Participation Manual

Welcome to the Positive Space Campaign at Vancouver Island University.  We greatly appreciate your willingness to publicly support the campaign, helping to foster a more accepting and inclusive environment for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students, faculty and staff at VIU.  We hope that you are as excited as we are about being a vital part of this initiative.

Many of the materials and the orientation exercises in this manual have been adopted/adapted from other campaigns and some we have created ourselves.  In the interest of making this manual as relevant and helpful to everyone as possible, we would welcome any feedback you can offer us.

Given that everyone comes to this role with vastly differing levels of knowledge and awareness about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues on campus, we hope that this orientation will:

  • Provide you with the opportunity to meet and make connections with others participating in the campaign
  • Answer some of your questions about Positive Space, and about your role
  • Provide a forum for raising awareness about 2SLGBTQ+ issues on campus and in general

Feel free to contact us with any questions or for advice.

Thank you again for your commitment to the Positive Space Campaign and to making visible 2SLGBTQ+ people at Vancouver Island University.

The Positive Space Alliance
Vancouver Island University

  • To increase the visibility and contribute to the development of positive, supportive people and spaces for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students, staff and faculty at Vancouver Island University
  • To increase awareness, affirmation and education around gender identity and sexual diversity issues
  • To develop a community of resource people who are knowledgeable about gender identity and sexual orientation issues and resources, and are willing to support their lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender colleagues, classmates and co-workers
  • To provide on-going educational and professional development sessions for the campus community on issues related to sexual orientation and gender diversity
  • To increase awareness and open up discussion on often suppressed, silenced issues and create networks of support across campus
  • To help foster a more visibly welcoming, safer, non-exclusionary campus community, one that is enriched and enlivened by its diversity.

Everyone who participates in the Positive Space Campaign at Vancouver Island University is required to participate in an orientation session.  The purpose of the orientation is to bring to light issues that affect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students, staff and faculty, and to introduce participants to resources that exist both on campus and in the Nanaimo community.  Once you have completed the orientation, you will receive a Positive Space symbol (in the form of a sticker and/or a tent card) to display in your work, study, or living space.  The symbol indicates that your space is a place to be open about issues of sexual orientation or gender identity without fear of homophobia or harassment.

What Will Be My Responsibilities as a Positive Space Campaign Participant?Positive Space logo

1.  Display a Positive Space symbol

  • Someplace where it is readily visible, preferably at the entrance to your work, study or living space.  Please make sure that you have notified anyone with whom you share space of your intention to participate in the Positive Space Campaign.  (Please take the symbol with you if you are moving to a different space).
  • The symbol is to be displayed by those who have completed the Positive Space Orientation.  Please do not give your symbol to anyone else.
  • Report any graffiti, damage or removal of the symbol to the Positive Space Alliance so that it can be replaced.

2.  Participate actively in Vancouver Island University’s Positive Space Campaign

  • Be willing to be a compassionate listener, but not a counsellor.  Know where to refer people if they require more in-depth assistance.
  • Check the Positive Space website on a regular basis.  In particular, monitor the list of resources on campus and in the community at large.  Let us know of any out of date resources or events, or defunct links.  Try to be aware of upcoming 2SLGBTQ+ events.
  • Take advantage of workshop and further training opportunities offered throughout the school year.

3.  Support and publicize the Campaign

  • Be willing to explain to others the significance of the Positive Space symbol, what the campaign is about, how they can become involved.

Did You Know?

Loving parents come in all colours, genders and sexual orientations… even species.

Did you Know?

Have you heard about a couple of gay penguins at the Central park Zoo in New York? An interested and enlightened zookeeper gave them an egg to hatch, and voila – a family! Tango (the hatched chick) had no adjustment or identity problems for being hatched into a family headed by two males.

Read all about this in the children’s book – "And Tango Makes Three".

  • That you believe that systemic and personal discrimination and harassment on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity is wrong
  • That you will be sensitive to the needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people on campus
  • That you will respect the privacy of anyone who contacts you about issues to do with Positive Space
  • That you will not condone homophobia, transphobic or heterosexist language or actions in your work, study or living space

Did You Know?

Intersecting Oppression - Homophobia and Racism

The early fathers of Vancouver used homophobic laws to target South Asians and Chinese labourers?   A new short film explores this issue by examining a 1915 trial where two Sikh mill-workers, Dalip Singh and Naina Singh, were entrapped by undercover police, accused of sodomy and sent to trial. While many pieces of this queer history are lost, get a glimpse in Rex vs Singh, co-directed by John Greyson, Richard Fung, and Ali Kazimi.

  • That lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students, staff and faculty might feel that they can speak and act more openly around you
  • That you may be a role model for others
  • That your actions may influence others and encourage them to be more open and supportive towards lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals
  • That you might learn more about issues affecting the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people
  • That by participating in Vancouver Island University’s Positive Space Campaign, you have made a personal contribution to creating a safe, respectful and inclusive environment on campus

Did You Know?

