by Theresa Dooley
Watershed is a unique school. With a tight-knit community and an alternative approach to learning, it can be difficult to be new. The process of integrating new teachers into the “Watershed way” appears to be rocky from a student’s perspective. The process will never be perfect, but it is possible that, if new teachers were informed about more nuances of the school, it could be smoother. In an attempt to identify those important nuances, this article addresses the experience of Watershed’s newest teachers. In informal interviews, these teachers were asked about what they learned about the school before they started teaching as well as what they wished they had known sooner. Given the responses of the new teachers, this article will address the main points of class hierarchy, teaching freedom, student knowledge, and student-to-teacher relationships and will bring clarity to the student body regarding how new teachers learn about the school.
Teacher Training Process
In August, before school starts for students, there are two days dedicated to training new teachers. Before the spring semester, the teachers also have a planning week without students where teachers can be introduced to the school. Along with these dedicated slots of planning time, the teachers go on a retreat at the beginning of the year. It appears as though the staff at Watershed strives to form a community within themselves in the same way that they strive to form a community within the student body. Every new teacher who was interviewed for this article expressed gratitude for the support that they received from their fellow teachers. The process of getting to know the school seems to be very self-driven, but when the teacher reaches out, many of their colleagues are very willing to help them through the process. Overall, the process of getting to know Watershed seems fairly unstructured, but the staff are all very committed to providing the best experience for each other and the students.
Expedition classes are the core of the Watershed curriculum. This means that a fieldwork opportunity for an expedition class may lead to students missing their skills classes. The existence of this system is not necessarily bad; however, a couple of skills teachers have expressed that they wish that had been more directly informed about the number of classes that students would be missing. It is very important for new teachers to expect the expedition classes to go on a week-long trip each semester. It does not even have to be a specified number of classes, just the fact that students will not attend every day that the schedule says there are skills classes.
Along with the impact that expedition has on skills classes, it is important to recognize the prioritization within skills classes. Every student's schedule is formed around the time of their math class. Again, the nature of this system makes complete sense, but teachers that are hired to instruct Spanish or art should be aware that they may have students in their class who are not in the ideal level for their abilities. Many students at Watershed have been placed in a Spanish class that is either a level above or below where they should be because the ideal level is only offered during their math class. Being in an improper level will always be a difficult situation to handle for both the student and the teacher, but the best way to start is to make sure the teacher is aware that those students will exist.
Watershed teachers are not required to follow a strict lesson plan. This means that they have a lot of freedom in deciding what and how they teach their class. The opportunities that come with this freedom can be very exciting. It is great that the administration is really open to new ideas. Teachers have expressed that they wish they had known about this freedom sooner so that they could have taken advantage of the vast number of possibilities that come with teaching a Watershed class.
Given the freedom that teachers are given, there is not a very clear way to know what students have learned in the past. Multiple teachers have said that they started their classes very blindly, leading to the conclusion that there is not a clear system of recording the content that is covered in Watershed classes. It could be very beneficial to create some sort of standard of recording the topics that are taught, so that future teachers can read them and gain a basic understanding of the knowledge that their students will have. It is clear that there is constant collaboration among teachers at Watershed, which is wonderful. In the case of student knowledge, however, a slightly more formal approach may be more successful. If each teacher were to make a simple list of all of the topics that they cover in each class and a system is implemented so those lists are readily available to new teachers, there would be a stronger basis for teachers to start their classes on the right foot.
The culture at Watershed fosters very casual relationships between students and teachers. This means that there is less hierarchy within the classroom, which can be very beneficial. It also means that students sometimes address teachers with very little respect for their authority. The student body tends to be spoiled when it comes to the quality of teachers that they get, and that leads to very high expectations. With high expectations and a lack of fear to disagree with teachers, students can cause very stressful environments for new teachers who are still trying to figure out how the teacher-to-student interactions work at Watershed. A solution to this common tension between new teachers and the student body would require students to commit to the success of their teachers. Students expect a lot of transparency from the administration, and they should strive to be transparent as well. It should be clearer to new teachers what students expect out of a Watershed teacher. This transparency could potentially be achieved by an organized committee of students that meet with the new teachers before and during the school year. This would create an environment where new teachers are able to directly hear from students. Whether or not this committee is the solution, it is important for new teachers to be aware of informal connections that are common at Watershed.
