Professor Shane Whalley spoke at the most recent of SHS’s Community Conversations series, a set of lectures designed to highlight the work of the school’s faculty and engage important topics. Shane is an Assistant Professor of Instruction at SHS and spends hir time between teaching, consulting, and, in hir words, “being a professional complicator.”

Looking back

In Shane’s discussion, titled “LGBIQIA+ Identities:  Looking Back, Dreaming Forward,” placed LGBTQ+ history in the context of hir own life. “We’ve been having these conversations for so long,” said Shane, clicking through hir baby photos alongside captions that described important events and figures in LGBTQ+ history, from the Compton cafeteria riots all the way through the 2017 “bathroom bill” and beyond.

After moving to Texas in 1997, Shane “wanted to be a social justice educator with a specialization in LGBTQ—and get paid for it.” Ze began teaching at SHS in 2004 after receiving hir MSSW from the school in 2003.

The most challenging part of living in Texas, says Shane, is proactively moving forward while simultaneously fighting against legislature and other obstacles. Ze describes the challenge of being on edge and finding inner stillness while feeling like a political bargaining chip.

There are some moments of hope amidst the difficulty. Shane says that, during hir job at the UT Austin Gender and Sexuality Center (GSC), “I saw hearts and minds change.”

Teaching the next generation also brings hir hope. Shane grins, “You know the old saying, ‘Those that can’t do, teach,’ but we teach people who will do. So my students are out ruling the world! They’re doing so much more than I could ever do.” Ze currently teaches two classes at SHS: “Introduction to Social Work and Social Welfare” and “Foundations of Social Justice.”

For Shane, the reason that ze is still in Austin is hir connection to SHS. “One of the things about teaching in a school of social work is that we may not all politically agree, but we are all passionate about humanity. We just come at it from different directions.” 

Dreaming Forward

The second portion of Shane’s talk, “Dreaming Forward,” explored the possibilities of a liberated and inclusive future. Belonging and inclusion are especially important to hir, and setting up a strong sense of belonging will lead to equity.” To Shane, belonging looks like an organization providing everything that someone needs to be successful or making them as comfortable as possible. Ze calls it the “Platinum Rule: “Treat others the way they would like to be treated.”

Shane says that ze trains for the world ze wants to live in. Ze posed this question during hir lecture: “If we were to wake up tomorrow and LGBTQ+ people were fully included, had a strong sense of belonging, and there were no legislation that barred access to anything, what are the first things we would notice? What would change?”

For Shane, the goal is for people to bring their fully authentic selves into any space and feel a sense of belonging, which translates into more freedom for everyone. Ze summarizes hir hopes by saying, “I want to be fully myself and have that be respected and accepted.”

Learn more about Shane’s work here.

Next Community Conversation

Join us for the next Community Conversation on January 18, Supporting SHS Students with Dean Cole.

Image credit to Montinique Monroe.