June is Pride month and we asked several of our Sound Discipline colleagues in the LGBTQIA+ communities to share the stories of their experience as educators and what it means to them to be a queer role model in schools.
Thank you Lex Gavin for sharing this inspiring story of your work and journey!
Why do you work in education?
For me, it’s all about service to young people. Even when working in an adult educator role, it’s in service of young people. Education at it’s best is liberation and self-actualization. Our current education system is often responsible for the worst parts of education, such as conformity or forcing young people to become a productive member of a messed-up society.
As an educator, I have gravitated toward sites of education that are outside the formal schoolhouse world. When I was a youth, I learned the most in queer youth programs as opposed to schoolhouses. I love that I now have the opportunity to continue that legacy of counter-cultural education. I am a person who sees all their identities as deeply entwined and informing each other. Ultimately, the education that I was able to participate in within a queer youth program was social justice education. That is the stuff that has felt most meaningful within my life as far as being an educator goes. I also appreciate being able to learn and teach a forbidden history and explore an understanding of the systems around me, which formal k-12 education didn’t give me.
Did you have a queer elder to look up to as a youth?
I cannot remember having a queer elder to look up inside of school spaces. When I moved to Southern California, I went to 5 different high schools. There were only out staff members at 1 school.
My queer mentors as a youth came from the queer youth education program I attended.
What does it mean to you to be a queer elder in a school space?
There are more spaces, identities, and ways of being than most people are exposed to or aware of. I don’t see myself as an example, per se, but for people who have never caught glimpses of different ways of being, I can be the glimpse that gets them to consider that different things are possible.
I don’t want to be normal or a role model, however, schoolhouse spaces are very professionalized. And, the very explicit homophobia around teachers is all housed in adults. So, part of it is also being a beacon for adults who have children who are nonbinary and helping those adults feel a sense of hope for their children’s future.
I’m also really good at what I do. Bringing my lived experience enriches spaces and I am able to apply that in a way that has made positive change explicitly through the lens of me, which is inseparable from my queerness.
I house at once a lot of things that people want me to be (good at my job, etc.) and also what people don’t want me to be (nonbinary, queer, etc.). Whether you like it or not, we’re here, we’re queer, and we’re making the world a better place.
What’s one thing you did to celebrate Pride month this year?
I spent a lot of time at the beach soaking up the sun with a bunch of other queers!