October 18, 2018

Seeing Diversity Week, 2018

Next week—October 22–26, 2018—marks the 13th annual Diversity Week at Oakwood Secondary campus. Initiated by student leaders of the Gay Straight Alliance and the Cultural Awareness Association, Diversity Week is the crescendo of ongoing conversations across campus on issues of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, and positive identity development.

Each year, a new theme is explored during Diversity Week. This year’s theme is Gender, Beyond Binary. Gender diversity has existed throughout history and can be seen all over the world. One of the most fundamental aspects of a person’s identity, gender, deeply influences every part of one’s life. Where this crucial aspect of self is narrowly defined and rigidly enforced, individuals who exist outside of its norms face innumerable challenges. Even those who vary only slightly from the norm can become targets of disapproval.

This does not have to be the case.

Through a thoughtful consideration of the uniqueness and validity of every person’s experiences of self, we can develop greater acceptance for all. Not only will this create greater inclusion for individuals who challenge the norms of gender, it will create space for all individuals to more fully explore and celebrate who they are.

During the course of the week, from a special town meeting that will feature voices from the community to all-school assemblies with both keynote speakers and performances to Speaker Spaces and workshops and discussions within self-chosen affinity groups to additional programming and activities hosted by the student identity-focused groups, alliances and clubs, we hope to meet the following objectives:

  • Self-reflect on one’s personal experiences as they relate to gender (identity, expression, image)
  • Examine what role each of us plays as part of a gendered community/society and the assumed norms that come with a binary model
  • Define gender terms and unpack what they mean
  • Recognize that the intersections of our identities significantly impact our experiences
  • Determine and take actions to make the Oakwood community more gender inclusive, where ALL self-identities and gender expressions are affirmed.

This year’s Diversity Week poster was designed by Milo ’19, and Oakwood Senior who is co-chair of the Rainbow Alliance.  Describing the thinking that went into this year’s poster, Milo says, “I started out sketching. Of course, it’s about gender beyond binary and I always liked those little gender symbols—the ones that are used for the planets Mars and Venus. I was like, OK, I can do something with this.” 

Fortunately, the title of this year’s event contributed to the simple yet striking composition of Milo’s poster. He thought, “Hey. If there’s any letter with an O on here, I’m gold. And sure enough, not only was there a letter with an O, but it was the center letter in the center word of the theme.” Milo’s color decisions also corresponded with the gender explorations that will happen during Diversity Week. “It’s a deep blue for men and pink for women, but for the non binary, there’s quite a few different colors that represent non binary. I’ve seen it represented in symbols as yellow. Sometimes it’s green, sometimes it’s purple, sometimes it’s purple and yellow. One of my non binary friends actually suggested just yellow, simply because they like yellow.”

As with the student-designed poster from last year’s Diversity Week, Milo’s work has inspired many on campus to already be thinking about the ideas we’ll be engaging with in the weeks ahead.

Also in support of Diversity Week’s theme, our secondary campus librarians, Laurie and Ko, have put together a list of books that address “Gender: Beyond Binary.” Some of these are personal accounts (Self-ish, She’s Not There); some are specifically for young adults (My Gender Workbook, Beyond Magenta); some are more polemical (Beyond Trans, Trans Like Us) and there are two books of reportage (Travels in a Gay Nation and Andrew Solomon’s award- winning study of families, Far From the Tree).

These titles and a few more are on display in the library, and all can be checked out and taken home.