OutSport Toronto Presents at TDSB Futures 2012 Conference

22 May 2012

On a sunny afternoon in Toronto, Friday, 4 May 2012, after months of preparation, a team of seven from OUTSPORT TORONTO convened on the AllStream Centre at Exhibition Place for OUTSPORT TORONTO's workshop for the Toronto District School Board's FUTURES 2012 conference.

"I remember getting the eMail in the wake of our November 2011 Scrum from the conference organising committee inviting us to submit a proposal to present a workshop, and thinking, 'Wow... we got noticed!' ", said OUTSPORT TORONTO's chair Shawn Sheridan.  "After a unanimous vote of our board to do the workshop, we struck a committee, reached out to our member organisations, friends, and supporters, and started the process of creating that workshop.  I'm so proud of the team's effort and the result!  Everyone was so committed and cared so much about this!  And I get that.  We were all in school.  We all remember."

TDSB workshop team at the AllStream Centre.
TDSB workshop team at the AllStream Centre.  From left to right: Ken Meiklejohn, Vice-chair, OutSport Toronto; Julian DiBattista, Director, Community Outreach, OutSport Toronto; Shawn Sheridan, Chair, OutSport Toronto; James Scott, Director, Membership and Member Services, OutSport Toronto, and Assistant Commissioner, Toronto Gay Football League; Steven Mock, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Waterloo; Dave Doucette, Elementary School Teacher, TDSB, and Director, Toronto Gay Hockey Association; Kris Madill, Middle School Teacher, TDSB.

Chaired by OUTSPORT TORONTO's director of Membership and Member Services, James Scott, the committee created a 75-minute workshop geared toward educators and administrators entitled, "Making it Better Now: Ending Homophobia and Transphobia in School Athletics and Physical Education".  Contributors came from all over  OUTSPORT TORONTO member organisations and supporters, including individuals from member organisations who appeared in the lead-in video, Then and Now, where they told their stories and of the importance of sport and recreation in their lives.  "Sport and recreation have an incredibly important place in the health and well-being of LGBT people, just as they do for everyone.  That was a clear message in 'Then and Now'," said Shawn Sheridan.

"We were really lucky to have three core committee members who are [currently] teachers in the TDSB, including a straight ally," said James Scott.  "Their perspective, insight, experience, and knowledge were critical to our success.  And Doctor Steven Mock's research and expertise were crucial in supplying important data and academic validity.  We also owe thanks to the You Can Play Project and Patrick Burke for allowing us to use one of their PSAs in the presentation and for Patrick's personal message to the participants."

The session was attended by 28 participants, including some from as far away as Alberta.  Feedback from participants was extremely positive.  During the question and answer portion of the workshop, one superintendent commented on the difficulty he was experiencing with football coaches, and asked what OUTSPORT TORONTO could do to help — could someone talk to them?  James Scott replied, "I'm Assistant Commissioner of the Toronto Gay Football League.  I'd be happy to talk to your coaches!"

OUTSPORT TORONTO confirmed its commitment to helping educators, administrators, and others in the education system to "make it better now".

Material from the workshop can be found here.