out, gay, closeted, Mohawk, Indigenous, queer, homophobia, social activism, advocacy, unions, risk, anti-racism, gay-straight alliances
Tara: Can you talk a bit about your own journey? Clearly, you’ve been working years to gather the information and the knowledge and the understandings that you are now sharing with your colleagues. How… what was your journey like? How did you do the work to get to where you are right now in terms of being able to be that point person for those students.
Garrett: Um, it came out of necessity for me. Out of my own area of marginalisations, right? And my intersectionality. So I am an out gay male, to students I always have been out. Well that’s not true. I came out, um, when I was about 29, so I taught closeted for about four years. Um, and then came out at that point. And in the early years – and I’m also Mohawk.
Garrett: So I’ve got the Indigenous and the queerness. And in the early years of teaching I didn’t speak about either of them. And then, after I came out, I, um, experienced such homophobia within our system that it turned to I have to do something about this, right? If I’m feeling this, and I’m holding some power as a classroom teacher, I couldn’t imagine what the students are going through. And in the – I’ve always had a social activism lens. My parents were auto-workers, union kind of mentality, which is social activism, so I always kind of had that lens. When I first started teaching, I used to just focus in on anti-racism. And so, the beginning of my career I ran, like, the STAR clubs and the student camps, uh, summer camps or things like that, specifically around race. Never acknowledging my Indigenous background either. Those were not parts of conversation I was willing to have yet. And we can talk about that if you want a little bit later. And after I came out, I was married to a woman for nine years, had two biological children with her. And after I came out and my world changed, I then realised I can’t just do anti-racism work, and that’s when I started to initiate or tried to initiate Gay-Straight Alliances. At that point there were none in Durham, and in any of our schools.
Tara: Wait, what year was this around?
Garrett: This was nineteen years ago.
Tara: Nineteen years ago. So the late 90s, early 2000s.
Garrett: That’s right. I was going to say ‘97, ‘98?