Check out stories, videos, and images of some of the unique and amazing individuals in the Seaton community. Check out more on our Instagram account @humansofseaton
Nov 2018 - Meet an amazing Seaton student!
Meet Walker. He has a talent for solving rubix cubes... click on the video below to see! Makes it look easy doesn’t he?
Nov. 2018- Meet an amazing Seaton teacher- Mr. D! What's your story?
“So… what did you have? And what name did you pick?”
Every day, new parents are asked some version of these two questions. As a culture we are obsessed with the names and genders of newborns. And well before young people can begin establishing and asserting their individual identities, society is only too happy to do it for them. The names we choose tie our kids to family members, cultural traditions, and even popular heroes. As for gender identity, the messages we send range from the obvious (blue for boys, pink for girls) to the subtle (we call our infant girls ‘sweetie’ and our boys ‘bud’). As a child of the 1960s, this was the air I breathed.
So it was discombobulating for everyone when my parents could not agree on my name for almost a week after my birth. No problem though, the nurses at the hospital sorted it all out. As a bouncing 9 pound baby boy, they simply called me Mr. D. The endearment stuck, and although my parents eventually decided on a name that honoured a family friend, Mr. D is how I started my young life.
As so often happens though, names – even nicknames – morph over time. Mine was no exception. It went from Mr. D to Dee to Deedee. Thus, from the time I was only a few months old to the age of 6, I was known to family and friends simply as Deedee.
Looking back now, I don’t remember ever thinking about my identity. Since my family called me Deedee, that was who I was. As for my gender, I don’t remember ever questioning it. I had sisters and brothers, and there was no doubt in my mind that I was a boy. Of course it didn’t hurt that a boy’s life was also a much more privileged one. It gave me more freedom and less household responsibilities, even if I didn’t realize it.
And so I walked into Mrs. Schultz’s Grade 1 classroom that September morning in 1967 for my first day of school at Charlie Lake Elementary, never questioning who I was. Like my older siblings before me, I was finally one of the big kids who got to ride Mr. Ford’s big yellow bus to school everyday. I couldn’t be more proud.
The first day of school was a big deal back then. Everyone was scrubbed and polished. We boys had on our new running shoes, button up shirts, and corderoy pants, and of course our hair was neatly combed and slicked back with Brylcreem. Most of the girls wore frilly dresses and saddle shoes, and their long hair was held in place by barrettes and fell in braids or ringlets.
It was a simple time. Easy. Predictable.
Walking into my classroom that day, I was led to my place in the alphabetically organized seating plan. Excitement, like electricity, coursed through my body. A quiet, observant kid, I looked around and tried to make sense of it all. The only classmate I knew was a neighbour, Gordie Almond. He and his family lived about a mile and a half further up the Alaska Highway from the home we had moved into only a few months earlier. We had met a few times, but we weren’t yet real friends. I also recognized a few of the kids from the bus ride in, nameless children who loaded onto the bus as we travelled the twenty miles to my elementary school.
My seat was on the right hand side of the room, about halfway down the first row of desks. Two seats ahead of me, I noticed a girl in a pink, frilly, floral print dress. She sat upright with her hands clasped on her desk top. Her long blonde hair cascaded down her back in loose ringlets that her mother had undoubtably set in curlers the night before, getting her ready for this important day.
At 9:00 the bell rang to start class – and this new phase in my life. Mrs. Schultz began by welcoming us all to grade one and telling us how happy she was to have us in her class. Then she went through the class list, stopping to ask us the names we went by. The second or third name she came to was Denice Brown, the girl who sat two desks ahead of me. Using a clear, confident voice ‘Denice’ informed Mrs. Schultz that her name was Deedee, Deedee Brown.
Deedee? But that was my name. Why would a girl be called Deedee? Although I didn’t show it on the outside, I was shocked and confused.
And then it hit me: Deedee was a girl’s name.
My heart thumped in my chest. I felt the heat of my blood rise in my cheeks. Surely all of these strangers could see my panic and they would know. When I told everyone my name they would think I too was a girl.
In the few seconds that it took for my teacher to get to my name in the class list, I made my decision.
“Barry Dorval,” called Mrs. Schultz as she came to my name.
I didn’t hesitate. “Here. And yes, my name is Barry.”
Naturally, it took a while for my family to make the switch, but, with my constant reminders, they accepted my decision. My old identity as Deedee faded into history as my ‘new’ name took root.
Looking back on that moment of confusion and embarrassment so many years ago, I smile a bit at the little boy sitting in that desk. I could never have verbalized it then, but I knew that going through life with a ‘girl’s’ name was not going to be okay. Somehow I knew I had to do everything I could to assert and protect my masculinity.
Why was that? I didn’t grow up with a macho father who denigrated women or a bigoted mother who was intolerant of queer folk. In fact, my family was very progressive compared to many. As a six year old, I had never heard of sexism or transphobia, but I was still deeply affected by them. The society I lived in taught me that women were less important than men. And queer folk? It was as if they didn’t even exist.
For the most part, I had an idyllic childhood. I was blissfully unaware of the prejudice that many people encountered and the ignorance and hate that women and queer folk faced back then and still fight now. But just because I didn’t see it doesn’t mean that it didn’t exist.
As my experience showed me on that fine fall day, I had absorbed the belief that to be a girl was somehow ‘less than’ and to give anyone any reason to question my gender was a fate to be avoided at all costs. As much as I wish it hadn’t, society’s messaging had already seeped into my six year old being and shaped my worldview in powerful ways. It had forced me and most of those I knew into narrow boxes, boxes with walls constructed of fear, misunderstanding and even hate.
Maybe that is why it is so important to me now to push back against those walls. I want to help my own children and the young people I work with live a life that isn’t squeezed by the same prejudices that limited my life and forced me to abandon a name that had nothing to do with gender.
You see, Deedee wasn’t a ‘girl’s name’ when it was given to me; it was only ever a playful nickname that welcomed an adored infant into a family’s affirmation and love.