This talk will make you 🌈 A #HowToInclusive origin story

Before April 3, 2019, I’d been to many LGBTQ-focussed talks (I say many, but there weren’t many across all conferences I’d been to actually); I loved all of them. They mainly pointed out the invisibility of gay identities from published materials and training courses. Important. But that’s where the discussion seemed to stay: there’s a problem and we need to do something about it. I myself gave talks from this angle too. We must do something. We. must. do. something. But who? Who was going to finally do something concrete?

It dawned on me: Who am I waiting for? Why am I putting the responsibility on someone other than myself? Tyson: you are capable and you’ll learn so much through the process. So I began working on what an inclusive coursebook unit–not just basic worksheets, but something pedagogically-complete and commercially well-designed–could look like. Maybe it could be an example for materials writers, for publishers, for teachers. Later that year, I proposed it as an IATEFL talk, partly to push myself to do it. I wanted a punchy title, something that told you enough about the queer inclusion, the materials writing angle, but also grabbed attention, since we all know titles are what most people scan for interest, not the abstracts. This talk will make you gay (or your materials anyways): 9 words to fit the constraints of the proposal and that would get the ball rolling on this adventure I didn’t realise was coming.

My talk was selected as part of the Inclusive Practices & Special Education Needs Special Interest Group (IP&SENSIG) Showcase Day and I was excited to show my work to my peers at IATEFL. I’d written and designed part of the materials and stayed up most of the previous night extra-polishing the slides I’d use to introduce everyone to a version of usualisation & disruption.

🌈 My mind raced through various scenarios.

BUT. The day before, for TDSIG, I’d been in this exact room (capacity: 150) and used my mac on the podium. The connection flickered on/off frequently but always came back. I knew this was an issue, but I brought my mac to give this talk anyway: NO CONNECTION. We called for a tech to come in and help, but 5 mins passed, then 10 mins passed and no one came to help. A packed room stared at me, murmuring to themselves, as I feigned calm yet sweat.

My mind raced through various scenarios. For a 30-min talk, what happens if I don’t get the slides to show until 20 mins in? Do I just go? What if I can’t get them to work at all!? How can I disappoint everyone so much and myself and IP&SEN organisers?

I quickly went to Google Drive on the PC that came with the podium, where I had a backup copy of the slides, but I had to log out of the Google account that was set up by default. Then remember my password. Then have a 2-step authentication because it wasn’t my computer… then… then… then…

FINALLY. Slides showed up through the PC through the projector. I raised my arms in the air and sang a grateful (and proud) HALLELUJAH across the room. Everyone smiled and clapped at the site of working visuals. I asked everyone if I could go into the break time that followed and everyone nodded supportively.

🌈 And my path took a turn.

And so the talk began, 12 mins later than it should. This talk shifted the discussion we’d been having on LGBTQIA in ELT and my path took a turn.

Whereto now? Get the How to Write Inclusive Materials book. 🙂

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