Gender Identity Diversity in Alberta Schools

Last week, the Alberta, Canada, Government released a document called Guidelines for Best Practices: Creating Learning Environments that Respect Diverse Sexual Orientations, Gender Identities and Gender Expressions.

You can download the document here in PDF format.

As I read through this document, I wished I would be going to school in this kind of open, accepting environment.

Imagine:

Schools and school authorities [should] proactively review existing dress codes to ensure they are respectful and inclusive of the gender identities and gender expressions of all members of the school community (e.g., rules apply equally and fairly to all students and are not gender-exclusive, such as implying that a certain type of clothing, such as skirts, will be worn by one gender only).

Or how about this:

All students, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, have the right to participate in all curricular and extra-curricular activities. These learning and recreational activities need to occur within inclusive and respectful environments, and in ways that are safe, comfortable and supportive of students’ sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions.

I wanted to spend time with the girls at school, playing their sports and doing the same classes as them. I remember a large number of girls wanting to wear pants instead of skirts. This was at primary school already.

This kind of inclusivity and openness towards a diverse identity of self is incredible.

Thinking about the implications makes me wonder why it took so long to come about. Not only that, but what might have been possible for everyone who has attended school up to now, forced to fit into a certain role according to the genitals they were born with?

This will fundamentally change society.

School is where we learned that girls and boys were different, that girls were delicate and boys were rough and played harder sports. Girls learned how to cook, clean, sew, and boys were taught … I don’t even remember. Was it how to program computers? Kick a ball?

Imagine instead a formative environment where you are encouraged to do whatever you want, physical gender aside.

I should also note that this has nothing to do with sexual orientation or romantic attraction. The guidelines specifically reference that fact, which in itself is remarkable.

This will allow people to embrace the idea that not all effeminate men are gay, that not all butch women are lesbian, and that perhaps a gender binary is an old-fashioned idea that should go away.

Look at this footnote regarding human sexuality:

If a human sexuality class is organized by gender, students are able to choose which class they participate in.

This is blowing my mind, and I’ve been an activist for queer rights for nearly two decades.

For all its wondrousness, these guidelines will not be implemented overnight. Each school and district will have to create and adopt its own policies, and some parents and school boards, particularly in religious-based schools, will refuse.

That is to be expected, and those schools will be left behind, in the past, where they belong.

I cannot express how grateful I am to the province of Alberta, in the country of Canada, my new home, for making inclusion a priority at the school level. I cannot wait for these kids to grow up with tolerance and acceptance as a guiding principle.

Clipboards, Rednex, and being German

I’ve had an interesting weekend.

On Friday night, we hosted nearly fifty people in our house, for the year-end function for some of the hospitalists in town. The hardwood floors took some damage.

On Saturday night, I performed at another private year-end function, for actual money.

My role in Friday night’s affair was to be affable and humorous, based on my real self. I think I succeeded.

My role in Saturday night’s affair was to be a German ski instructor, with flashbacks to the 1980s. I was one of four performers in total, and each of us had a character and had to arrange a dance for the attendees to perform.

I coloured my hair with chalk spray. There were three colours to choose from: blue, pink and green, so I chose all three.

I walked around with a clipboard, a measuring tape, and a giant pink pen. The clipboard had black letter writing on the front page, where I’d written the German word for “clipboard”. It looked menacing.

Klaus Wunderlift

When introducing myself to attendees, I wrote name tags for them with my giant pen, and a pad of yellow sticky notes. For some reason, these were a huge hit. I naturally didn’t use their real names, preferring to make them up as I went along. Some of the more popular names were Loud, Cute Smile, Tall, Awesome and Fab.

I had to call a square dance. Because I’ve never called a square dance in my life, I searched through (many) YouTube clips, and finally settled on a circle dance (as opposed to a square dance), set to the Rednex version of Cotton Eye Joe. Before the dance, I gave a dramatic reading of the chorus, which a friend had translated into “the original” German, about Baumwollaugen-Johannes*.