All of these topics are important to the values that Watershed possesses. Watershed provides a wonderful learning environment for many students, and its success could be amplified if new teachers were more directly guided towards understanding the little things that make the school what it is. It can be difficult to pinpoint the nuances that define the community from the inside, but class hierarchy, teaching freedom, student knowledge, and student-to-teacher relationships are topics that have been pinpointed by the community's newest members as important components. If new teachers are able to be informed about these components before they begin teaching, integration into the Watershed community could be a smoother process for new teachers.
Attendees of the prior semester’s FAIR (Festival of the Arts & Intellectual Reflection) may have noticed that, while the majority of the student art was displayed prominently on countertops and lining the hallways, certain pieces—presenting depictions of the female body, some nude and others not—were sequestered to the art room behind a carefully-worded disclaimer. Among the works kept to the art room were Grace Kelly’s plaster-cast sculpture of a female torso and bust decorated with vines and flowers; Eloise Howell’s boldly-colored oil pastel drawing of a nude woman in a kitchen; and the high school drawing class’s figure drawings done of a live model (most subtle and bikini-clad, with a few depicting full nudity alongside yet another carefully-worded disclaimer and with the permission of the model).
These pieces, like all of the art created by members of the Watershed Community, were beautiful and honest. They were products of self-love and society and aesthetic and the desire to create—and, of course, teacher instruction. And, by being placed in a room of their own, they were censored.
The reasoning behind this decision appears simple enough: it’s about keeping FAIR non-controversial and family-friendly while balancing the expectations of a school environment against the need for artistic expression. However, its implications are far more complicated.
CENSORSHIP IN ART: THE RUNDOWN
The discussion of censorship in art is multifaceted. It includes political expression, often associated with places authoritarian governments and oppressive states, exemplified by the art of Banksy and Ai Wei; it pushes against art that frustrates, art that infuriates, art that brings up tension or makes people uncomfortable. (See the fascinating New York Times editorial by Roberta Smith, “Should Art That Infuriates Be Removed?”, discussing specifically an art exhibit which commented on racism and brought a great deal of protest to the Whitney Museum of American Art). And, of course, it extends to concerns about nudity.
Just over a century ago, an exhibition of painting the well-known Amedeo Modigliani at the Berthe Weill gallery in Paris was shut down “within hours of its opening” due to depictions of nudity (Nude Art and Censorship Laid Bare, 30 November 2017, Jessica Lack for CNN). According to the author of the article, “The police commissioner at the time had been offended by the depiction of pubic hair.” Further, according to many, controversy surrounding nudity in art is rarely just about nudity. In the case of the censored Modigliani exhibit:
Still, for the most part, the art world of the current day recognizes a difference between nudity deserving of censorship and artistic portrayals of the human form. At least in the United States, Canada, and Europe, the suppression of artwork depicting nudity rarely occurs in museums and fine art establishments, occurring only occasionally in galleries and small exhibits.
Censorship of this kind is not in the past, however. It exists strongly in the policies of social media giants like Facebook, which was protested just last year after blocking paintings by the Flemish master Peter Paul Rubens. According to an analysis for ArtNet News, written by Tim Schneider, “art censorship is built into Facebook’s DNA,” especially when it comes to nudity, despite what Facebook’s community standards may say. These standards allow for “photographs of paintings, sculptures, and other art that depicts nude figures,” prohibiting only graphic depictions of sexual behavior. However, due to errors made by both the artificial intelligences and humans responsible for keeping the media platform clean, nudity in art is recurrently flagged as inappropriate.
