Vancouver Schools' New LGBTTQ+ Policy Includes Gender-Free Pronouns Xe, Xem and Xyr

July 2, 2014 - 10:25 PM

Transgender Youth Protections

In this April 23, 2014 photo, transgender high school students Isaac Barnett, right, and his prom date, identified only by his first name Jasen, get ready to take photos after picking up their tuxedos for prom in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

(CNSNews.com) – The Vancouver (British Columbia) Board of Education has approved a sweeping new policy for accommodating lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, two-spirit, queer, questioning and “all sexual and gender identities,” including the creation of three pronouns, replacing masculine and feminine with xe, xem and xyr (pronounced ze, zem and zur).

Two spirit is an Aboriginal term which means having both feminine and masculine spirits. It's not limited to gender expression or sexuality, but encompasses them both while incorporating a spiritual element. It's a standalone identity, not an Aboriginal term for gay lesbian.

The Vancouver Board of Education's policy also includes making restroom and sports activities accessible to all transgender students, regardless of their biological sex.

“Absolutely,” Mike Lombardi, vice chairman of the board told CNSNews.com when asked about the new policy as reported by the Vancouver Sun. “We’ve been very, very progressive.”

Lombardi said the new LGBTTQ+ policy is designed “to create a safe learning environment for every child.”

The new policy, Lombardi said, will allow children of every sexual orientation “to learn and thrive.”

The June 17 article in the Sun said the policy angered many parents who protested at meetings leading up to the vote on the new policy, a fact Lombardi acknowledged.

“It has not been without controversy,” Lombardi told CNSNews.com. “The Christian right opposed it, but we got tremendous support from most people.”

The documents describing the new policy, provided to CNSNews.com by Lombardi, provide details about the board’s commitment to “establishing and maintaining a safe, inclusive, equitable and welcoming learning and working environment regardless of real or perceived sexual orientations, gender identities, and gender expressions.”

Under the heading “Names and Pronouns,” the policy states: “Trans students will be addressed by the names and pronouns [they] prefer to use.”

Under the heading “Sex-Segregated Activities,” the policy states: "Schools will reduce or eliminate the practice of segregating students by sex. In situations where students are segregated by sex, trans students will have the option to be included in the group that corresponds to their gender identity.”

Under the heading “Access to Physical Education and Sports,” the policy states: “Where possible, students will be permitted to participate in any sex-segregated recreational and competitive athletic activities, in accordance with their gender identity.”

Under the heading “Washroom and Change Room Accessibility,” the policy states: “Trans students shall have access to the washroom and change room that corresponds with the gender identity.” It also calls on all schools and worksites to “make available a single stall gender-neutral washroom.”

Under the heading “Counseling and School Support,” the policy states: “Elementary and secondary schools appoint at least one staff person to be a Safe Contact who is able to act as a resource person for LGBTTQ+ students, staff and families.” It also states that “all secondary schools are supported in establishing and maintaining Gay Queer/Straight Alliance Clubs” on campuses.

Under the heading “Leadership,” the board states it will “consult with the Pride Advisory Committee to ensure that policy directions, priorities and implementation of programs and services are consistent with the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identities Policy.”

The section also states that “staff will not refer students to programs or services that attempt to change a student’s sexual orientation or gender identity.”

The policy document also includes a glossary of LBGTTQ+ terms. In it, homophobia is defined as “The fear, ignorance and mistreatment of people who are, or are perceived to be, lesbian, gay or bisexual.”

“I am so proud to support these policy revisions,” Patti Bacchus, chairwoman of the board, is quoted as saying in the Sun article. “I had no idea how important they were until what we went through with this process ... I didn’t realize how much opposition there was out there in our communities to keeping kids safe and included and welcome.”