Thursday, December 30, 2010

And the answer is... (42?)

So I am an educator by trade. As a gay educator, I am always in the spotlight of the criticizing eye of the adolescent. And, if you read my post entitled Moral Education, you would know that sometimes I encounter challenging and painful situations as a result of my sexuality - and that sometimes these make me angry.

That was back at the end of November.

Days after I posted Moral Education, a friend of mine uploaded Hint #6 to her facebook page and introduced me to something very, very powerful. Her fiancee (also a woman) and I were blown away by what we saw; it made the It Gets Better Movement seem trivial for all the reasons that it is trivial.

We can't promise people that it will get better later. We need to promise young adults that it will get better today, and make that promise come true. But... how do I do that?

Enter the fiancee's passion for gay activism and my interest in education. Somewhere, despite my frustration with the current generation of young people and their lack of work ethic, attention, or care, I have faith in education - in discovery - to change people. And if we are true to ourselves, we all know and feel on a daily basis that society needs to change.

So for December the two of us organized ourselves. We talk about gender theory and how we felt it needed to become something that everybody learned about - rather than just those who were in sexual minorities. We talked about how that is possible - how it fits into the curriculum in Saskatchewan and, (sadly) how it does not. We talked about what power we have to educate young people about gender and sexuality, and how this can be done with an approach of discovery rather than lecture. We talked about questions - to be asked and answered. We talked about our own sexualities and discovered things we never imagined about ourselves. We talked, because we know that these are concepts and topics that young people deal with everyday, that young people want to discuss as they try to figure themselves out, that adults don't want young people to discuss, and that young people feel uncomfortable discussing.

And from that, we made something that we hope is powerful and brilliant. A comprehensive discussion session - 1 hour in length (but potentially longer). Introducing the basics of the gender spectrum, the unreality of extremes - even introducing circular gender theory as something even less finite and more flexible. Providing students with basic ideas about gender - to liberate them all (even the "straight" ones from the ideas of being "straight" - the one's who are not "gay" but feel something other than "straightness"). We would present ourselves, honestly, openly, and carefully - answering questions about sexuality and providing ourselves as case studies.

We have people signing up to be a part of it. Including many of our "straight" allies who wish they had a better concept of sexuality before they discovered their friend was gay. Not because it informed them about their gay friends but because it helped them inform themselves about their sexualities. They were able to understand themselves better - they were liberated to understand themselves with more clarity but less "straight" and more "other".

In the coming weeks the fiancee and I have a meeting with the local Public School Board's board chair to ask their permission to enter classrooms. We are also in contact with our province's health curriculum consultant - we want to show them what is possible, talk about our approach, and outline how we imagine this affecting everyone positively. And how important it is to get this information to students at a younger age.

So there are circles (Hint #3). There are spectrums and women (Hint #2), and rainbows (Hint#1). There are questions (Hint #3, #4), and students (Hint #4, #5), and a reimagining of gender (Hint #6) - a reGendering - with our youth.

With any luck this will amount to something that is worth its weight in paper and time...


  1. Wow! This is forward thinking (dare I say, especially in Saskatchewan, a province I don't see as being particularly innovative). I love how watching the video motivated you to do something, to take action. How you were moved to be part of the solution and not remain part of the problem. I think this is great and worthy work, and I encourage you and your partner to move forward with it, helping to educate our youth. Bravo!
    Don't forget, however, that you still have the chance to change people's minds, to open them up one at a time, by being a great educator in your everyday work, and by setting a great example of what being gay is. The one-hour session you have planned is terrific, but every day provides us with opportunities to teach, to create greater awareness. You'd be surprised what you can do without even realizing you're doing it.
    Great job, Neal. I'm proud of you, and you should be proud of yourself. You are one special young man with a heart of gold.

  2. Wow! That sounds great. Good luck with all that and keep us in the loop. I'd love to know what comes of this work.

  3. Bravo Neal! I was just having a discussion about this very thing today. For some of us, discussing or educating about gender identity is an every day thing, so it's possible for some to lose sight of the fact that not everyone, most everyone in fact, does not discuss this nor do they know how to.

    If you only ever succeed in intiating a dialogue that continues without you, you've started a revolution. Though, given your passionate expression of the task, I know you'll accomplish much more than that.

    Good for you. And to the Fiancee, and anyone else who can help. There are great resources online if you'd like more information.

    Just to start. If you'd like some other help, let me know! :) Good Luck!