The erroneous mixing-up of art and pornography when it comes to social media is reflective of a larger issue: the boundaries are vague. The judgments of both humans and AI are fallible, and—especially in the age of digital photography and hyperrealism—art has no clear definition. More crucially, however, the distinction between art and obscenity is ever-changing, ever-debated, and ever-ambiguous. This obscurity is at the root of decisions like that to place certain artwork from the high school’s visual art class in the art room rather than displaying them in the hallways with the rest of the student works.
CELEBRATING FORM: THE STUDENT PERSPECTIVE
The administration’s decision not to display certain student art in the hallways was met with equal parts understanding and frustration. Grace Kelly, a 12th-grade student whose plaster sculpture was placed among the works deemed inappropriate, said, “A lot of the reasoning that I saw was that it might be inappropriate for the younger students, like the middle schoolers and their families, which I understand. But it’s also frustrating.”
Eloise Howell, another senior in Chris’s drawing class, expressed frustration arising from both feelings of being censored, especially when it comes to restrictions put on the female form that may not have been applied to depictions of the male body, as well as a lack of clarity around why her pieces weren’t being displayed. “I was a little upset and confused as to why I wasn’t allowed to show [my piece],” she says.
For both Grace and Eloise, the intentions behind their artworks were far from pornographic. Grace built her piece around appreciation for the natural female form, depicting “a celebration of the female body as well as different forms of expressing femininity” through the symbolism of Mother Nature. Similarly, Eloise had the intention of celebrating form and challenging male control over the depiction of female form. “I think that female artists depicting women’s bodies gives a very different message than how males have depicted women’s bodies in the past. Historically, [men have] been in control—they’ve been in charge of curating art and of industries in general. I think it would have been a good decision and an empowering decision to allow a female artist to display their interpretation of a woman’s body.”
On the other side, however, are a multitude of considerations which led to the ultimate decision—one of which addresses the very issue of female form and celebration versus objectification which lay at the heart of both Eloise and Grace’s works. I met with Chris Carithers, Watershed’s art teacher, who explained the challenging responsibility of managing the different expectations of artistic expression in museums as opposed to in a school environment.
“There are implicit expectations. If you go to a gallery or a museum, and you’re the parent of a child (or just an individual), you have certain expectations of what you might see, versus coming to a school,” he explains. “Ultimately, that was the decision here. [With] certain art kept in a certain room, people choose to come in, and there’s a sign that helps to manage those expectations.”
At odds with these organizational expectations, however, is the artist. Chris acknowledges this, asking: “What considerations do we give to the artist? You made this, you’re proud of it—what does it do to you as an artist to then say, ‘That’ll never see the light of day?’ It’s kind of intense.”
Further, he describes the tensions that exist solely within figure drawing as an art form, which address the very issues of objectification and female empowerment expressed within Grace and Eloise’s pieces. While figure drawing is a classical technique, incomparable in terms of practice with form, shape, and value, it can also be very gender-normative. “When you look at the images, they’re very much in line with the female figure that has been promoted in our world. Even though it’s a good study for all of this, it falls into this tradition of de-clothing the female form more than the male form.”
Head of school Tim Breen highlights his admiration for the student work and dedicated hours of conversation to the decision. “I still can’t say the decision was the ‘right’ one,” he says. But it was the thoughtful result of careful consideration with the best possible intentions.
The issue of displaying nudity in art—especially in the context of a school environment—is not a simple one. While the need for free, artistic expression is undeniable, so too is the responsibility of a school to hold the expectations of family environments.
“There’s a pretty vast landscape,” Chris emphasizes. “This is the tip of the iceberg. And there's a tension that exists in a lot of different directions. I would say that it’s not an easy decision for Tim, for me, for the artist. When you try to take it all into account, it gets kind of complex.”
by the 2019 Senior Class
Watershed’s 2019 senior class is approaching the end of the college application process, and now—the time between hitting “submit” and receiving a decision—can feel like a kind of purgatory. The Watermark has gathered some of these seniors’ favorite pieces from their application essays to share and celebrate their hard work.
