"Revolutionary" Author Sparks Conversation, Understanding

Author Alex Myers, a teacher at Phillips Exeter Academy and an advocate for transgender rights, recently shared his story and insights with the Groton community.
Myers attracted the attention of Groton students through his novel Revolutionary, which tells the story of Deborah Samson, a soldier during the Revolutionary War. Revolutionary was Groton’s Diversity and Inclusion Group’s recommended read for the summer of 2015.

During Myers' October 5 visit, he delivered two presentations. The first, for the entire student body in the Campbell Performing Arts Center, was starkly personal, with Myers sharing intimate details about his childhood. This included details about his own gender transition and his experience as Exeter’s first openly transgender student. 

Myers also discussed his personal style of political activism. “Change begins at home,” he said, expressing his preference for devoting time to smaller projects within his community rather than to state or national movements.

The second presentation, in the Schoolhouse's new multipurpose room, consisted of a Q&A session with the School’s Diversity and Inclusion Group. Here, Myers opened up even more, fielding a variety of questions regarding his transition, personal life, experiences at Exeter, and modern-day transgender politics. “I’ve pretty much been asked every question you can think of,” said Myers. He was adamant that students inquire about any topic they wanted to know more about, even if the questions might be deemed “offensive.”

When students asked how Groton could become a more inclusive institution, Myers suggested the introduction of a gender-neutral policy or the removal of gendered language from the school handbook. Gendered pronouns used by institutions around topics such as dress code, he explained, restrict mobility of expression for closeted transgender students, who struggle to express their gender identity enough without having to worry about school bureaucracy.

He also advocated for gender-neutral bathrooms (of which the Schoolhouse has two) and the creation of a dormitory to accommodate transgender students, who have more extensive facility needs than cisgender (non-transgender) students. Both of these, he said, would produce safer spaces for transgender students in a boarding school environment.

The reactions to Myers’ presentations were overwhelmingly positive, with students saying they felt comfortable around him and citing his accessibility. “He was a normal guy,” said one student. Others appreciated his sense of humor.

Myers’ presentation was part of the Diversity and Inclusion Group’s ongoing efforts to bring attention to LGBTQ issues, including a talk by New York University law professor Kenji Yoshino earlier this year, as well as the school’s upcoming production of The Laramie Project in November.—Charlie Hawkings ’17