The Queer Education Foundation was created to provide support and education to queer people and their families. ILLUSTRATION: KIRSTEN PHILLIPS.

When she was younger, Victoria Bucholtz struggled to find where she belonged. Now, as a professor at Mount Royal University, she has used her personal experience and education credentials to create a new resource to fill a gap in the community.

Growing up on the edge of Sherwood Park, just outside of Edmonton, Bucholtz felt unconnected from those around her, despite the support and guidance she had from her father.

“It’s kind of hard when you’re a young person and you’re trying to fit in, but you don’t know how to do that.”

Feeling lost, she could not find many things to relate to because of societal standards and gender norms.

“There is [an] obvious strong heteronormativity and cisnormativity in society,” said Bucholtz. “Which creates a lot of adversity for trans/queer youth and that there aren’t role models, there aren’t positive representations of you.”

Bucholtz did not have a clear depiction of who she was within society, at least, not in a positive way.

“There is a saying that, ‘If you can see it, you can be it,’ and when I was growing up in the 80s and early 90s, the only representation that you saw of trans individuals was either being murdered or in pornography or as a joke,” said Bucholtz.

From attending her first political rally at the age of eight, Bucholtz learned that she had a passion for history.

Despite being drawn to history, after high school, Bucholtz majored in biology. But she soon learned she had made a mistake.

“I took one history course and was just instantly so passionate about it,” said Bucholtz. “So I switched into history and loved it.” 

Bucholtz completed her undergrad and master’s at the University of Alberta and then completed her PhD at the University of Calgary in 2015.

“Empathy and kindness are what we need to put at the core of our society.”

victoria bucholtz

“Along the way I was really blessed that I was given opportunities to teach during my PhD. I really fell in love with the teaching aspect of it.”

After some time away from academia, Bucholtz received a job offer from Mount Royal University, where she has now been for the past five years – teaching history and researching conflict, violence and political manipulation of emotions.

However, she is not only a professor, but also a drag queen at the Cabaret Calgary.

It was through a women’s wrestling show Bucholtz attended to support an acquaintance four years ago, that she met her wife, Kayla Bigras.

“I was in this giant unicorn costume and being very silly,” said Bigras, recalling the night she met Bucholtz. “We got together for a date and just hooked.”

Bigras expressed the support and admiration she has for her wife and how her teaching makes an impact on students’ lives.

“She’s such a good professor and she really cares about her students,” said Bigras. “She really cares that people approach this world with openness, but also a critical eye.”

Fostering a deeper understanding

Teaching helped Bucholtz define her own place in society, however, when COVID-19 hit she decided to take her skills and knowledge to establish a new community-based resource.

That decision led to Bucholtz team up with James Demers and Anda Fabrig to co-found the Queer Education Foundation (QEF) in the summer of 2020. The goal is to create a safe space for people to come together, ask difficult questions and learn how to become better neighbours.

“We wanted to create a company that’s just dedicated to education.”

Victoria bucholtz

Demers, who was inspired to start the foundation after collaborating with Bucholtz on diversity and education, says, “the goal of the Queer Education Foundation is just to overall improve the language that exists between everyone.”

Currently, the QEF offers online workshops to a wide range of groups – such as companies, youth groups and roller derby associations.

The multitude of workshops include 100 Years of Drag, a more light-hearted lesson, and Beyond the Acronym, which goes more into depth about LGBTQ identities.

Bucholtz suggests that although there are a number of people who do queer facilitation work in Calgary, often education is only a “component of a broader array of services offered.”

“We wanted to create a company that’s just dedicated to education.”

With that goal in mind, the QEF was built “with that intersectional core,” which would foster a deeper understanding of the connection “between queer people and race and put BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour) communities also at the centre of what we do.”

“We kind of got to this point where I thought it would be really nice to set up something where we could manifest our own destiny, especially as queer people,” said Demers.

Bucholtz’s lived experience came as a result of the lack of support from her own community in discovering who she was.

However, she found ways to overcome the adversity she faced throughout her life.

“That’s what the queer education is doing. It’s allowing people to connect on a deeper level with people they know and love who are queer.”

Victoria Bucholtz
Bucholtz dressed in drag as Karla Marx, her drag persona, posing during a photoshoot. PHOTO: JON ASHBY.

To foster a new experience for those facing the same kind of difficulties she experienced growing up, the QEF was ultimately created for people to educate themselves and have  difficult conversations.

Bucholtz says that the foundation has had an impact on those with non-binary children to avoid making mistakes by educating themselves.

“That’s what the queer education is doing. It’s allowing people to connect on a deeper level with people they know and love who are queer.”

Bucholtz believes that by fighting against microaggressions and practicing small acts of kindness, these changes will make a big difference in our society.

“Empathy and kindness are what we need to put at the core of our society,” said Bucholtz.

“We need to recognize that we are all humans, we are all united, that our differences make us wonderful.”