On September 29, author and activist Tim McCaskell took time from his busy book tour to speak with fifty senior students in Bell High School’s Gender Studies and Social Justice courses. McCaskell, who affably introduced himself to his audience as “a gay dinosaur”, engaged students with his first-hand accounts of the struggles faced by members of the LGBTQ community in the 1970’s and 1980’s. These stories presented eye-opening opportunities for youth to consider the history of equity movements in Canada. McCaskell’s discussion of bathhouse raids, the prevalence of police brutality, and the open acts of discrimination which continued even after decriminalization took place in 1969 prompted audience members to fully appreciate the achievements of early LGBTQ rights activists in Canada.
In addition to providing a fascinating historical overview of queer progress, the author also immersed students in meaningful discussion on a variety of current topics connected to gender and sexuality: trans identities, intersectionality, and erasure. A major curriculum expectation in both courses is social justice advocacy, and McCaskell shared important observations about, and experiences in, effective activism.
A testament to Mr. McCaskell’s impact on his audience members was the number of students who remained after his presentation to mingle and chat with him further. Bell High School would like to extend its sincere gratitude to Tim for sharing his experience, passion and wisdom with students. Our gratitude also goes to the hardworking staff of the Canadian Centre for Gender & Sexual Diversity for facilitating this school visit – your dedication to the students of the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board is appreciated!