Freedom | A Poem by Rori Ash ’22

Rori Ash ’22 wrote a piece for the PAGE group’s ‘OurStory’ art exhibition last week. We spoke to Rori to learn more about her poem and she shared that this was one of the most difficult pieces she has ever written. 

“This whole idea of having different pronouns than assigned at birth is fresh and can be confusing. We don't really know what exactly it is or what it means and I wanted to put it out there that pronouns are a place for discovery. I entitled this piece, ‘Freedom’ because that's exactly how I felt when I revealed to everyone that I was changing my pronouns. In the beginning, it had been very tough for me... It took a lot of courage to finally be honest with everyone...I think pronouns are new to everyone, even me, but I want to talk more about it because we should all be aware of what they are and how important they can be from one person to another.”

Rori has served as the SIC (Senior in Charge) of THRIVE for the 2020/21 school year and will be the SIC of Safe Space next year. 


Sex is predetermined by one’s biology. I have all the genetic material in my body to have a child so I am female. This is given at birth cannot change.

Gender is one’s personal identity. Gender is learned through culture, taught by society, learned by socialization, and one can choose to change their gender. 

Sometimes I choose to put on “feminine” makeup and wear “masculine” clothes. Other times, I hide my long hair in a bun, wear skirts, and paint my nails. This is how I express myself, not an invitation for others to define me.

Others call me a “tomboy” for wearing clothes that resemble those of a boys’. I do not want to be labelled, for they are not welcomed to choose my gender identity. I see my behaviour as normal, and I embrace it.

I get called a “girly-girl” because I like to wear eyeshadow and curl my hair. To why they choose to label me, I do not know. I would rather they not choose for me to be a female by my appearance, but only if I told them that’s how I identify.

I know who I am and yet I feel as though I do not. All my life I have been walking around with the label “female”, written in bold capital letters with a permanent marker on my forehead. I cannot see it, but everyone else can and they are the ones who call me by it. 

I changed my pronouns to she/they. “You can’t do that!” they told me, but I did. “So are you a girl? Or are you non-binary and genderqueer? This doesn’t make sense, it’s too complicated.” At first, it may seem complicated, but everyone must learn and repeat it, and then it will roll off the tongue. I replied “call me by my name or use my pronouns. Respect that I have changed my identity and that it may change again. Make mistakes but know that I will correct them until you get it right.”

A few mistakes here, more corrections there. To be respected, not questioned or defined by clothes is a feeling similar to freedom. 

Thank you, Rori ’22 for contributing such a thoughtful poem to our school’s ongoing conversation about diversity and inclusion. Our students and staff have been engaging in discussions and workshops to continue learning about how to foster a safe and inclusive environment. The student-organized and facilitated exhibit, OurStory, honoured and encouraged the courageous conversations that our students are engaging in with one another and we look forward to OurStory 2022!
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4391 County Road 29, Lakefield Ontario K0L 2H0   705.652.3324


Lakefield College School is a private, coeducational boarding and day school for students in grades 9 through 12, located in Lakefield, Ontario, Canada.

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