Gay men and lesbians in Canada have experienced persistent patterns of discrimination and persecution.  They have:

  • Been treated as mentally ill and subjected to conversion therapies, including electroshock treatment
  • Been targeted by discriminatory laws, including criminal prohibition of same-sex practices
  • Not been permitted (until recently) to participate openly in the Armed Forces
  • Faced discrimination in employment and housing; and
  • Been the victims of hate-motivated crimes, anti-gay and anti-lesbian violence, and verbal harassment


  • 1969 - the federal government removed criminal sanctions against same-sex practices between consenting adults
  • 1977 - Quebec became the first province to prohibit discrimination against gays and lesbians, followed by most of the other provinces during the 80’ and 90’s
  • 1979 - prohibitions on the immigration of gays and lesbians were removed
  • 1996 - the federal government amended the federal Human Rights Act to include a prohibition of discrimination against gays and lesbians
  • 2000 – the federal government passed legislation that gives same-sex couples who have lived together for more than a year the same benefits and obligations as heterosexual common-law couples
  • 2003 – MPs pass Bill C-250, which adds “any section of the public distinguished by sexual orientation” to the list of groups protected from hate propaganda (this bill received royal assent in 2004)
  • 2003 – Ontario and B.C. courts recognize same-sex marriages as legal and  the United Church of Canada votes to recognize same-sex marriages
  • 2005 – Canada becomes the fourth country in the world to recognize same-sex marriage, after the Netherlands, Belgium and Spain
  • 2006 – With the recognition of marriage gays and lesbians are now able to sponsor same-sex partners on equal terms and steps were taken to accommodate the barriers created by the lack of recognition of same-sex marriage in other parts of the world
  • Recent changes in legislation and in societal norms have created a growing acceptance of families with same-sex parents, as well as the adoption of children by same-sex couples and awarding custody of children to gays and lesbians

Continued Discrimination

  • Gay and lesbian books and other forms of media continue to be censored despite court challenges
  • In criminal cases, homosexual advances have sometimes been treated as “provocation”, thus justifying a shorter sentence for an assailant, even when in similar heterosexual advance would not be treated in this way
  • The Criminal Code still discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation, as the age of consent for anal intercourse is higher than for vaginal intercourse
  • Hate crimes directed at gay men and lesbians continue to be widespread

For a more complete Canadian timeline, a world timeline and for updates and more details on any of these issues, see EGALE Canada.

Although the BC Human Rights Code prohibits discrimination and harassment on the grounds of sexual orientation in areas of housing, employment, and service provision, oppressive behaviours against lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgender individuals still exist.  Homophobia and heterosexism are two pervasive issues that 2SLGBTQ+ persons face.

Did You Know?

And even Robin Hood…
Robin Hood, the prince of thieves, may actually have been outlawed for being queer. New studies of the medieval texts that first recorded his deeds suggest that he was actually a gay outlaw who had been exiled from “straight” society. Little John, not Maid Marian, was his true love.

Homophobic Behaviours

  • “Gay-bashing” or physical violence, including sexual violence
  • Making derogatory comments, innuendos, insults, slurs, jokes or threats about sexual orientation or sexual practice
  • Silencing talk of sexual or gender diversity
  • Feeling repulsed by displays of affection between same-sex couples, but accepting affectionate displays between heterosexual couples
  • Forcing people to “come out” or “stay in the closet” (disclose or hide their sexual orientation)
  • Linking homosexuality with pedophilia
  • Accusing 2SLGBTQ+ persons of “recruiting” others to join their sexual orientation
  • Defacing notices, posters or property with homophobic graffiti
  • Rejecting friends or family members because of their sexual orientation or gender identity
  • Treating the sexual orientations or gender identities of 2SLGBTQ+ persons as less valid than those of heterosexuals
  • Behaving as though all 2SLGBTQ+ people have AIDS or are responsible for the spread of it
  • Thinking of persons who are lesbian, gay, or bisexual only in terms of their sexuality, rather than as whole, complex persons
  • Being afraid of social or physical interaction with persons who are 2SLGBTQ+
  • Avoiding social situations or activities where you fear being perceived as 2SLGBTQ+
  • Feeling that people who are lesbian, gay, or bisexual should not discuss or display their sexual orientation openly while people who are heterosexual may do so freely

Did You Know?

Athletes Too!

Do you know that every four years since 1982 gays and lesbians from around the world get together for the Gay Games?  These games are the legacy of Tom Waddell, a decathlon competitor for the U.S. in the 1968 Olympics.     The Games were conceived as a way for gays and lesbians to show the world that their skills and competitive spirit were equal to the rest of humanity.

Homophobia is a term used to describe negative attitudes, feelings and beliefs towards lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgender individuals and those perceived to be of these sexual orientations or gender identities.  Homophobic thoughts and reactions take many forms and can be subtle or blatant.  They can involve harassment, prejudicial treatment of, or intolerance toward LGBT persons.  Homophobia includes a range of feelings and behaviours from discomfort and fear to disgust, hatred and violence.

