LGBT2IA in St. John's High School
Updated: Jan 18
“Who am I and where do I belong” is a common theme we here in society. We live in a society that says it values diversity, freedom of thought and expression and that is exactly what Beck Watt, a music teacher at St.John High School in Winnipeg, is striving to do. In Canada the struggle for the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Queer, Trans and Two Spirit communities to be accepted members of society has been a long and arduous journey. In fact, the government of Canada recently offered an apology for the systematic culture of discriminatory practices that took place during the 1950’s where it deemed the community a threat to national security.
Born and raised in Winnipeg and educated in Music at the University of Manitoba, Beck has been immersed in music since their teenage years specializing in flute while studying at the University of Manitoba. Beck pursued education at the University of Manitoba but quickly found a need for more systematic inclusion of the LGBT2IA community within the faculty.
They worked tirelessly with Dr. Robert Mizzi and other faculty members to work to create a student council position for LGBT2QIA, educated fellow teachers at practicum schools about inclusivity practices and now serves to educate teachers through the Manitoba Teachers Society about LGBT2QIA inclusiveness. The faculty of Education worked with Beck and Dr. Mizzi share the writings of Dr. Lee Airton who has written extensively about gender pronouns and human rights issues for the LGBT2QIA community and released a new book entitled Gender Your Guide.
Beck has taken this message into their career as an educator and championed human rights for LGBT2QIA students. From helping other teachers understand in order to be more empathetic and compassionate with students to training about the importance of gender neutral pronouns. As Beck tells me during our interview: “Being open minded and sensitive with language you use can make a student feel more included.” Sadly, they also told me about some students who experienced extreme bullying and have dropped out of school because they don’t have a space where they feel safe or understood.
During the course of our interview I learned something truly amazing about the remarkable changemaker: Beck is working to help inner city youth build their confidence and channel energy into the Sistema program. Sistema was founded in Venezuela as a musical program to keep youth away from the cycle of poverty and violence that plagues many communities around the world. In Winnipeg, the inner city musical leadership program, run by the Winnipeg Symphony Orchesta, helps hundreds of youth around Winnipeg who would otherwise never have the chance to learn classical music.
Beck believes that everyone can be a champion for human rights and dignity: “you may not agree with who I am but you can still be a kind human being and acknowledge me.” Making change takes immense courage and Beck Watt has shown us their courageous fight for their students and making our communities more inclusive.
North Reach: https://northreach.ca/education-2/lgbtq/a-brief-lgbtq-canadian-history/
El Sistema Canada: https://www.encoresistema.org/el-sistema/