Written by Danny McLaren
Kel Martin is a Queen’s University alum who currently works as a Sexual and Gender Diversity Advisor at the Yellow House, a student centre for equity and inclusion here at Queen’s. They completed their Master of Education in December 2021, supervised by Dr. Lee Airton. Kel describes Dr. Airton as a mentor, role model, and amazing support who helped them thrive within the program as a trans and non-binary graduate student. Now, Kel is excited to be taking up that supportive role themself, creating spaces of joy and community for 2SLGBTQ+ students through their work at the Yellow House.
Helping queer and trans students thrive sits at the heart of Kel’s research and guides their work at the Yellow House. Their master’s thesis explores the experiences of queer and trans teacher candidates within teacher education programs, particularly as they come up against gender norms and cis- and heteronormative professional standards. They capture these experiences through autoethnographic art-ography and focus groups, drawing from their own creative journal entries and conversations with eight other queer and trans teacher candidates. Kel’s research aimed to resist common approaches to studies with trans participants which centre the damage of social oppression and violence in their findings. Instead, they wish to move beyond this, and highlight trans and queer joy, dreaming, and thriving in their academic work.
Kel’s role at the Yellow House consists of advising, advocating, and designing and delivering programming for 2SLGBTQ+ students at Queen’s. Their up-coming programming for the year includes weekly Solidarity Swims at the ARC, which are a dedicated swim space for trans, non-binary, and other gender diverse people, as well as queer study spaces, queer yoga, and 2SLGBTQ+ board games nights. Kel’s goal in this position is to support 2SLGBTQ+ student wellbeing on campus, whether that be through providing programming, helping students navigate their time at Queen’s, or advocating for students when they encounter barriers.
Working at the Yellow House, Kel is thrilled to be seeing how research like theirs can actively improve the lives of queer and trans students on campus. “Now I get to use research from my colleagues and other incredible queer and trans academics to support the work I do. I think going from the academic world to this staff ‘boots on the ground’ role has really made me realize how important the work academics do is.” They feel that seeing the impact of their research and the research of others in person is “truly an honour,” and hope to continue using this academic work to support change on campus.
To keep up with Yellow House programming and events, please visit their Instagram. To learn more about grad studies in Education, please visit their website.