February’s Out In Schools tour to Duncan, BC

April 6, 2020

Written by Miranda Rutty, Out In Schools Program Coordinator

At the end of February, I had the pleasure of travelling with an Out In Schools facilitator called Meika, to bring films and dialogues to classrooms in Duncan, BC. It was a short, 4-day tour mostly in the Cowichan Valley, with a quick trip to Brentwood Bay.

On the first day of our tour, we were at Cow High. We had a meeting with the GSA, followed by two presentations for the entire school. The GSA was very sweet, and students said they feel rather safe at school which is always good to hear. The teacher sponsor pulled me aside to say that although he is glad to hear they feel safe, he knows and has witnessed the amount of work that must be done. The presentations were logistically challenging, as the school did not have large speakers for their gym, and the space was HUGE. Teachers were keen to step in to help, and Meika and I did great projecting our voices. Regardless of tech issues, the response from students was really positive. Post presentation, we were greeted by a handful of queer youth who were emotional, and so glad to see us there.

Meika (left) and Miranda (right) in Duncan, BC

We ended up being invited to a community resource for queer youth, and it was RAD. It was mostly filled with youth who were from Cow High, but the space was totally different. It was run by queer elders and it seemed like an endearing, genuinely safe space. We watched fun, longer films during this session and some of the youth were so happy they wept the entire time. I hope to continue conversations with the organizers in supporting their space further.

The next day we were at Queen Margaret’s School. In the morning we spoke with the boarding school staff, enjoying a fair amount of dialogue, fantastic questions, and reflections. I am confident that the staff took our time together very seriously and continued the conversation to apply to their day to day work lives. In the afternoon, we spoke to students, who had a similar feeling of interest and involvement. They had excellent questions and were very attentive. Overall, this school experience was wonderful, but Meika and I did reflect on how stark the difference was in access between Cow High and Queen Margaret’s, given that they serve the same community. One thing I love about Out In Schools is the program’s flexibility, ensuring that we can reach all students, regardless of socioeconomic background.

The last school in the valley kept us on our toes! This visit was an example to me of how having conversations about LGBT2Q+ issues needs to be an ongoing discussion, and that discussion needs to be initiated by adults in the room. Our presentations were challenging, but that’s okay, its all part of a learning process for us as presenters! I spoke to the Principal afterwards and had a great conversation about ways to improve the narrative going forward. When we met with the GSA, we felt refreshed by the conversations we had with the youth. They were lovely, hopeful, and hungry to be better represented in their school and community.

On the last day of our tour, we traveled to Brentwood Bay to present at the local Indigenous school. This was an important visit for so many reasons, and was certainly a unique opportunity for Meika and myself, two indigifemmes, to really deepen our connection to the content and the youth taking part. We were able to present to smaller groups, encouraging deeper and more meaningful conversations with the students. It was refreshing to see how our presentation has shifted over the last year thanks to my colleague Keara and her role as our Indigenous Content Lead, and how many films we have to directly reflect two-spirit stories.

Miranda presenting at Queen Margaret’s school

This tour, like all tours, was extremely diverse and helped my team and I to reflect on why the work we do is so critical. As a city queer, I often take for granted how much queer space exists for me, forgetting that a one-hour ferry ride away, life can look extremely different for queer youth. I hope that our visit inspired young folks to reflect on how their stories are valuable, needed, and shape the world around them. With continued dedication to these communities, our relationship with the places we visit flourishes, enabling us to return time and time again with new stories to share.

If you’d like to learn more about Out In Schools, book a presentation, or make a donation to the program, visit our website.

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