According to research, homophobia is often an extension of rigid gender-role stereotyping - fear that the “nuclear” family will be undercut, and that the very fabric of our society will be destroyed by any deviation from the “traditional” social order.  Individuals who tend to be homophobic often also hold fixed ideas about how society should be structured and believe that in order to uphold the social order in our Western culture, we must maintain strict role differentiation between males and females, and perpetuate an unequal division of power and status that confers privilege to males.  Gender diversity or “difference” with respect to sexual orientation is seen as a threat to traditional power structures.

Heterosexism refers to an often-institutionalized assumption held by society that everyone is, or should be, heterosexual.  Heterosexuality is seen as inherently superior and preferable to all other sexual orientations.  Heterosexism, which can be subtle as well as blatant, serves to silence and erase the lives of those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, so that positive images of 2SLGBTQ+ culture become difficult to find, if not invisible.  Living in a climate where one’s sexual orientation or gender identity is consistently devalued or maligned serves to further isolate lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals.

What is Heterosexual Privilege? 

Living without ever having to think twice, face, confront, engage, or cope with anything on this page.  Heterosexuals can address these phenomena but social/political forces do not require them to do so.

Not questioning your normalcy; sexually and culturally

  • Having role models of your gender and sexual orientation
  • Learning about romance and relationships from fiction, movies and television
  • Having positive media images of people with whom you can identify

Validation from the culture in which you live

  • Living with your partner and doing so openly
  • Talking about your relationships, or what projects, vacations, and family plans you and your lover/partner are creating
  • Expressing pain when a relationship ends from death or separation, and having other people notice and tend to your pain
  • Receiving social acceptance by neighbours, colleagues, and good friends
  • Not having to hide and lie about women/men-only activities
  • Dating the person of your desire in your teen years
  • Working without always being identified by your sexual orientation (e.g., you get to be a farmer, bricklayer, artist, etc., without being labeled the heterosexual farmer, etc.)

Institutional acceptance

  • Receiving validation from your religious community, being able to be a member of the clergy
  • Being accepted and included at work, not having your sexual orientation used against you in any way
  • Being employed as a teacher in pre-school through to high school without fear of being fired any day because you are assumed to corrupt children
  • Raising children without threats of state intervention, without children having to be worried which of their friends might reject them because of their parent’s sexual orientation

While GLBT people now have the right to marry, same sex marriages often do not receive the same level of community support that heterosexual marriages do.

For example:

  • Co-workers and family may not provide recognition and support
    (e.g., receiving cards or phone calls celebrating your commitment to another person).
  • Many religious faiths will not unite same sex couples in marriage
  • Service providers for the wedding need to be selected carefully (flowers, photographer, caterers, facility bookings) to ensure they and their employees will be supportive and act appropriately

Did You Know?

Iceland Leads the Way

Johanna Sigurdardottir just might be the first openly lesbian politician to serve as a country’s political leader (we don’t always know the sexual orientation of our political leaders!).  She was sworn in as prime minister of Iceland on February 1, 2009.  Her sexual orientation appears to be a non issue in the country, even though her partner is listed on the parliament’s website.  At the time she became prime minister she was the most popular politician in the country, enjoying a 73% approval rating.

  • Attend workshops on homophobia, heterosexism and transgender issues
  • Read books, see films and attend special events focused on 2SLGBTQ+ issues
  • Talk with lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender friends, relatives, co-workers or fellow students about their experience
  • Learn about 2SLGBTQ+ people who have made significant contributions to society
  • I can recognize my own homophobic/heterosexist biases
  • Identify ways in which homophobia affects the way I live (e.g. my dress, the friends I choose, my mannerisms, or my behaviour)
  • Confront the expectations and beliefs I have about gay men, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender individuals
  • Don’t assume that all my friends, classmates, or co-workers are heterosexual.
  • I can address homophobic behaviour around me
  • Make it known that homophobic innuendos, jokes, and teasing are offensive and unacceptable to me
  • Work with others to develop guidelines in my residence or workplace that will treat homophobic interactions as unacceptable
  • Use inclusive language
  • In classroom or in casual discussion, encourage inclusion of diversity/difference
  • Be a supportive ally for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender members of the Vancouver Island University community
  • If I am gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender, be as “out” as I can safely and comfortably be

How Homophobic Myths Affect 2SLGBTQ+ and Heterosexual Youth

2SLGBTQ+ (Queer) Heterosexual (Straight)

Low self-esteem contributes to feelings of loneliness, isolation, worthlessness, fear, and suicidal thoughts

Lack of accurate, reliable, truthful information perpetuates negative stereotypes and myths

Internalized homophobia, hate themselves as they perceive the world hates them; think they have no rights; limits full learning potential

