In this season of intensified social unrest and protest, when more people seem to be feeling the call to actively envision and create a society that is equitable, I’ve been struggling to hold on to the belief that the work I’m doing matters. I can’t deny that becoming an LGBTQ+ educator has mattered a lot in the grand scheme of my personal life, but when I watch other people advocate and educate in more far-reaching ways, I also can’t help but wonder if my own approach matters in a broader context.
If it doesn’t look exactly like the work of people I know without a doubt are engaging in liberating advocacy, is my work as an LGBTQ+ educator really helping to carve out just spaces in our society? Is it really helping to empower and liberate people in my communities? Or, am I only wasting time and energy by focusing on this idea I had of myself as an educator when I could be redirecting that time and energy to supporting people doing bigger and better things?
I haven’t been able to commit to any answers to these questions, but recently, I’ve been trying to see if I could flip my hyperawareness of the differences between myself and other educators/advocates on its head. See if I could move past viewing that awareness as an invitation to devalue my work and instead start viewing it as an invitation to appreciate my willingness to take the time to discern what my unique lane as an educator is.
Rather than pursue paths that I deemed easier, more impressive, or more popular, I spent years learning, listening, and trying out different approaches in order to discern my particular lane of justice work. Once I had an inkling of what that lane was, I kept actively learning, listening, and growing so I could continually hone my understanding of it and develop the skills I needed to operate in it. That journey has given me a very clear sense of what I am and what I am not as an educator and advocate and perhaps it’s time I started respecting the boundaries that clarity has created rather than feeling like my inability to be more like someone else is a personal failing.
Because even as I’ve doubted how much my work as an LGBTQ+ educator matters, I’ve still managed to positively affect at least a few people. Maybe, not in as many ways as others, but in ways that meant enough to the people I’ve worked with that they’ve shared that feedback with me. And that doesn’t sound like the result of work that does not matter.
So, despite my doubts, I’m trying to lean into the idea that my lane of work is necessary, liberating, and important. As a testament to that leaning in, I’ve created a video that explains more about what I do as an LGBTQ+ educator, how I do it, and why I do it that way.
On one hand, this video is a simple introduction to my work as I understand it right now. But on the other hand, it is a challenge to the invalidating thoughts in my head.
While my uncertainties say my work doesn’t matter outside my personal growth, this video suggests that my work and vision matter enough to be shared. While my insecurities tell me I need to be more like other people, this video affirms that I don’t have to operate in the lanes and labels that other people do for my work or my professional identities to count. While my doubt says moving into someone else’s lane might be the most helpful act I can manage, this video reminds me that if I step out of my lane then the people who need what I was specifically placed here to provide will not get what they need and deserve.
So, yes, this video is an introduction to my work but it is also a charge to myself to unabashedly claim my lane and my identities, despite the temptation to negatively compare myself to others and doubt my own impact. I hope that by taking up this charge and being honest about how hard that can be I will not only be a better educator and advocate but also be an example for those like me who doubt the importance of their lane.
Because part of my vision for the future includes a time when more people can access, embrace, and operate in their lanes of difference making. When more people can internalize the truth that there is more than one right way to change the world and that every right way is just as necessary as the others, no matter how unique it may be.
This is the right way for me right now. Here’s to hoping it makes space for others to value and commit to their right ways too: