By Sharon, teacher by day, podcaster by night, Surrey
As educators, it is our hope that all students and staff feel comfortable and safe at school. With the inclusion of SOGI in the BC curriculum, we have seen a positive change in our schools. There are many gestures that allow queer and trans students to feel safe in schools, such as pride stickers, pride flags, gender-neutral washrooms, and Gay Straight Alliances. However, sometimes it feels that all this comes alive only during Pride Month in June. How about the other nine months at school? What are we doing to support, include, and celebrate queer and trans folks on a regular basis?
I wanted to learn more about what I could do as a teacher to celebrate and honour students and colleagues. This is why Neery, the podcast’s co-host, and I sat and chatted with both a Surrey school educator and Surrey school student to learn more about their commitment to inclusion and celebration of queer and trans folks beyond Pride Month. We are two queer South Asian cis women on a mission to celebrate and uplift queer and trans BIPOC (QTBIPOC) folks in our local community to create positive change.
I am one of the co-hosts for the Sher Vancouver Podcast. The Sher Vancouver podcast is a safe space for BIPOC 2SLGBTQ+ individuals and allies. When we learned about the amazing work happening in our community to advocate for and create safe spaces for QTBIPOC people, we knew we absolutely needed to highlight and celebrate it.
For one episode, we spoke with Annie Ohana, a proud public school educator and Indigenous Department Head at LA Matheson Secondary. Annie is an anti-oppression curriculum specialist and devoted community activist. She founded and directs Mustang Justice, an anti-oppression and justice-oriented youth service leadership group, which is now in its 10th year. Annie challenges educators and says, “If we are not teaching to transform, then why are we teaching?” After this episode, I felt fired up and wanted to dive deep into more activism work within my school and community. Annie has inspired me to be more visible and to be a support system for students in my school.
In addition, we also spoke with Finn Liu, a transgender and Chinese high school student who is on a mission to spread awareness and inclusion for trans-identifying individuals within the Asian community. Currently in Grade 11 at Fraser Heights Secondary, Finn is heavily involved in and out of school and in extracurriculars defying a typical high school student’s schedule. Finn’s resiliency and driven attitude is what got him selected to speak at TEDx Surrey 2023 as the youngest speaker!
Speaking with Finn, I felt so much hope for our future generations. Finn speaks about changing the narrative of queer and trans folks being victims, and instead focusing on celebrating the successes and joys of queer and trans individuals. Finn shares steps on how we can break down barriers and work toward better trans inclusion in our schools. Our students can be encouraged by our smallest gestures, such as a small pride sticker on our doors. Finn shares how educators can continue to better support all students in schools to ensure safe and thriving environments for all. If you want to learn how you can better support your queer and trans students at school, I highly recommend tuning into this episode to get a student’s perspective on how we are doing.
It’s time to inspire more change for the better.
You can find Finn and Annie’s episodes on the Sher Vancouver podcast, along with several other great episodes highlighting the stories, experiences, and voices of QTBIPOC activists and community leaders, on shervanpodcast.com. You can also find us wherever you listen to podcasts.