Denial of personal experience that they may know people who are 2SLGBTQ+

Often forced to leave home, and become “at risk” street kids (40% of street youth in Vancouver self-identify a 2SLGBTQ+

Lack of support for same-gender friends and family members (such as parents, siblings)

Victims of intolerance, harassment, threats and violence

Strict gender role stereotypes; pressure on kids about how to look, dress and behave; no allowance for individuality

Drop out of school – 28% of 2SLGBTQ+ students do not graduate, may become victims of poverty

Kids perceived to be 2SLGBTQ+ are harassed, victimized and beaten, often within schools

Carry out risky behavior – alcohol and drug abuse, homelessness, unsafe sex, infections with STI’s, and suicidal

97% of all students have experienced homophobic name calling by grade 8

Completed suicides – 30% of all youth suicides

Fear and hatred is taught by silence on the issue – learned bigotry can lead to gay bashing

Did you Know?

Living as a Transman - even before there was such a concept

Jack Bee Garland (1869-1936) was born Elvira Virginia Mugarrieta in San Francisco.  He lived his adult life as a male, enjoying the freedom of travel and job opportunities. He was a transgender author, nurse and adventurer.

He is best known for accompanying United States Armed Forces to the Philippines in 1899 and the subsequent publishing of “My Life as a Soldier”, in the San Francisco Examiner magazine.  Although he never enlisted nor fought, he marketed the story as a woman soldier in the Philippines.

While he used a number of aliases during his life after the Philippines he lived as Jack Bee Garland for the rest of his life and devoted himself to social work with the American Red Cross and other charitable organizations.

(Adapted from the Centre for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Life, Duke University)

You do not have to be 2SLGBTQ+, or know someone who is, to be negatively affected by homophobia. Though homophobia actively oppresses 2SLGBTQ+ people, it also hurts heterosexuals.


  • Inhibits the ability of heterosexuals to form close, intimate relationships with members of their own sex, for fear of being perceived as 2SLGBTQ+.
  • Perpetuates negative stereotypes and myths by reinforcing a silence, erasure and a lack of accurate, reliable information about 2SLGBTQ+ persons and issues.
  • Locks people into rigid gender-based roles and stereotypes that inhibit appearance, behaviour, creativity and self-expression.
  • Is often used to stigmatize heterosexuals, those perceived or labeled by others to be 2SLGBTQ+, children of 2SLGBTQ+ parents, parents of 2SLGBTQ+ children and the friends of LGBT's.
  • Compromises human integrity by pressuring people to treat others badly, actions that are contrary to their basic humanity.
  • Results in the invisibility or erasure of 2SLGBTQ+ lives and sexuality in school-based sex education discussions, keeping vital information from students.  Such erasures can kill people in the age of AIDS.
  • Is one cause of premature heterosexual involvement, which increases the chances of teen pregnancy and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.  Young people, of all sexual identities, are often pressured to become heterosexually active to prove to others that they are “normal”.
  • Discourages all people from developing an authentic self-identity and expressing their own uniqueness.
  • Inhibits appreciation of other types of diversity, making it unsafe for everyone because each person has unique traits that are not considered mainstream or dominant.  We are all diminished when any one of us is demeaned.  By challenging homophobia and heterosexism, people are not only fighting oppression for specific groups of people but are striving for a society that accepts and celebrates the differences in all of us.

Did You Know?

Harvey Milk (1930-1978) - Giving Hope

People told him no openly gay man could win political office. Fortunately, he ignored them.  His life now a feature film, Milk was the first openly gay man elected to any substantial political office.

There was a time when it was impossible for people — straight or gay — even to imagine a Harvey Milk.  The funny thing about Milk is that he didn't seem to care that he lived in such a time. After he defied the governing class of San Francisco to become a member of its board of supervisors, many people had to adjust to a new reality he embodied: that a gay person could live an honest life and succeed.

Milk knew that the root cause of the gay predicament was invisibility. Milk suspected emotional trauma was gays' worst foe — particularly for those in the closet…That made the election of an openly gay person, not a straight ally, symbolically crucial.

"You gotta give them hope," Milk always said.

Displaying the Positive Space symbol may open the door to discussions, expressions of concern and requests for advice that you might not otherwise receive.  For example, a student concerned that one of their instructors is making homophobic remarks in class might come to you for advice on options.  A gay co-worker who is feeling excluded in their work environment might feel they can discuss the issue with you safely.  These situations may challenge you in new ways in your relationships with students and co-workers.

To meet this challenge it is important to practice effective communication and listening skills, as well as to be knowledgeable of institutional and community resources in order to make appropriate referrals.