Since I was twelve, when I started writing my first and admittedly rather dreadful novel, I have regularly carried pens around in my shoes. It began as an autumn-to-winter ordeal, a writerly capitalization on the extra storage space afforded by winter boots, but has made its way into the other seasons through the acquisition of high-top Converse and thinner ballpoints. And, though I often end up losing writing instruments as a result of this peculiar habit, and despite one broken ballpoint that resulted in a permanently ink-stained pair of sneakers, I continue to do so—and expect I always will.
"When I was fourteen, I could barely walk up the stairs. I took them one by one, like an old man, because of a condition I later discovered affecting the cartilage in my knees. It was during this difficult time I discovered immersing myself in video games helped by giving me a much-needed escape and introduced me into the world of coding."
I had assembled my tarp-fort the previous afternoon, moved the branches and logs, to lean against the trees and bind together with rope. I pulled the orange tarp taught from all four corners. My instructor complimented me on its quality: “A whole bear could fit in there,” he remarked. If this were a work of fiction, readers would commend the author for their use of foreshadowing.
Like every other morning on this trip, I woke up cold and damp. I lay face-down, attempting to will away the chill that slowly crept through my sleeping bag (which was so old that, when one looked through it towards a light, the like matted insulation looked like storm clouds). The hood of the bag made my face feel as though I was in a public swimming pool: slimy and gritty. My whole body had slid downhill during the night, leaving me only half-covered. I woke up slowly. I could see the light that made it through the bag, tinted orange from its journey through the tarp. Then I heard the grunting.
A whole bear could fit in there. The words echo in my mind.
I strained against my own shivering, willing the beast to move on without taking notice of my burrito-style existence.
As a toddler growing up in Saratoga, California, I spent much of my time exploring the Monterey Bay Aquarium, watching the amazing sea creatures swim effortlessly in their habitats. I also spent time exploring the tidepools along the California coast. Every July, we traveled to Vancouver Island where I spent countless hours exploring the tidepools that hug the bottom of the cliffs nearby. Wandering the beach inspired my curiosity for the ocean and the creatures that live within. Watching the waves crashing and the sunlight catching the crests, my mind took me beneath the waves. I had so many questions. Without teeth, how could the starfish eat the mussel? How could a starfish breathe on land? Did any sea creature sleep? By the time I was six, I had discovered my passion - asking questions and finding answers about the ocean. Summer after summer, I set out to discover answers to the questions that occupied my thoughts.
It was 4:30 am, and I awoke for the fourth time that night to water dripping all over me. I gazed up at the ceiling in the dark room to identify where the water was leaking from. I pushed my rusty, metal bedframe and mattress across the soaking wet cement floor to a new location once again—this time in the center of the room. The next morning, I was awakened by aggressive, rushing knocks on the door from my homestay mother announcing that she needed help emptying the water flooding the house. She handed me a bucket, and we got to straight to work.
Because every movement I did required energy, and I only had a certain amount of energy to expend each day, I had to pay extremely close attention to exactly what I was doing in each moment. No longer could I casually grab an object off the table without a thought. Instead, I had to be vastly conscious of the fact that I was about to pick something up. I had to think about the best way I could pick it up, how heavy it was and how long I would need to be holding it. Then, when I picked it up, I had to concentrate on only one thing, holding that object, and whatever it is I was planning to do with it. So, even the act of picking up a glass of water and taking a sip became a careful and almost religious experience. This was my life for over a year. I had to be “on” all the time, in each moment, staying attentive to exactly what I was doing, and how I was relating to my experience. It taught me something that I think very few people in the world get the chance of learning. It taught me to be observant and aware, to think through my decisions critically, and to not act impulsively or ignorantly.
