Meet Megan Whynott, currently a first year student at Simon Fraser University with an eye on an eventual career in Human Rights Law.
Since coming out as queer in their early teens, Megan has been a fierce advocate for the LGBTQ+ community.
“I came out as queer–a broad identity that I’ve embraced both because of its gender neutrality and its fluidity–fairly early, around age 13-14,” Megan explains. “Because of this, I think I’ve had more time to build a thicker skin against others people’s judgments. While my high school was definitely large–with 500 people in my graduating class alone–I was one of only a few LGBTQ+ students who were both out and confident enough to speak up. That was a huge privilege, and one I hope I’ve made good use of. That being said, I don’t know that it was as much a conscious decision as a feeling of obligation; I remember quite often feeling that because I felt so confident in my identity, that I owed it to my community to use that to create positive change.”
It hasn’t always been easy.
“The discrimination I have experienced as a queer person has come largely in the form of many little things: lack of bathroom access, exclusionary sex-ed, and assumptions about my pronouns for example. I also remember experiencing a small amount of bullying in high school—like one boy who would call me a he-she. That one stuck with me. I found that the most prevalent forms of discrimination I experienced stemmed from ignorance, and so I threw myself into educating others. I think that was my way of coping and trying to make life a little easier for my younger or less vocal peers,” Megan says.
Whether it’s heading up their high school’s Pride Club or just living their life openly and unapologetically, 18-year-old Megan is making a difference.
“Overall, I think my presence in my community is synonymous with queer advocacy, and I am incredibly fortunate and incredibly proud to be a representative for the queer community.”
Not only is Megan a role model for the queer community, they also were instrumental in getting safe use of bathrooms for trans and non-binary students at their high school.
Megan also gives workshops to teachers about how they can make their classrooms more inclusive.
Megan’s English teacher at Walnut Grove Secondary, Kim Robinson says, “Megan made such an impact: they taught teachers about the importance of asking about a student’s pronouns, they celebrated diversity, they offered their peers a place of safety and they demanded justice for all. They did these things both as the president of our school’s Pride Club, but also in each of their interactions with people on a daily basis. In fact, the power of their leadership extended beyond the walls of our schools: principals and adults from other schools and other districts recognized their strength, and were in awe at the eloquence with which they educated and inspired others.”
Educating the educators is something that is very important to Megan.
Megan says, “I hope that I’ve helped the school staff I’ve interacted with to understand the importance of allyship with their LGBTQ+ students. I also hope that I’ve helped them understand that allyship is an ongoing action that involves educating oneself and showing up when their students need them. I believe that I’ve educated many people in my community about the necessity of advocating for LGBTQ+ folks, and the way in which LGBTQ+ activism intersects with movements like Black Lives Matter. I’ve taught younger LGBTQ+ people about our history, including the origin of queer vernacular that comes from underground drag ball culture and the origin of Pride Parades with the Stonewall riots. I’ve spoken about the HIV/AIDS crisis and how homophobia and transphobia contributed to the deaths of those who would now be our queer elders. I have worked with school librarians to help increase the number of books with positive queer representation, and taught about LGBTQ-inclusive sex education (which still doesn’t exist even in secondary schools).”
For fun, Megan is an avid soccer player and coach, a writer of poetry and short fiction and a parent to a growing collection of house plants.
Megan has accomplished all of this while maintaining a 95% GPA in their graduating year at Walnut Grove and dealing with their anxiety and depression.
“Managing my mental health, passions, education, work, and extra-curriculars is definitely not easy. Honestly, it’s really hard a lot of the time. Therapy helps, though, and I’m currently trying to have my university acknowledge my various mental illnesses so that I have access to resources through them. I also have an amazing group of friends and a stellar girlfriend who are great at reminding me why I do what I do, even during the tougher times,” says Megan. “I think that the act of being unapologetically queer in a society that was not built to accommodate or celebrate queerness is an inherently revolutionary act. Just by living my life and by celebrating who I am, I’m making a political statement. I’m sure that I’ll always take that extra step to advocate for the LGBTQ+ community and to amplify the voices of other minority groups when I can.”
- The Trevor Project: https://www.thetrevorproject.org/resources/trevor-support-center/
- QMUNITY: https://qmunity.ca/
- PFLAG Canada: https://pflagcanada.ca/resources/
- TransLifeLine: https://www.translifeline.org/resources
- Egale: https://egale.ca/awareness/#category=resources
- GLSEN: https://www.glsen.org/resources