How did Get REAL start?
Get REAL was inspired by our experiences welcoming first years to our university, within our school's Orientation "Welcome Week" program. We were focused on creating an inclusive environment, but we were also friends first and foremost to these students. So we approached conversations around derogatory slurs and close-minded attitudes from a place of honesty, no judgment, and opening up about our own stories with our students. From there we began noticing really positive results: tons of students changing their language, and tons of students telling us they felt more comfortable being themselves. Many students began saying that they felt safe being themselves for the first time. The idea we had was: could we take what we'd learned through this program, and create a program in a high school or even a middle school setting — the type of program we wished had existed when we were in school? And the student-student-group Get REAL was born!
What does Get REAL do?
Get REAL is a Canadian non-profit organization whose mission is to combat 2SLGBTQ+ discrimination & bullying in schools, summer camps, and workplaces across the country. We have three main parts to our program: our workshops, our university chapters, and our after-school programs.
Our workshop program is national in scope, providing students in Grades 5-12, summer camp counsellors, and workplaces with workshops focused on combatting 2SLGBTQ+ discrimination, stereotypes, education, and resources. We've spoken to over 250,000 youth across Canada and counting.
Our after-school program energizes 2SLGBTQ+ youth role models to provide year-long mentorship, teaching skills, building community, and running field trips with 2SLGBTQ+ youth and their allies aged 13-17. We currently have two after-school programs, in Winnipeg & the GTA. The students from our GTA After-School Program designed our new "Futur=" shirts.
Our university chapter network is made up of university and college student volunteers who work to make their own schools and communities safer and more inclusive, by creating content, running events, and fundraising for local 2SLGBTQ+ charities through our 50/50 fundraising program. We focus on providing mentorship, chances to develop new skills, and opportunities to meet recruiters at dynamic firms and start-ups looking for diverse talent.
How has clothing played a part in Get REAL's growth?
From day one, we started off with our signature and now recognizable neon pink hats -- bright symbols of acceptance for those who wore them around campus. But our clothing line as a whole started off initially as a fundraiser for our work in schools. Over time though, it’s actually evolved into an unofficial “fourth part of the program” in and of itself. We noticed more and more that people from around the world were wearing our shirts and bringing them to important events in their countries: fights for marriage equality, for transgender rights, and for better 2SLGBTQ+ education. People were sharing their own stories using our merchandise and through that, we met Marion from France, who helped kick-start our Global Ambassador Program, made up of videographers, photographers, and volunteers from countries around the world who utilize our clothing to share their own stories of acceptance, coming out, support, and the on-going fight for progress. And recently, our LGBTQR Code shirts were developed as an interactive educational resource for students and teachers across Canada, inspired by the Ontario Government’s efforts to repeal 2SLGBTQ+ issues from the sex-ed curriculum.
What can people look out for this year from Get REAL?
For one, we are extremely proud to be partners with Peace Collective and to be the charitable beneficiary this year for their 2019 Pride Collection. We share the same values of promoting acceptance, unity, and taking pride in who we are.
We'll be hanging out at our Toronto Pride booth on the 22nd (Alexander between Church & Yonge), and anyone is welcome to walk with us in the Parade on the 23rd!