The following are some guidelines that may assist you when interacting with others:

  • Pay attention to your body language.  Approximately 90% of the message is in how it is delivered, rather than the actual words used.  Facing a person, giving them your undivided attention, and positive facial expression and body stance are essential.
  • Let people express themselves fully before you respond. 
  • Let people take their own time.  They may be sounding you out to see if they can trust you.  Ask open-ended questions that allow the other person to guide and control the discussion.
  • Ask questions and summarize to ensure that you understand what is being communicated to you and what the person is asking of you.
  • Empathize, don’t sympathize.  Empathy is demonstrating that you understand the feelings of another person.  Sympathy is expressing feelings of pity or sorrow for someone else’s situation.
  • Understand that often listening is the most important thing you can do.  People do not come to you expecting you to solve their problem but wanting to be heard and possibly to get another’s perspective.
  • When asked for advice, provide options for action or for gaining more information, not answers.  Remember that there is no “correct” answer that is right for everyone.
  • Realize that not every issue has a solution.  Sometimes there really is nothing that can be done except to help another person deal with the emotions they are experiencing.
  • Make referrals to others as requested and as appropriate. 

Our individual skills, experience, and institutional role will impact our comfort level in dealing with more challenging situations.  Remember that you are not being asked to act as a counsellor or support person.  Pay attention to your own boundaries and comfort level and refer to others as appropriate.

When should I refer?

  • Anytime that you are not the right person to assist or provide the information or service.  Remember that the Positive Space symbol simply signifies that you are committed to inclusion and equity for people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.  It does not change or alter your usual role on campus as an employee or student.
  • When it is clear that the person is requesting or would welcome the referral.

How do I identify the appropriate resource?

  • Be familiar with institutional resources.  Students may need information on services such as advising, registration, financial aid, student support, counselling, or disability services.  Employees may need information related to human resources, institutional services, union contacts or employee assistance.
  • Institutional and community resources that may be of interest to students or employees who are 2SLGBTQ+ are listed in the resources section.
  • If it is unclear where the person should be referred, indicate that you do not know and identify someone else who may be of assistance.  Make some telephone calls seeking more information if you have the time.  Remember that a referral to a member of the Positive Space Alliance is always an option.

Making a referral

  • Once you have identified an appropriate referral, provide the person with information regarding the department, service, employee, or organization.
  • Whenever possible, provide the name of an individual who works in that department, service or organization and a contact number. 
  • Reassure the person that this department, service, employee or organization can assist them with their concern.  Sometimes persons can feel that they are “just getting the runaround. 

What if the person is reluctant to bring a concern to the responsible department or employee?

  • Understand that sometimes a person needs to vent but has no desire to take any further action.  In such circumstances there may be no need for further action on your part.
  • Sometimes a person needs support and encouragement to take the next step.  Provide the support and encouragement that you can but remember that it is the other person’s responsibility to determine how they wish to address a concern or solve a problem.

Did You Know?

Impact of Family Rejection

Gay young adults whose families rejected them when they were younger are more likely to have histories of unprotected sex, illegal drug use and suicide attempts, new research suggests.

The findings don't prove that a family's negative reaction to a child's sexuality directly causes problems later in life. But it's clear that "there's a connection between how families treat gay and lesbian children and their mental and physical health," said Caitlin Ryan, a clinical social worker at San Francisco State University and lead author of a study released in the January issue of Pediatrics.

In recent decades, studies have found evidence that gay, lesbian and bisexual children are more likely to suffer from a variety of ills, including depression and suicide. Researchers attribute the problems to social stigma around homosexuality.

As you read on, be aware of what thoughts, feelings and questions arise when you ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Can you think of three positive aspects of life as a 2SLGBTQ+ person?  Can you think of three negative aspects of life as a 2SLGBTQ+ person?
  2. Have you ever laughed at a “queer” joke?
  3. Do you ever intentionally do or say things to try to prevent people from thinking that you are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender?
  4. Do you believe that a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender person could influence another person to become lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender?  Do you think someone could influence you to change your sexual and affectional preference or gender identity?
  5. If you are a parent, how would you (or do you) feel about having a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender child?
  6. Would the knowledge that a professional such as a doctor, physiotherapist or massage therapist was lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender influence your willingness to go to him or her?  Would you feel more comfortable if you knew that their orientation made it unlikely that they would be attracted to you?
  7. Under what conditions have you or would you go to a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender bar, social club, movie or rally?
  8. Would you wear a button that says, “How dare you presume I’m heterosexual?”  Why or why not?

It is normal to find that you have to some extent internalized the homophobia that exists in our culture.  Homophobia may be experienced and expressed by 2SLGBTQ+ as well as heterosexual people.

What we want to achieve is to be able to truly celebrate the fact that human beings have different sexual orientations and gender identities.  Celebration means:

  • Awareness that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are an indispensable part of society
  • Viewing 2SLGBTQ+ people with genuine affection and appreciation
  • Advocating for equity on issues that impact the LBGT community, and
  • Attending 2SLGBTQ+ functions because they are important community events

Creating inclusion starts with our own awareness of how we participate in the marginalization of 2SLGBTQ+ people.  As lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and heterosexual people we need to be inclusive in our words and actions.  The following are tips for what we can do to express inclusion and respect for lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual students and employees.   