Every year in late August, while Boulder and Fairview High School students are figuring out their locker combinations and preparing for upcoming quizzes, Watershed’s high school community loads itself and eight days’ worth of supplies into each bus and embarks on a journey toward the beautiful Indian Peaks and James Peak Wildernesses. Following this fateful bus ride is a week of climbing switchbacks, pitching tarps, and community-building so classically strong that it would be laughable were it not so effective.
From an expanding student body to a new science lab, from new teachers to a new head-of-school, every Watershed student knows change to be a constant. Within such development, however, seeing a return to foundations is equally as refreshing.
In addition to the standard head-of-school responsibilities, Tim Breen is kicking off his first year at Watershed by “revising, revisiting, and reaffirming” the Design Principles laid out in 2004 by the school’s founders, Jason Berv and Sumaya Abu-Haidar. These ten principles, now unfamiliar to even the lifetime Watershed student, were developed to reflect the best education practices possible based on the founders’ research as graduate students in education. In the words of the founders, they were created “to inform the creation and development of the Watershed School” and to “focus our vision, remind us of what is important, and inform our decisions.”
This review process, consisting of feedback from students, parents, trustees, board members, teachers, administration, and even Jason Berv himself, is closely tied to the idea of culture-keeping amid change. “We’re reconnecting with our history,” Tim explains. “We are very deliberately looking at the founding principles of the school and using those as the jumping off point for the future of the school.”
So, why now? Before Tim started as head-of-school at Watershed, he spent time learning about the history of the Watershed School by looking at the website in archive.org’s “Wayback Machine.” There, he found the ten Design Principles and immediately saw it as an opportunity to reconnect with and revive Watershed’s conceptual foundations. “Sometimes, you internalize things like the Design Principles so much that you stop talking about them until there’s change and evolution among the student body or teachers,” he explains.
For the future of the school, Tim Breen envisions an ever-evolving set of Design Principles in order to continually align the school with the best educational practices and most relevant values possible.
To learn more about the original Design Principles, take a look at the Watershed School website in the Wayback Machine:
During the yearly middle school orientation trip there was one part that really stood out. We had just gotten back from a game of yeti bottle at Rifle Gap State Park. We ate dinner and went to meet with our advisories. We did some fun group activities, but soon the sun set and we all went to our tents for the night. The teachers came by and said it was time to turn off the and lights go to sleep.
Then, in the middle of the night, I heard a loud scream and I abruptly woke up and asked, drowsily, “what is going on?” Once we realized what was happening, nearly everyone was very nervous. About 20 minutes later, Jeff came by with a very scary voice and said, “get your headlamp and get to your advisory bus as soon as possible!” Everyone's shoes and pajamas were soaking.
We all ran to the bus, despite the rain pouring down on our heads, soaking our clothes and chilling us to the bone. For the girls, the buses were all the way across a field of grass and goat heads. Goat heads are little plants that look soft but are actually very pointy and sharp, and easily get stuck in your skin or your clothes. Additionally (as if that isn't already bad enough), they are practically invisible in the dark. By the time we boarded the bus, everyone was grumpy, cold and very, very tired. Nearly an hour later (2:00), everyone went back to their tents. We went to sleep, and in the morning, it was like nothing had even happened.
by Sam Andrews
On March 14th (The one-month anniversary of the Parkland shooting), nationwide walkouts were held in both remembrance of the lives lost in the Parkland shooting, and in protest of the lack of regulation that allowed this act of violence to occur. The Watershed School came out in support of this protest, organized by Dani Cooke and myself. This document aims to illustrate as much information as possible about the protest that occurred,as well as its results in Watershed.
What was the Stoneman Douglas/Parkland shooting?
The Stoneman Douglas shooting was a mass shooting that occurred at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on February, 14th, 2018 (Valentine’s Day). Nearing dismissal time, somewhere between 2:10 and 2:30 PM, Nikolas Cruz opened fire on the first floor of the building and proceeded onto the second floor before dropping his weapons and exiting the crime scene, blending in with fleeing students.
