Positively Proud

How positive space training makes a difference

From the Pride Issue

Thanks to many years of activism and the major legislative progress that has been made, the LGBT+ community has slowly become part of mainstream society. However, advocates remain concerned about about the level of homophobia and transphobia still present in our society. This is why, in 2004, the Alliance for Sexual Diversity Student Society at St.FX launched the first Positive Space Program in Antigonish. 

According to its official materials, the program was initially implemented “in an effort to recognize and acknowledge LGBT+ lives in rural communities in particular, and to encourage rural communities to celebrate the differences within their midst.” It also hopes to “create a space where positive interaction can occur.”

X-Pride President Kalyn MacAskill says that StFX is proud to offer Positive Space Training to anyone and everyone that wants it. It is a two-level certification which can be completed one at a time, or together over the course of one longer session. After completing both Level 1 and Level 2 training, students, faculty, staff, and community members are asked if they want to commit themselves to being an LGBT+ ally. Kalyn says, “For me, Positive Space is a workshop based program…designed to teach people about the LGBT+ community…terminology, what does the community look like, the oppression that they face, and the impacts that it has on their everyday life.”

The training takes place over the course of two 1.5-hour sessions. Items on the agenda include discussions about the use of oppressive language, understanding LGBT+ vocabulary and important terms, statistics, and what an ally is. Active role-playing scenarios supplement these topics, as participants learn how to have “anti-discrimination responses” to critical situations. It is believed that “through acting it out, you are more likely to use it when the situation arises and will be more comfortable with the tools given,” Kalyn explains. The hope is that leaders in the community will be inspired to create safe and inclusive spaces in all areas of everyday life. Kalyn believes the program “gives you the exact tools to interrupt heteronormativity, homophobia, and transphobia.”

Kalyn encourages people from all backgrounds to attend Positive Space Training, stating, “You may think that you’re already inclusive to the LGBT+ community, and you may think that you know a lot, but these can really open some eyes for understanding the oppression. I encourage absolutely everyone and anyone to attend; it’s just a really good space to learn.”

The training will help to achieve a common understanding from all parties while being contained in a safe environment. Upon attending the sessions, participants agree to respect other’s decisions, opinions, and experiences while maintaining the confidentiality of the group. One group who has benefitted from this training is the pre-service teachers in the Education program. These students are also offered Positive Space Training Level 3, a level that was developed within the department as an optional resource tool to link classroom curriculum with LGBT+-inclusive material.

StFX is currently trying to emphasize the benefits of an inclusive community; all RA’s are required to have at least Level 1 training, all education students are required to have training, and many professors have also received training. In addition, a rainbow triangle sticker on a doorway, like in many professors’ offices, indicates a safe space. After completing Level 2 training, participants are asked whether they would like to be an LGBT+ ally. As Kalyn explains, “It is a big commitment. You are committing yourself to interrupting heteronormativity and stepping in when you see homophobic or transphobic situations happening. So you actually have to sign a contract and commit yourself; we don’t just give away the stickers to anyone. You only get them after you consciously decide that you want to be an ally and that you’re willing to take on creating a safe space forpeople.” Seeing someone with a rainbow sticker or ally pin indicates a safe space where you will be supported, and the person will have resources to guide you towards the answer to your questions.

If you would like to attend Positive Space Training, it is being offered by X-Pride on Feb 6, however you must RSVP by Feb 5. You receive a certificate for attending and you have the opportunity to choose to become an ally for LGBT+ communities.