My German accent has been used in many performances, including as Hubert Gruber from the stage production of ‘Allo! ‘Allo!, to a rewrite of the stage play Night Call, where I play a socialist librarian. Most recently, I’ve been cast in a voice role as a German scientist for an independent game. I’d stop using it if people stopped wanting to hear it. If only I could do an American accent as convincingly.

One thing I’ve learned as a live performer (which includes teaching and presenting, for what it’s worth), is that it doesn’t matter if you don’t know what you’re doing, as long as you can fake it or make it at least look like your ineptitude is intentional.


  • If you’re curious, this is how Cotton Eye Joe looks in German:

Wär’ Baumwollaugen-Johannes nicht gewesen,
wär’ ich schon lang verheiratet.
Wo bist du hergekommen?
Wo bist du hingegangen?
Wo bist du hergekommen, Baumwollaugen-Johannes?

Filmmaking as a Metaphor for the DBA

This post was originally published on my SQL Server blog.

I worked on four films in 2015, three shorts and one feature-length movie, all shot in Calgary where I live. That has resulted in seven IMDb credits for me, someone who earns a living as a DBA.

If nothing else, that experience has scratched an itch I’ve had since I was old enough to wonder what it would be like to act in a movie.

But acting isn’t filmmaking. It’s a very small part of the big picture, along with directing, producing, set building, makeup, lights, cameras, craft services, animal trainers, and so on.

DBAs also do a lot of work behind the scenes to make sure everything works the way it should. The sign of a good DBA is a system that works as expected. The sign of an excellent DBA is recovering from failure, affecting anyone else as little as possible.

Like being an excellent DBA, making films is hard work. Purely from an acting perspective, there are lots of lines to learn, repeating them over and over again, and then having to wait for someone to reset the camera, move some lights or the boom mic, and then do it all over again.

Exactly the same way.

Acting is the antithesis of automation. For example, it can take nine hours to film five pages of a script. Each page in a screenplay equates roughly to one minute of screen time. When I directed our last short, we shot eighteen pages in seven hours. That’s almost unheard of.

In information technology, we are encouraged to automate any repetitive task.

In front of the camera, we can’t automate our lines. Continuity is critical, so that the cup you’re holding at 8:15am during the master shot, is in the same hand at the same line, with the same level of liquid, as the close-up shot at 11pm.

I have also done a little bit of voice acting. Have you seen the film Singin’ in the Rain, starring Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds? She plays a voice-over actor who must redo all the voice parts for Jean Hagen’s character, in a process called ADR (automated dialogue replacement) or Looping.

There’s nothing automated about it. You see the scene and the current audio, and get a metronome counting you in for two or three beats, then you record your dialogue, trying to match against the picture. It’s expensive and time-consuming, and never quite matches.

Sometimes you have to do it in voice acting too. Except, excluding some very minor exceptions, there’s no picture to watch yet. You are in a booth, with headphones, a microphone, and pop filter in front of you. In my case, there’s also an HD web cam in there so that the outside world can see in. In other studios, the booth may be soundproof glass and have the recording equipment and director in view. It’s a very lonely space.

Either way, if I have to do ADR for a movie like Debbie Reynolds did, she’d have a picture to lip sync with. In voice acting, if you have to do ADR, there’s no picture. You hear the original track, you get counted in, and then you do your line while the old one is playing in your headphones.

Try recording yourself, playing it back, and then saying the same line over again, exactly the same way.

Being a DBA has a lot of similarities:

  1. Repetitive tasks
  2. Attention to detail
  3. Troubleshooting with no visual guides
  4. Trying to do something complicated while someone is talking in your ear
  5. Someone is always judging you
  6. You have to go with your instincts sometimes.

Someone asked me recently whether I would choose between being a SQL Server professional, or a filmmaker. I answered that I couldn’t choose. They complement each other and keep me sane.

Thanks for reading. If you’d like to comment on Twitter, find me under @bornsql or @rabryst.