Out of the Closet and into Quarantine: Stories of Isolation and Teaching


  • Michelle Forrest Mount Saint Vincent University
  • Phillip Joy Mount Saint Vincent University


COVID-19, performative I, outsider-within, queer inquiry, queer pedagogy, social isolation


Being queer can be filled with moments of isolation: not fitting in to heteronormative rites of passage, not knowing if or when to come out in academia, and now, trying to cope with the difficulties induced by officially-mandated social distancing in a global pandemic. Although isolation is a common human experience, for queer people it is often an intimate part of their stories, leaving lasting scars. Experiences of isolation, loneliness, and being “othered” have serious consequences. Through autoethnographic queer inquiry, we explore isolation and how it shapes teaching and learning. Drawing on concepts of the outsider-within and the uncanny, and distinguishing isolation from loneliness and solitude, we share our personal stories of isolation through the perspective of a performative “I”, examining how our pedagogical philosophies and practices inevitably reflect our queer experiences. Coming from different disciplines of practice, we met because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which prompted this return to old and new forms of social isolation—the old being the experience of growing up queer and the new through teaching online. From our perspectives across a generational divide, we trace the unsettling experiences of being queer and teaching in our COVID bubbles, and we attempt to navigate ourselves and our students safely through disconnection and isolation.


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Author Biographies

Michelle Forrest, Mount Saint Vincent University

Michelle Forrest is Professor of Education at Mount Saint Vincent University, a trained actor, and a classical singer. She teaches and writes about the ethics of teaching, collaborative inquiry, feminist pedagogy, and the value of art and philosophy in challenging bias, certainty, and epistemic injustice. Michelle is a career-long supporter of her faculty union, the Canadian Philosophy of Education Society, and the Canadian Association of Foundations of Education. She teaches pre- and in-service teachers courses in contemporary philosophy of education, media studies, open-mindedness in education, aesthetics in education, and research literacy.

Phillip Joy, Mount Saint Vincent University

Phillip Joy is an assistant professor in the Department of Applied Human Nutrition at Mount Saint Vincent University. He is also a registered dietitian with the Nova Scotia Dietetic Association. He often uses arts-based methodologies for his research that focus on the nutrition, health, and well-being of 2SLGBTQ+ folks. Art can challenge and subvert norms of food, nutrition, sexuality, gender, and bodies contributing to social transformation through the expression of new perspectives.


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