Forward by Abby Karos, Compass Co-Director
Ash is, at 16, not only one of our oldest members, but is also a role model for the other transgender teens at Compass, although he would not identify as such. His trademark cat ears and tail signal confidence, indifference to the opinions of others (I have seen him get looks from government bureaucrats in downtown Ottawa; he doesn’t take notice), and originality. He knows what solitude is. As much as it cost him in terms of loneliness, it also seems to have given him inner strength and a deeper sense of self. Ash can only be himself; non-authenticity is not in his nature. He is calm, introspective, and funny. And we couldn’t do without him.
The following is written by Ashton King, current Compass member
Hey, my name is Ashton. I’m a 16 year old trans boy and one of the members at Compass. I love drawing, drama class, dolphins, and much more!
I’ve gone to public school and been home- schooled, but right before coming to Compass I was unschooling. Being able to choose for myself what I learned worked for me.
I enjoyed it, and it was nowhere near as stressful as being told what I needed to do, learn, and know. However, being as I am a very social person and had only one friend at the time, I needed a way to connect with others. This is why Compass works for me. I get to choose my own classes and also meet others with similar interests.
The rest of the piece is in interview format, with co-director Abby Karos asking the questions:
Why does Compass work so well for you socially?
Compass is a safe social space for LGBTQ+ teens, which is something you won’t find in many traditional schools because the people running it are accepting and are striving to have it be that as opposed to a blind, memory-building exercise. My experience of school was that you go there, memorize certain things, spew them out for a test and then forget them. When things are meaningful to people and they’re not being controlled, they’re generally going to be happier and less interested in bugging other people.
Do you have any fears about being an unschooler?
At first I did, but then I got over it.
What are your goals and thoughts about the future?
I’d like to work with rescue dolphins – dolphins are my favourite animals. They’re playful and intelligent and can solve problems they’re given. They catch fish in a cooperative way. I like how thoughtful they are and that they’re aware of their own existence. Since they’re self-aware, it also means they sometimes do bad things. They help fisherman by helping them catch fish. They’re so calming to watch. They name each other and other objects. Humans always think of themselves as naming things, but other animals do it too.
I am ecstatic because I will get to move out of the house when I’m an adult. I’m trying to be more responsible to prepare for it. I’m excited to be independent. I think about decorating my future apartment.
How do you compare being able to work toward your future goals at Compass versus in traditional schools?
School is restricting and I would have no time to do what I wanted. At Compass you can actually help me look for a job and work on my résumé.
What is your experience of the classes here?
The classes here are cooler than when I was unschooling because there is a teacher and other kids. I was already learning outside of school and Compass before and being here now is a continuation of my view that learning can happen anywhere and anytime.