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Discovery mode never ends

February 23, 2021 Jen Janzen, ATA News Staff


Storyteller Ivan Coyote shares message of compassion and growth

 On Valentine’s Day, storyteller and author
Ivan Coyote delivered
an online presentation centred on different
kinds of love.

No matter your age, if you’re still trying to figure who you are, Ivan Coyote has a message for you: it’s OK to be in discovery mode. 

“I’m 52 years old this summer, and I’m still figuring myself out,” Coyote told the youth who asked what they should do when they’re not sure where they fit on the gender spectrum. “It’s about trusting yourself, and following your own heart, and your own narrative about stuff. We’re all moving forwards and becoming ourselves.” 

The Q&A was part of “Eye, Heart, You,” Coyote’s online presentation to Alberta teachers and students on Valentine’s Day, and followed a series of readings from Coyote’s works that explore different kinds of love, from romantic to friendly to familial. 

The presentation, which was organized by the Associations’ Diversity, Equity, and Human Rights (DEHR) Committee, was attended by more than 100 individual students, teachers and allies. In the chat, many participants shared that they were tuning in with their partners, their kids or their whole families.

“We know [Valentine’s Day] is a hard time of year for youth and especially non-binary youth,” explained Dan Grassick, secretary of DEHR. This talk by Coyote, who has been a popular touring speaker and performer for more than 25 years, was a way to send a gender-inclusive Valentine to 2SLGBTQ+ students, teachers and those who support them. 

One of the post-performance questions came from a teacher who wanted help encouraging their colleagues to be more supportive of gender diversity at school. Coyote encouraged the teacher to think about ways the school can be proactive instead of waiting for youth to ask for accommodations. 

“Youth often have to advocate for themselves,” Coyote said, listing examples such as changing their library card name or asking to use a gender-neutral bathroom. “Our job as educators is to get ahead of this. Make sure they have a gender-neutral bathroom and a safe place to change for gym or drama.” Making these changes, Coyote pointed out, doesn’t only benefit students from gender minorities; they benefit everyone. 

The key, said Coyote, is to make sure that 2SLGBTQ+ see themselves as important to you and see that they are represented. 

“Are they represented in the books in the library? Are the teachers up to speed?” 

Regarding pronouns, Coyote urged teachers to practice on their own. Non-binary students shouldn’t have to constantly monitor and correct your errors. If it’s important to you to respect your students, you need to practice learning how to say their names and how to use their pronouns. 

“If you mess up—and you will mess up—apologize and move on. You’re the educator; you’re the role model. The other kids are looking to you.” ❚

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