At 3:00 PM, the school was officially declared an active crime scene, and after further investigation, the Broward County Police Department confirmed 17 deaths and at least 15 injuries, making this event one of the deadliest known school shootings in world history.
Why do we consider this shooting to be indicative of a larger problem?
Nikolas Cruz has now been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder. Prior to the attack, he legally obtained at least ten firearms including those used in the shooting, passing multiple instant background checks despite his extensive violent criminal history including reports of child/elder abuse, domestic disturbances, and public disturbances.
The Broward County Police Department received multiple (estimates range from 23 to 45 calls) anonymous tips regarding safety concerns surrounding the suspect. Still, nothing was done to restrain his access to high-powered firearms and assault weapons.
How has this event affected the U.S?
Historically speaking, many of the mass shootings that have occured in the U.S have drawn short-lived media attention that has died down without causing much impact on our national legislation or way of life. However, this does not seem to be he case with the Parkland Shooting.
Recently, the U.S has been experiencing a massive surge in activism, and the reaction to the Parkland shooting is a prime example of this. Since the shooting occured, the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School—as well as many others across the country—have started multiple movements. These include the #ENOUGH movement as well as widespread organized protests and walkouts which have already instigated adjustments to legislation surrounding gun control in Florida through their demand for change.
This protest today has been directly precipitated by the efforts of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students and is meant to help continue the forward push that they have started.
What are Watershed students doing about this issue?
In order to help push this movement further, many of us will be participating in multiple forms of protest.
The first way in which we will be protesting is simply by walking out for 17 minutes during the school day (one for each of the victims who died in the shooting). This not only sends a message to those around us about how we feel, but also simulates how a school day might look in the future if we do not successfully incite change.
The second way we will be protesting gun violence is by holding a write-in and flooding our senators’ and representatives’ offices with messages, requests, opinions, and demands including:
What were the results of our efforts on March 14?
Overall, 57 members of the Watershed community participated in the walkout itself. Over sixty letters addressing the role Congress should play in the gun control movement were written by the community; based on the total number of members of faculty and student who attend the Watershed School (110 members), slightly more than 51% of the school participated in the walkout, while over 60 individuals—including parents, teachers, students, administrators, and even grandparents—participated in the write-in.
The protest can be considered even more successful when it is taken into account that March 14th coincided with Watershed’s senior ditch day, and no 12th grade students were present on that day, meaning that Watershed had at most 98 potential participants present. Under the circumstances that we take into account the missing seniors, 58% of potential participants attended the walkout.
Most importantly, however, the effects of the protest move far beyond the immediate Watershed community.
How you can help further?
If you want to help further, you can do so by continuing to protest by yourself, or along with many of the already-organized protests occurring in the future. Such events include:
The greatest way that we can honor the memories of those lost is to make sure that this never happens again. Thank you for the contribution and support that you have shown, and thank you for any work that you may do in the future.
To contact our Colorado Senators:
Michael Bennet (D): Website: https://www.bennet.senate.gov
Phone number: 1+(303)-455-7600
Local office address: 1127 Sherman St., Suite 150, Denver, CO 80203
Email: ( Use “Contact Michael” link on website)
Cory Gardner (R) Website: https://www.gardner.senate.gov
Phone number: 1+(303) 391-5777
Local office address: 721 19th Street, Suite 150, Denver, CO 80202
Email: (Use “Contact Cory” link on website)
To contact our House Representative:
Jared Polis (D): Website: https://polis.house.gov/
Phone number: (202) 255-2161
Local office address: 1664 Walnut St., Boulder, CO 80302
Email: ( Use “Email Jared” link on website under “Contact”)
To donate to the victims:
To fill out a pre-written form of a letter to a senator:
On Monday, March 19, head of school Greg Bamford responded to student concerns about a lack of transparency and confusion around the intentions behind Watershed’s increasing enrollment in an all-school community meeting. The idea for the presentation originated with the student council, who had been asked by many students to address larger class sizes over the past few semesters.
