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RPSA December Blog: Gender and Sexuality 101

A Peek Behind the Curtain: Gender and Sexuality in OST 101

Step behind the curtain into the world of our recent December training, hosted by Andrew Hitzhusen and Emma Vibber. In this post, discover the thought process behind the Gender and Sexuality in OST 101 training’s development, key takeaways, and the elements that made it a valuable experience for participants.

1. Can you share a bit of your background and expertise in the subject matter covered in the training?

AH: One of my teaching positions is with Oak Park OWL (Our Whole Lives), an afterschool sexual health education program for youth. I teach the 8th-grade class and I’m passionate about identity formation in our kids, which starts with understanding themselves. I’ve also been a High School teacher and supported kids firsthand in coming out and dealing with bullying. I’m driven to create an environment where all youth are safe.

2. What inspired the creation of this training program? Were there specific challenges or gaps in knowledge that you aimed to address?

AH: In site visits, one-on-ones with providers, and conversations with the field, we kept hearing requests for training on how to support LGBTQIA+ students. I think a lot of very caring providers are nervous about LGBTQIA+ issues because they don’t want to say the wrong thing. This 101 training is intended to give those providers the foundational understanding that they need to start to build their inclusive practices. Also, when we originally sat down to work on this training, Emma Vibber and myself, we had an incredible intern Elizabeth Hartnett who was a co-lead on this training and the primary architect of our guidebooks. Between the three of us, we felt that we could respond to the needs of the field in a really powerful way.

3. Trainings often evolve based on participant feedback and trends observed within the field. Can you share any insights into how this training has evolved?

AH: As we’ve developed this training over time, we’ve worked hard to balance the necessary focus on the safety of the kids with support for providers who may be starting their journey toward understanding. We want participants of all levels to feel comfortable learning with us, which takes a certain amount of vulnerability. We’ve also worked to balance the need to cover important content with the understanding that people need to talk through these ideas. We’re always tinkering with how to best include participant engagement.

4. For those who attended or are interested in this training, what are the key takeaways you hope participants gain?

AH: Our central idea for this 101 training is that all youth deserve a safe space and that these safe spaces can and do save lives. Everything else in the training, from the different spectra of identities, to how binaries are challenged by lived experience, and the social determinants of health, all serve this purpose. We want participants to walk away feeling more comfortable and confident in talking about these issues and creating safe spaces on their own.

5. Are there any plans for future iterations or related trainings?

AH: This 101 training is an introduction for participants to some of the big ideas in gender and sexuality in out-of-school time (OST) programming. Our 102 training is our intermediate course that delves further into the hands-on “how to” of creating safe spaces. While our 101 features a lot of lectures, 102 is much more discussion-based. We cover topics like how and why we use gender roles in OST, supporting youth in the process of coming out, supporting family and community partnerships with LGBTQIA+ members, and how and why we collect data on these students. This important training is by necessity offered in person.

If you missed the live session of this training, don’t worry! The ‘Gender and Sexuality in OST 101’ Course, including the resources shared, is now available in ACT Now’s Center for Afterschool Learning.

Click here to access this course in ANCAL.

If you do not have an ANCAL account, click here to register.

Interested in learning more about this training? Contact Andrew and Emma for more information!

Andrew Hitzhusen:

Emma Vibber: