Sunday, October 6, 2013

Building Safe Spaces

Talking Points #3: Reflection:

Preach it Honey Boo Boo Child!
First of all let me say, that this article was very personal to me. I've decided to do a reflection of this piece entitled Safe Spaces by Gerri August because I know that in order for me to dissect it properly I need to acknowledge my own personal experiences. This was written to aid teachers and other potential teacher in caring for LGBT children in their classrooms. Creating a safe space is essential and extremely important for the prevention of all unnecessary teen suicides due to anti-LGBT harassment. 

Okay, so where do I begin.  Let me start off by coming out and saying that I am gay and that meaning that I once was an LGBT youth so I know how extremely important these safe spaces really are.  To say that growing up gay in this society is easy is just a down right lie, and many people who are not apart of the LGBT community will never understand it.  "Straightness and gender conformity are assumed, LGBT identity is deviant" (August 84).  This is one of the many problems that the LGBT community face.  Heterosexism is overly instilled in the mindset of almost everyone that being gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender people are seen as deviant, something that is wrong or morally corrupt.  This pisses me off because obviously being gay isn't wrong! The mindsets of anti-LGBT individuals are wrong. Sexual orientation is a part of life and just like skin color, it's not a choice. It's not like people just voluntarily choose to be crucified in a heterosexual dominated society.  

People magazine depicting
three accounts of teen
suicide due to
anti-LGBT harassment.
The biggest issue that is made aware in this article is how much words have an impact of the LGBT community.  Many LGBT teens are bullied to an extent where they see no other alternative than to take their own life.  This hurts me to the core because nobody should have to take their own life because they are made to feel like an outsider. Suicide should never be the answer  but sometimes the hurt is so extreme that your left with two options, suicide or continuing to live as an emotionally dismembered human being because due to all the anti-LGBT harassment.  For example, when August gave the example of Tabby Aaberg.  Tammy's fifteen year old son committed suicide because he was bullied for being gay and that just broke my heart.  He was bullied by his peers at school and this left me wondering where the hell the parental guidance was at the school. Tammy said the following about the staff, "Most of the teachers and principals...mean well--they want to intervene. But the teachers still don't know what they can and can't do."  This is where the importance of a safe space comes into effective.  If the staff instilled the normalcy of homosexuality than this suicide wouldn't have happened.  Lucky for me, growing up I was blessed to have great parents especially my mother. She raised me to have extremely tough skin in every facet of my life and to not give a damn what people thought of me.  I quickly adopted this mindset and it's very beneficial.  Yes, growing up gay was hard but I was fortunate to have a great mindset. Words did and still hurt me, I am human after all but I just learned to stand off for myself and give those words no importance. Just because I was fortunate to have this way of thinking doesn't mean there are others who do.  Some LGBT teens experience a great deal of psychological damage.  So  a teacher controlling the language in a classroom is imperative. 

I often think back to Johnson's piece on privilege.  Straightness being the dominant ideology of today's society had a lot of emphasis in this article.   Especially, when it came to including LGBT educational material in elementary school. I think it's important to educate kids on the LGBT community because this will lessen the chance that these kids will grow up with a bigoted attitude towards homosexual, bisexual, and transsexual people. I was shocked that some states even have Anti-LGBT teaching laws. Like, really? Alabama even goes as far as say that homosexual poses a health risk!  Like calm down mofos, being gay is a construction of certain individuals, it's not the flu, you aren't going to get sick! There are some foolish people out there. Or let's talk about how one teacher candidate didn't like the fact that same sex parents was being taught in school! How do you expect those children who have two dads, two moms, or even those that live with their grandparents to relate and identify their place in the classroom.  Reiterating what Johnson had said, that being gay in a dominant straight culture is tough. There are always going to be times where we will get discriminated against.  Being gay, I always have to worry about being discriminated against in certain areas where straight men will not.  It's just the extra challenge of being gay but you get what you can handle in life and I can handle almost anything that comes my way. One day I will have a family and I will be a same sex parent so it's important that the kids see that it's okay.  I will be damned if my kids feel like they don't belong because they have two fathers.  

Before, I conclude I want to address one last thing and I will start with a quote.  "Youth who see themselves as wise or powerful main characters of heroes worthy of celebration and emulation will feel validated, included, and safe inside their classrooms. LGBT youth rarely have this experience."  This is very true for LGBT youth.  If they could see themselves as powerful heroes then they would feel validated and a part of the whole.  But it's hard to do this when the LGBT youth have nothing to model after. For example, homosexuality is seen as a taboo and everybody tries to avoid it but I think is very detrimental in the schools because a safe space should be inclusive not exclusive.  One thing I noticed in schools was that there were some teachers who where gay or lesbian but they kept it hidden because it's something that just wasn't talked about. Sort of like the "silenced dialogue." If straight teachers are talking about their husbands, wives, and children then I think LGBT teachers should too so that LGBT children can relate and have a role model.  This is something that I hope that I can bring to the table as a teacher. Whether, anybody likes it or not I'm going to show off my future husband and future kids just like the rest of them.  I'm going to be a role model for my gays, lesbians, and transgender people! 