Greg cited finances as the primary reason for such growth, explaining that increased enrollment allows for more financial independence within the school (without which May Terms and mid-semester travel might not be possible). Increased enrollment allows the school to follow a trajectory of ceasing dependence on certain outside donations in favor of more autonomous self-reliance.
Many students, especially those who have attended Watershed for more than two years, express concern over the limitations imposed by larger class sizes on opportunities for field work and student-teacher interaction. However, there is also widespread agreement that these limitations are typically overcome, as mid-semester travel opportunities and incredibly exciting May Term options remain available.
Additionally, with a larger student body, more intellectual and cultural diversity is fostered within our small school community. The difference in the social scene within a school of one hundred and a school of thirty is massive, and many students, especially those in high school, appreciate the social flexibility offered by a slightly larger educational environment.
Perhaps the most important piece of information students took away from Greg’s presentation was this: the school’s growth is intentional. It is part of a clearly-mapped future plan that was created with Watershed’s best interests in mind; one which will adapt accordingly as Tim Breen assumes the role of Watershed’s head of school.
by Nina Auslander
This month, I interviewed students at Watershed who are pansexual and asexual to learn more about their experiences. They are represented by the aliases Ace Ventura, Ace of Spades, Skillet, and Non-Stick.
(If you are confused by these aliases, let me clarify: “ace” is a nickname for those who identify who are asexual, and “pan” is short for pansexual. Therefore, the asexual interviewees went with aliases that started with “ace,” and the pansexual interviewees went with aliases that are used to describe different kinds of pans.)
Before I begin this interview, here are some LGBTQIA+ terms you may not be familiar with:
Asexuality: a lack of sexual attraction
Aromanticism: a lack of romantic attraction
Pansexuality: Sexual attraction to all genders
Polyamorous: a relationship with multiple partners
Monogamous: a relationship with a single partner
Queer platonic relationship: A relationship that is neither sexual nor romantic but involves deep emotional commitment similar to a that of a long-term romantic relationship.
Sexual attraction: attraction to someone centered on future sexual interaction
Romantic attraction: an attraction centered on future romantic interaction
Platonic attraction: attraction that is neither sexual nor romantic can take a few forms;
Sensual attraction: attraction for someone centered on physical intimacy
Aesthetic attraction: attraction centered on aesthetics (looks), but not in a sexual way
Emotional attraction: attraction centered on emotional intimacy or openness
DSM: Diagnostic statistical manual of mental disorders
#1: What is your sexual orientation and romantic orientation?
Ace Ventura: Asexual, aromantic.
Ace of Spades: Asexual, aromantic.
Skillet: Pansexual, aromantic.
Non-stick: Pansexual, questioning.
#2: When did you first notice your romantic feelings strayed from the "norm"?
Ace Ventura: I always figured, “Oh, I’ll get a crush on someone later. I haven’t hit puberty yet, so that’s why. Then, I was at a summer camp in the Tetons, and all of the girls were giggling about boys. Then, one of them asked me if I had a crush on any boys. I told them “Nope.” One of them asked if I was gay. I didn’t think I was gay, either. Finally, one of the girls asked if I had ever had a crush on anybody, at all. “Not yet,” I responded to her. One of the “experienced” girls asked if I was ace. And it just fit.
Ace of Spades: I put the label on [my sexuality] in seventh grade—because I finally found a label for how I had been feeling. Access to labels was hard.
Skillet: When I never had any (laughs). Well actually, it was when people asked me out, and though I liked those people, I didn’t like that [romantic] attraction. I found it annoying and irrelevant.
Non-stick: When I was a little hatchling and all I wanted was to make out with all of my friends (laughs).
#3: What stigmatizations do you want to break down about your sexuality and romantic attractions?
Ace Ventura: The difference between asexuality and celibacy can be explained using a bar of chocolate. Think of someone who is celibate as someone who avoids the chocolate because they’re dieting. An asexual is just one of those weird people who doesn’t like chocolate.
