children. As of 2022, this program has been implemented in all 60 of B.C.’s school districts and in six divisions in Alberta.
“I Don’t Want to Go Back Alone.” YouTube, uploaded by Steven Shaw, 21 June 2014, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KiJbu7h2iEk. Accessed 21 Oct. 2022.
Ministry of Education and Child Care. “More students supported by SOGI-inclusive education.” BC Gov News, Government of British Columbia, 17 May 2019, https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2019EDUC0040-000975. Accessed 21 Oct. 2022.
“PEKING TURKEY – Award Winning Short Film.” YouTube, uploaded by Michael Mew, 16 Dec. 2015, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g663Z4qE8D0. Accessed 21 Oct. 2022.
Peter, Tracey, et. al. Still in every class in every school: Final report on the second climate survey on homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia in Canadian Schools. Key Takeaways. Egale Canada Human Rights Trust, 2021, https://egale.ca/awareness/still-in-every-class/. Accessed 21 Oct. 2022.
SOGI 1 2 3 / Alberta. The Arc Foundation, https://ab.sogieducation.org. Accessed 21 Oct. 2022.
Taylor, Catherine, et. al. Every class in every school: The first national climate survey on homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia in Canadian schools. Final report. Egale Canada Human Rights Trust, May 2011, https://egale.ca/awareness/every-class/. Accessed 21 Oct. 2022.