  • In daily interactions with coworkers and students, avoid language that assumes heterosexuality.  Give people space to tell you about themselves by asking very open-ended questions.  Language that pre-empts possibilities closes the door to open communication.  Examples:
    • When a person tells you they are involved with someone or that they have a partner, recognize the possibility that the person may be of the same sex (e.g. “Tell me all about this special person”).
    • Invite people to bring a partner or guest to a function or to dinner, without reference to gender.
  • When discussing sexual activity and related subjects, use terminology relevant to lesbian, gay, bisexual and heterosexual people.  Examples:
    • “When did you first engage in sexual activity?” rather than, “When did you first have sexual intercourse?”
    • “It is recommended that women engaged in sexual activity with men use a form of birth control” rather than “It is recommended that all sexually active women use a form of birth control”.
  • If you are heterosexual, take steps to actively include students and employees who are open about their sexual orientation or gender identity.  For example:
    • If you would normally invite a new colleague or new student you meet for dinner or lunch, do not assume that because he/she is 2SLGBTQ+ that they would not welcome such an invitation.
    • When discussing relationships and family issues don’t assume that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons have no perspectives or opinions to offer.  They do!
  • Acknowledge the person’s sexual orientation and gender identity when appropriate: sexual orientation and gender identity are not “taboo” subjects.
  • Develop friendships and have social contact with people whose sexual orientation is different from your own.  This will expand your range of friends, increase your awareness of other’s experiences and enhance your comfort level interacting with people who are different from you.  It will also serve to challenge stereotypes that may exist, such as that lesbians only spend time with other lesbians, or that they hate men.
  • Do not assume all students/employees come from families where traditional male and female genders are represented in the parental unit.  This recognizes not only persons brought up in homes with same-sex parents but also those raised in single-parent homes.
  • When using examples of activities that many people erroneously associate only with heterosexual people (such as parenting), use examples of persons of all gender identities and sexual orientations.
  • Don’t assume that the word “women” refers only to heterosexual women who are born female and that the term “men” refers only to heterosexual men who are born male.  Include lesbians, bisexual women and transwomen in your use of the generic “women” and gay men, bisexual men and transmen in your use of the generic “men”.  Examples include:
    • In a discussion of women’s or men’s sexuality, include relating with same-sex, opposite-sex and transgender partners;
    • In a list of parent organizations, include groups for same-sex parents and parents of gays, lesbian, bisexual or transgender children.
  • Omit discussions and/or questions related to marital status unless there is a specific need for this information.  Marital status per se is not a good indicator of whether a person is cohabitating with another adult or has a partner.  As lesbian, bisexual, and gay persons have not been able to marry until recently a focus on marital status makes the important relationships in their lives invisible.
  • Unless the gender of a person is really relevant, avoid forcing people to identify as male or female.  If you must ask about gender, include transgender options as well.
  • It is important to refer to a transgender person by the pronoun appropriate to their presented gender.  In other words, use the pronoun that he or she wishes you to use.  If someone identifies as female, refer to her as “she”.  If someone identifies as male, refer to him as “he”.  If you are not sure, ask the person directly which pronoun she or he would like you to use. 
  • Make sure that you use parallel terms when comparing gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons with other groups.  For example, in a comparative setting heterosexual women and lesbian women are considered parallel terms, whereas the word “women” describes both groups.
  • Do not assume that if a woman is pregnant that she became pregnant through heterosexual intercourse.  She may have become pregnant through artificial insemination or other means.
  • Avoid terms that stigmatize, or place persons who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender in inappropriate categories.  Examples include:
    • Discussing sexual activity with a same sex partner as a sexual deviancy;
    • Listing lesbians, gays, bisexual or transgender persons in a list of special populations with drug abusers, alcoholics or persons with mental disabilities.  This suggests that gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender persons have a condition that requires treatment to eliminate or stabilize.
  • Recognize that when a person who is gay, bisexual or lesbian experiences difficulties in their intimate relationships and/or a separation from a partner that this is just as hurtful as when heterosexual couples separate or divorce.  Support and understanding are needed at these times.
  • Object to jokes and humour that put down or portray bisexual, lesbian, transgender or gay persons in stereotypical ways.
  • Recruit transgender, gay, lesbian and bisexual staff, faculty and students.  View sexual orientation and sexual identity as positive forms of diversity that are desired in an organization that values diversity and inclusion. 
  • Question job applicants about their ability to work with students and co-workers who are different from them, including students and employees who are bisexual, lesbian, gay or transgender.
  • Review forms, handouts, and other print material to ensure they are inclusive of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons.  Get assistance from the Positive Space Alliance with this task.
  • Attend Positive Space events and other 2SLGBTQ+ community events to expand your knowledge and comfort level.


Organizations to Check Out

Organizations to Check Out

EGALE Canada is a national organization that advances equality and justice for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans-identified people and their families across Canada.

