My Own History

Al, Jeanne, Steve, and Tom.
I am in the centre of this photo, with my cousin Tina (left) and my brother Steve (right). My dad Al is in the truck. The truck belongs to my uncle John. We are about to go to Williams Lake, outside of Cheney, WA (the town where I grew up).
I was seven when Mount Saint Helens erupted in 1980. The ash from the eruption reached our home in Cheney and I have vivid memories of living in an ash-covered city. This photo is one of my favourites, with my dad mowing the lawn, wearing a face mask, and blowing up a small plume of the ash. This would be been a few months after the eruption in May.
I attended my first formal (semi?) dance with Jennifer in 1987, who asked me to attend Gonzaga Prep’s Sadie Hawkins dance with her. The tradition was for girls to ask boys to attend this dance.
I attended high school at three different schools. One in Spokane, WA. The next in Cheney, WA. And the third in Bremerton, WA. I graduated in 1991. Here I am with my step dad Dean (left) and brother Steve (right).
I came out as gay soon after graduating from high school. I wasn’t ready for college yet and so I instead ended up working at a restaurant in Seattle and later for the Washington state Senate. This photo is of Pat (right) and me at my 19th birthday. Pat was my first boyfriend. We met at church.
I then became an AIDS activist, fighting for more resources and better treatments for people with HIV. This photo is of a funeral in 1998 outside the White House. The funeral, which I did not attend personally, was for a friend and fellow activist. His name was Steve Micheal. His partner of seven years was Wayne Turner (left). Steve played an important part of my experience as an AIDS activist. This was a tough time. I was often very angry during this time. I was depressed for a long time after.
I took some time off from activism and helped my mom and step dad open a children’s book and toy store. When I was ready to be an organizer again, I worked with public housing residents in Washington, DC for the human right to housing and then with homeless day labourers for the right to a living wage and work with dignity. In this photo I am speaking on the night workers called off a hunger strike because they had secured a living wage for the cleaners at Baltimore’s Camden Yards baseball stadium.
Later I worked in television and viral video production, including with my friends Norma and Luke. With Norma, I helped produce a public television show on business and financial literacy for young people. With Luke, I helped make viral videos viewed by tens of millions of people in the early days of YouTube and other social media. This photo is taken on the set of one of Luke’s productions, in Los Angeles.
After the Living Wages Campaign at Camden Yards, I helped organize one final march for better working conditions in downtown Baltimore. I enjoyed organizing marches but didn’t relax until the end (because there are lots of things that can go wrong). Everyone’s safety and keeping in charge or your group’s message are the most important tasks for any march organizer. (That’s why I look so serious and frowny in this photo.)
My now husband Ron and I moved to Toronto in 2007. This is our apartment in Toronto (we’re in the 2nd floor of the corner house). We immigrated from the United States to Canada because the US government was torturing people in Iraq. Also, the United States still legally discriminated against LGBTQ+ people at that time – in terms of our rights to marriage and protections against discrimination in terms of health care, education, employment, and housing.
In 2009, Ron (centre) and I were married on our tenth anniversary in Toronto at the City Hall. This was two years after we moved to Toronto. My best friend Todd (left) is reading a passage as part of the ceremony. It’s a very serious passage, as you can see by this “happy” wedding photo. (Truth is: The service was one of the happiest moments in my life.)
A couple of weeks after Ron and I were married, we moved to BC. We drove from Toronto to Vancouver and we camped along the way. It was one of my favourite trips, even though we didn’t technically call it our honey moon (we went to Paris for that). (Note: This photo is not actually from that trip. It’s from a later trip to the Rockies and it’s my favourite camping photo. But the point remains, even if the photo is wrong.)
Our marriage ceremony was in Toronto but most of my family lived in Washington state. We were married, then went to Paris for our honey moon, and drove from Toronto to Vancouver (we were moving to be closer to my family near Seattle). Once back on the West Coast, we held a reception for family and friends. This photo is of my mom Jeanne and me, the weekend of the marriage reception.
I have always been proud and curious of my Irish-American heritage. My grandmother (from my dad’s side of the family) was first generation Irish-American. Irish culture was passed down in part through the Catholic faith, which was part of my youth and helped form my belief in a socially just God who wants us to join in the struggle for loving justice, dignity, and respect for all. In this photo, Ron and I are visiting Ireland together.
My family used to meet every Labour Day weekend on the Hood Canal for an annual dinner. Here were are together in 2001. You can see Ron at the head of the table, with me to the left of him in the photo.
If you look closely, I am in the back centre of this photo. The children are from the child care centre where I worked at the time. This was at the Universally of British Columbia in Vancouver. The Canucks were practising at the arena on campus.
After the campaign for living wages in Baltimore (which I did from Toronto for the final years) I moved to Vancouver so I could be closer to family (my step dad was very sick at the time). In Vancouver I organized early childhood educators who were paid lower wages due gender pay inequity (paying women lower wages than what men are paid). This photo is of a launch event for a campaign that demanded a 20% “pay correction” for the child care professionals at the University of British Columbia. The demands were later met. This was my final community organising campaign.
This photo is of my mom Jeanne and my step dad Dean. It is the last time I was with Dean. It is our last photo together. Dean was a helicopter pilot in America’s Vietnam War. He was exposed to Agent Orange, a poisonous herbicide that was used by the US military to clear the countryside. Exposure to Agent Orange eventually led to his death (decades after the war was officially over).
Once the Child Care Equity Campaign was over, and soon after Dean’s death, I became a teacher; a switch from organizing to a new career. I also moved from Vancouver to Haida Gwaii. In this photo teachers from the school where I worked, GidGalang Kuuyas Naay Secondary, are boating to nearby islands. We were learning more about the land and its history as part of a professional development day for teachers.
While teaching in Haida Gwaii, my friend Toby (man with the hat) taught me a lot about how to learn outdoors. Here he and Stu (another friend who also taught me about outdoor learning) are working with students in my Grade 4/5 class.
Seeing whales while boating was a perk of living in Haida Gwaii, for sure.
Having not acted on stage since Grade 7 and been in any theatre production since being a stage hand in Grade 9, I became the Drama advisor for the students at Gidgalang Kuuyas Naay Secondary. I learned everything I needed about live theatre and drama from the pros – my students. Here they are at a drama festival in Terrace, BC.
This is the view from our home in Prince Rupert. We moved to Prince Rupert in 2018 and I am now a teacher at the middle school. I teach Grade 7 and Drama 8. (It seldom snows in Prince Rupert, but it looks amazing when it does!)

Critical Education Project

I am the founding organizer of the Critical Education Project, a network of North Coast and Skeena region educators.

Scrawler’s Academy

I am the lead facilitator of the Scrawler’s Academy, a creative writing program for teen authors.