Ace of Spades: All the time I hear, “It’s just a choice to be asexual, you haven’t found the right person yet.” Many people think that celibacy is the same thing as asexuality, but it’s not. I’ve also heard a lot of the same rhetoric of homophobia used against people who are asexual. But the thing that bothers me the most is that being asexual is still currently classified as a medical disorder is the DSM, called Hypoactive Sexuality Disorder.
Skillet: A lot of people aren’t sure about the difference between pansexual and bisexual. People who identify as pansexual is defined as “someone who is not limited to sexual choice with regard to biological sex, gender, or gender identity,” while people who identify as bisexual are defined as “someone who is sexually attracted to both men and women.”
Non-stick: I agree with “Skillet”: pansexual people aren’t promiscuous, we just don’t care about your gender.
#4: What’s your ideal relationship, platonic or otherwise?
Ace Ventura: I think I would like to live with someone who loves me for me—who doesn’t have any sexual or romantic expectations they need fulfilled. Sometimes I wonder if I will ever have a romantic attraction to someone, but then I wonder if that’s just societal programming telling me that I will want to live with someone.
Ace of Spades: Well, sometimes I think about the tax benefits that come with marrying someone. (laughs). My ideal relationship is a queer platonic relationship, which has many definitions, but to me, it means a very intense friendship with a deeper commitment.
Skillet: A mostly platonic polyamorous relationship would be ideal.
Non-stick: I am the same person as “Skillet.”
#5: Have you ever experienced any discrimination as a result of your sexual or romantic orientation?
Ace Ventura: People have told me that “I’m just trying to be queer.”
Ace of Spades: Well, of course. But the most hurtful is asexual exclusionary, which is when people who identify as asexual are excluded from the LGBTQIA+ community.
Skillet: Guys who know I’m pansexual are less likely to want to be my friends because they’re worried I’ll be attracted to them.
Non-stick: Oh yeah. People not believing it’s not a thing. A kid came out as bi at my old school and nobody wanted to be friends with him. I’ve had the same thing happen where girls don’t want to be friends with me because of [my being pansexual].
Interviewed by Nina Auslander
Nina: How many languages do you speak, and in which order did you learn them?
Nadia: I started learning French when I was very little, so I guess that was my first language. I spoke French with my dad, and Italian with my mom. When I went to preschool, I learned English, and it’s now the language I’m most comfortable with. However, I’m fluent in all three languages.
Nina: Do you find it easier to travel than your classmates?
Nadia: Yeah. Because I know Italian, it was easier for me to pick up Spanish. When I went to Guatemala, I had only taken a semester of Spanish in seventh grade and a semester at Watershed before going on the trip, but I was able to understand what everyone was saying in Guatemala, even if I couldn’t always speak it.
Nina: Do you ever find it challenging in your head to keep the languages straight?
Nina: Do you find that each language brings with it its own culture?
Nadia: Well, there is a difference between Quebec French and France French. My grandparents are French, so my accent growing up in Quebec was a little different from everyone, more of the traditional french accent. In Quebec, the French has a lot more slang and is a little more messy.
Nina: Do you miss having more languages around you? Here, it’s rare to speak more than English, but in Quebec, almost everybody speaks at least two languages…
Nadia: I actually don’t miss it all. In Quebec, almost everything is in French, so it was hard for English speaking families to get around. There was sort of this feud between the French-speaking Quebec and the English-speaking Quebec... the French resented the English because it was them keeping things from being fully French. So it’s weird in a good way not to be surrounded by that anymore.
Nina: Do you dream in different languages?
Nadia: No, not really. I used to have thoughts in French when I was little, but now it’s just English.
Nina: Do you want to learn anymore languages?
Nadia: I want to learn a language that doesn’t have the latin roots. I want to learn a language that’s completely different, like German. I was in Munich this past summer and it was really cool.