As Haverford celebrates LGBTQIA+ History Month, we spoke to Katie (kt) Tedesco, who joined Haverford in August as the director of the Gender Resources and Sexuality Equity Center.
Hi, kt. Thanks so much for talking to us. Can you introduce yourself and tell us what you do at Haverford?
My name’s Katie, but I go by my initials kt. I use she/her pronouns, and I am the new director of the Gender Resources and Sexuality Equity Center (GRASE) on campus, and I am two months into the role and so happy to be here. Before I joined Haverford, I was working in an education space and was involved in justice and equity work as a full-time consultant. I’ve been a teacher, and I’ve been a coach of teachers. I’ve done a little bit of everything.
The GRASE Center is an office on campus. It is not a student organization, which is something that I had to learn when I first got here. That means we have a budget and can support aligned student organizations on campus. So I see my role as being a connector of various people in places on campus and a pusher of conversation.
I recently hired a group of student associates—I call them associates because it looks better on their resumes—to help with everything from programs to social media and communications to revamping the GRASE Center library. It’s a few bookshelves, but it is outdated and out of order, so one vision we have is to make this a usable space for students so they can actually access the catalog. Another piece of my vision has been to meet as many people as I can on campus and build relationships and partnerships. I see the GRASE Center as being for everyone on campus through the lens of gender and sexuality.
Can you tell us how you identify and what that means to you in your daily life?
I identify as a queer, non-binary person. I think growing up, I’ve been through a lot of identities, in my life and those are the ones that feel the best to me right now. I think queerness is more encompassing than just who I am attracted to. It’s how I view the world and want to move in a space of disruption.
But I can’t avoid talking about being a white person and how that has allowed me to navigate certain spaces and what that means I’m responsible for as well. I don’t really love labels, but I understand that language is really powerful and it’s important. So I’m straddling that line, and so that’s my answer right now. Ask me again in five years and who knows in terms of what language will be most used at that time.
How does your identity as a queer, non-binary person play out at Haverford? Do you manifest it on campus?
Well, just being in this body, yes, I manifest it on campus. I think it’s funny to joke with some friends now that I’m just being paid to be gay.
I manifest it because I think it’s so much a part of the GRASE Center. So that’s a hard question because it’s not like I shut things off. I do appreciate it though because I’ve had other jobs in my life where I haven’t been able to be so open and out. I’m thinking about when I first graduated undergrad, I went right into teaching seventh- and eighth-grade science at a charter school in Philadelphia.
At the time I wasn’t really able to just be out and say, “Hey, I’m kt. I’m queer.” My students figured it out, but I dealt with a lot of stuff specifically in that role that got way better over the four years I was in the classroom. When I first got there, it was a really big culture shock from being on a liberal college campus in New Jersey. So, all of that to say, I just feel really grateful that I can show up and be who I am here.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?
I just feel grateful that you’re making space for this conversation, and I hope that whoever is watching knows that the GRASE Center is for you. Yes, we center gender and sexuality through an intersectional lens, but come to the center and learn more and, hopefully, find community because it’s hard. Even right now in this time and on a college campus that is more liberal and super queer, it is still hard to be a queer person navigating the world. So there are places here that will build community. So come. Come to the GRASE Center.