My name is Gavin (they/them), and I am the Education Director at Out On Screen. After nearly a decade with the Out In Schools program, I found a renewed sense of purpose in my work when I became a parent a year and a half ago.
This is my story.
I was born in 1987 in a small town called Pincourt, Quebec. I grew up a tomboy, excluded from sports because I was a “girl” and excluded by other girls for my baggy clothes and hand-me-downs. I was bullied for existing outside of expected gender norms and had homophobic slurs thrown at me in hallways. The message I received as a young person was clear—queerness is shameful, can only be expressed in secret, and should be suppressed.
I had no language to describe my queer experiences. Going to school in the ’90s and early 2000s, there was no mention or knowledge of queer attraction or gender in classrooms.
This is how I know that the work we do at Out In Schools is essential.
Since its founding in 2004, Out In Schools has used film and facilitated dialogue to catalyze compassionate and life-affirming conversations around sexual orientation and gender identity. When a young person receives an Out In Schools presentation, they learn that who they are is perfectly okay, that they are allowed to grow into their fullest self, and that they deserve to feel unconditional love and belonging. An Out In Schools presentation also creates a brave space for youth to ask questions, practice listening and empathy, and shift behaviors.
Hear what an educator had to say after an Out In Schools presentation:
One of my students is a trans woman, and she had never met an adult trans person in her life so she was very excited, and said she felt seen. That warmed my heart – an important moment for a great kid.
This is the kind of environment I wish I had growing up and that I hope my own child will have regardless of their identity or orientation. Imagine the difference that robust Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) education would have made to your childhood and those of your 2SLGBTQIA+ peers.
If you have seen the news lately, you will know that anti-queer and anti-trans sentiment is pervasive right now. Anti-drag protests are disrupting kid-friendly community programs, homophobic and transphobic legislation are being proposed and passed into law, and numerous groups are organizing to remove life-affirming SOGI education from schools.
To our entire community, this is cause for concern. Scapegoating the queer community in times of uncertainty is a conservative tactic we have seen before. When we hear threats to 2SLGBTQIA+ communities, we take action.
Today is the International Day of Pink, a day started to combat homophobic and transphobic bullying in schools. We do this work year-round through the Out In Schools program.
This year alone, Out In Schools has already reached 5,919 youth, educators, and parents with the affirming, nuanced, and positive stories that are so scarce in the media today. There is a hunger for our programming, and we are working hard to meet this demand.
We wouldn’t be able to do this work without the activists and allies that support our work through their donations. Individual donations are the second largest source of revenue for our work at Out On Screen, after grants from the public sector. Individuals like yourself help us to share joy, reduce stigma, and foster safer spaces for queer youth to be themselves. If you are interested in becoming a donor, visit our Donate page or get in touch with our team at email@example.com.
Thank you for taking the time to read about why Out In Schools means so much to me as an educator and parent, and thank you for helping us make a difference for 2SLGBTQIA+ communities.