PFLAG Canada is there when it seems no-one else is. Every day, PFLAG Canada volunteers are contacted by frightened adolescents and by angry, fearful or ashamed parents. PFLAG Canada supports, educates and provides resources to anyone with questions or concerns. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Most of us have grown up in an environment that excludes and makes invisible people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT).  In everyday conversations and situations, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are often excluded, though not necessarily with intent or ill will.

The Anti-Racism Response Training (ART) program, developed by Dr. I. Ishiyama, is focused on the options for action available to anyone who witnesses a discriminatory event.  While his work is focused on racism, the model can be applied to any type of expression of bias or prejudice.

If you want to be an active witness - that is - to actively intervene when you witness homophobic comments, slurs or jokes, your intervention can address:

  • The “victim” of the homophobia or heterosexism
  • The “offender”, the person whose actions or words were homophobic or heterosexist
  • Other witnesses or bystanders.

Dr. Ishiyama has identified eleven different active witnessing response types that can be used, often in combination, to address a situation.  They are:

  • Interrupt, assertively interject – “Stop it.”  “Wait a moment.”
  • Express upset feelings – “I can’t believe you are saying this!”  “I’m surprised to hear you say such a thing”
  • Call it discrimination, or homophobia – “That’s homophobic”, “That is a discriminatory comment”, “What you just said sounds very homophobic”.
  • Disagree – “I disagree with what you just said.”  “I don’t think that is true.”
  • Question validity of statement – “Always?” “Everybody?”
  • Point out how it offends and hurts people – “That’s a hurtful comment.”  “Ouch! That hurts.”
  • Put the “offender” on the spot – “What?” “Could you repeat what you just said?”
  • Help the “offender” to self reflect – “Did you really mean to say that?  That’s a very hurtful comment.” “You sound really annoyed.  What’s going on?”
  • Approaching and supporting the “victim” – “I heard what was just said.  Are you OK?”
  • Approaching other witnesses – “Did you hear what I just heard?”
  • Asking others for involvement and assistance –to use when you feel official action should be taken.  Bring the issue to the attention of your instructor (if a student), the Diversity, Equity and Human Rights Office, the Dean of the faculty or other university representative.

You do not need to always address the “offender”

There may be circumstances where it would feel unsafe to address him or her or useless (if the person is intoxicated, for example).  Supporting the victim and encouraging other witnesses to support the victim is as important and effective as intervening with the “offender” if you want to take a stand and be an ally to 2SLGBTQ+ people.


An acronym for Two Spirit, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Pansexual, Trans, Gender Independent, Queer and Questioning.  It is used throughout this manual for convenience, but please use whichever label a person contacting you feels most identified with.


A person who is romantically/sexually attracted to or involved with both men and women or persons of all genders.  Bisexual persons may not be equally attracted to people of all genders.


(Also known as “in the closet”) A metaphor for not disclosing, or being able to disclose, one’s sexual orientation or gender identity.  This can be self-imposed or externally imposed.

Coming Out

(Also referred to as “coming out of the closet”) The process of becoming aware of one’s homosexual, bisexual orientation or transgender identity/status, accepting it and disclosing it to others.  Coming out is an on-going process that may or may not include coming out to people in all aspects of one’s life.  Some people may be completely “out”; some may be “out” to some people or in some areas of their lives and not others and some may never come out to anyone beside themselves.


A person who forms sexual and affectionate relationships with those of the same gender; often used to refer to men only.

Gay Bashing

Physical/sexual violence perpetrated against lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender individuals or those perceived to be so.  Gay bashing can include verbal, physical and psychological assault and harassment.  All 2SLGBTQ+ persons are vulnerable to bashing.  However, those who look visibly different by society’s standards are especially vulnerable.  Transgender persons, particularly those who are transitioning or who are non-operative, are often targets of violence.

Gender Dysphoria

The overall psychological term used to describe the feelings of anguish and anxiety that arise from the mismatch between a transgender person’s physical sex and their gender identity.

Gender Identity

One’s internal and psychological sense of oneself as female, male, both or neither.  A person’s self-concept of their gender may be the same as, or different from, their sex at birth (male, female, or inter-sexed).  Thus, adopting the female gender means becoming socially and culturally female, even if one is biologically male or inter-sexed.  A person may also define their gender identity as being more fluid than either male or female.  In other words, their gender identity may encompass parts of masculinity, femininity and/or other non-traditional gender expressions.

Gender Transition

The process of transitioning to one’s internal gender identity when this gender identity is different from the one typically assigned to one’s physical body at birth.  This may or may not involve surgical intervention or taking hormonal medication, which can result in some changes in appearance and/or behaviour.


Prejudice based on societal values that dictate that everyone is or should be, heterosexual.  Intentionally or unintentionally, our society bestows privilege on heterosexuality and heterosexual persons, and devalues, mistreats or discriminates against lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender persons and those perceived to be so.