Point to Share:
"When someone with authority of a teacher, say describes the world and you are not in it, there is a moment of psychic disequilibrium, as if you looked in a mirror and saw nothing." Think for a moment at how powerful that quote just was. It perfectly sums up the hardships and inner struggle that we LGBT people faced as youths. Can you say that your sexual orientation has made you feel invisible? How can we get LGBT youths to see themselves in the mirror?


  1. I commend you for stating your personal story, Its very admirable because coming clean about sexuality in this world is not always welcomed. From an outsiders perspective i have dislike for those who hate people who are not straight because my parents taught me to not be judgmental, my parents always reminded me to look towards their personality before judging them. The quote, "never judge a book by its cover" was said frequently in my house growing up and i feel i hear it less and less. The idea of never judging a book by its cover needs to make a comeback.

  2. Alex,

    Your blog entries are always so fun and animated. I love your immersion in pop culture. Although I am not a fan of reality shows, I am a pop culture buff & so I always look forward to your blogs! You always think out of the box!

    I’m glad you posted a picture of the People magazine with the suicides because that was a pivotal moment in our history. Actually talking about it front cover wise. It was always a little blurb before this issue. When you are told that your feeling are not only valid but also despicable you are eventually made to feel like you truly are. And then why would you want to continue to live? It needs to stop immediately-this bulling.

    When you address the quote about how straightness and gender conformity are assumed, you touch upon a point that we straight people have a privilege to. It is assumed. It’s something I had never thought about before and yet it’s a huge thing to recognize. It’s the only way to change the assumptions we make about others. It’s not a new world that we live in, people have been homosexual since the beginning of time. Now is the time to treat it as a normal way of life just as much as heterosexuality is. Like you said, being gay is not a choice. Feeling like you were born in the wrong body is not a choice. Who would choose to live a life of such struggle? When it comes to aspects of our life where choice is not an option like our sexual orientation or the colour of our skin, we need to respect and accept those differences in one another.

    You mention another quote that proves the point further. LGBT students are not taught about role models or figures from history that are like them. It’s another way they feel excluded. We as teachers can change this by bringing literature from the likes of Oscar Wilde and RIC’s own Emily Danforth and talk about the lives of LGBT people throughout history and in our own community!

  3. For you to come out and share your personal life and the experiences that shape who you are is not an easy thing to do and I commend your for that. Everything you said was right! Teenagers should not "be crucified in a heterosexual dominated society." And for them to feel so out of place and "unwanted" in a world where we all want to be accepted is a horrible concept, which I everything that we are learning to do. In order for LGBT to be accepted by everyone it starts in the language of the classroom. Thank you so much for your bravery.

  4. Hi Alex,
    I always look forward to reading your blog each week. Your posts are always well-written and I like the way you set up the media in your posts. I read that you wanted to be a positive role model, and that's such an important thing to be.

  5. Thanks for this, Alex. For telling your story, and for writing in such a smart way about the issues August raises. Great connection back to Johnson and SCWAAMP as well. Feel free to share as little or as much as you feel like in class discussion. :)

  6. Hi Alex,

    Thank you for telling your story. You really connected to the reading -- this is a very well written post. I completely agree with you that being gay is not a choice (that argument makes me mad too!) and no one should ever be made to feel like they can't be who they are. It's easy to see that the support you had at home armed you well, and I applaud your mom for that. Wanting to be a positive role model is a great and important thing, and in doing so you would help LGBT youth feel validated and see themselves in that mirror.

    - Jamie

  7. Hi Alex,
    Even though I am sitting right next to you in class and I already told you this I'll say it again. Great post!! I love your comment " It's not like people just voluntarily choose to be crucified in a heterosexual dominated society. " This is so true . I dislike when people say that being LGBT is a choice. No one should be made to feel bad about who they are ,who they were born to be.


  8. Hi Alex,

    I would first like to say that I love reading your posts each week. The animations you use are fun but at the same time really drive home the point of your article!

    Secondly, thank you for sharing your personal experiences. You are a strong person and I found your attitude, one of example and encouragement. The stand you take regarding LGBT family recognition in the classroom is a stand that we should all take. Our classrooms will be filled with a diverse group of students and not a single one of them should feel like they or their family are invisible or something to be ashamed or afraid of.

    Great post!