(Or “straight”) A person who is romantically/sexually attracted to or involved with members of a different (“opposite”) sex.


Harassing, prejudicial treatment of, or negative attitudes, fear and intolerance toward, 2SLGBTQ+ persons and those perceived to be of these sexual orientations or gender identities.  It includes a range of feelings and behaviours from discomfort and fear to disgust, hatred and violence.


A man who is romantically/sexually attracted to or involved with other men; also used as an umbrella term for everyone who has same-sex romantic/sexual attractions or relations.  Many lesbian, gay, or bisexual people find the term “homosexual” to be too clinical and instead opt to use 2SLGBTQ+ terminology.

Inclusive Language

The use of gender non-specific language (i.e. “partner” instead of “husband”) to avoid assumptions that limit and to enhance inclusion and the accessibility of information and services.

Internalized Homophobia

the experience of shame, guilt, or self-hatred in reaction to one’s own feelings of sexual attraction for a person of the same gender.


A person who is born with physical and/or chromosomal features in which sex characteristics usually considered to belong to distinctly male or female bodies are combined in a single body.  Inter-sexed persons are often subject to surgical intervention at birth.  The term inter-sexed is sometimes encompassed under the term “transgender”.  However, while there are some areas of overlap with inter-sexed and transgender issues, there are also many areas of distinction.


A woman who is romantically/sexually attracted to or involved with other women.

OP (operative)

Non–Op = transgender persons who choose not to undergo sex reassignment surgery and may or may not transition.  Pre-Op = those awaiting sex reassignment surgery who may be in the process of transitioning.  Post-Op = those who have completed sex reassignment surgery.


To be open about one’s sexual orientation or gender identity in some or all areas of one’s life.


To disclose the sexual orientation or gender identity of someone else without their permission.


A once derogatory term reclaimed by some 2SLGBTQ+ persons.  Often used as an umbrella term to encompass all LGBTs, or refers to political activism or academic inquiry on lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender issues.  In some cases, it has been adopted as a self-identifying label for persons who experience their sexuality as more fluid than the individual 2SLGBTQ+ labels imply.


Persons who are engaging in a process of self-exploration around issues of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Reclaiming Language

The process of taking back terms that were once used as insults and instead instilling them with positive meaning for self-empowerment. Examples in the 2SLGBTQ+ communities include queer, fag, dyke and trannie.  If you are not a member of the 2SLGBTQ+ community, it is often best not to use reclaimed terminology unless you are sure that the terms will be received with your positive intent and not seen as insulting.  If you are 2SLGBTQ+ (and out), use of reclaimed language is generally safe, but you may wish to be careful around those just coming to terms with their sexual orientation.  Some may not be aware that these terms have been reclaimed.  Others may not feel comfortable using particular terms.

Sexual Orientation

One’s sexual, affectional and romantic interests to members of the same gender (homosexual), other gender (heterosexual) or both/all genders (bisexual).  Some people experience their sexual orientation as an unchanging, lifelong part of their nature, and others experience it in more fluid ways that change over time or across situations. 

Transgender, trans or trans-identified

A person who identifies with a gender identity other than the one that was ascribed to their biological sex at birth; or a person who views their gender as more fluid than the strictly male or female gender categories allow. 


A person who identifies with and lives as a gender different (“opposite”) from the one typically assigned to their sex at birth.  Transsexual persons usually undergo gender transition with or without surgical or hormonal intervention.  Also known as male-to-female, MTF, female-to-male, FTM, transwomen, and transmen.

Our Positive Space Alliance emblem is an integration of three historically powerful symbols of the Gay Liberation movement: the Rainbow Flag, the Pink Triangle and the Black Triangle. We chose to combine these three symbols in our emblem both as a remembrance of the oppression faced by gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people throughout history, and as a reflection of strength and pride that exists within our community.

An estimated 220,000 gay men and lesbians died along with Jews, Gypsies and members of the Nazi resistance from the beginnings of the rise of Nazi power, in Nazi concentration camps and during the aftermath of World War II. Concentration camp prisoners were identified by a set of coloured triangles, the Pink Triangle being used to denote gay men. Today, the Pink Triangle has come to represent the phrase "Never Forget, Never Again".

The Black Triangle was used by the Nazis to identify "socially unacceptable" women. Lesbians were included in this category. Lesbians have since reclaimed the Black Triangle as a symbol of their defiance against repression and discrimination.

Mixing these two elements into the stylized mountains is in tribute to those peaks that surround Nanaimo, specifically Mount Benson.

The Rainbow Flag, created in 1978 for San Francisco's Gay Freedom Celebration, depicts the colours of the rainbow in horizontal stripes. This flag, which has become a universal emblem for unity within diversity (or diversity within unity), remains a powerful symbol of pride within the 2SLGBTQ+ communities. Here, it has been incorporated into our logo to look like the shimmering waves that we can see in the harbour below the Mountain range.