Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Safe Spaces Blog Post

This is a Reflection post about Safe Spaces: Making Schools and communities Welcoming to LGBT Youth by Aneemarie Vaccaro, Gerri August, and Megan S. Kennedy. 

This piece discusses the necessity and importance of having safe spaces for youth members of the LGBTQ+ community, specifically in educational settings. It explains, "To the extent that teachers, school administrators, and college professors create an atmosphere in which difference is not only tolerated but expected, explored, and embraced, students will be more likely to develop perspectives that result in respectful behaviors" (83). The piece then goes on to explain how without that kind of environment the SCWAAMP aspects of our society thrive, and those aspects that go against it, specifically the LGBTQ+ identity are assumed deviant. 

Me, age 13, in the "closet" at
 church camp.
While I am now an out member of the LGBTQ+ community, growing up I was raised in a Christian home and was a devout Baptist. With this being said, my knowledge of the LGBTQ+ community was almost nonexistent, and what I did know about it was that it was viewed as wrong, due to the opinions of the adults I had been surrounded by my whole life. By the time I reached high school the only time the topic came up was in my health class when we had a few guest speakers throughout the semester, two of whom were gay, one came in to discuss AIDS, and the other came from and LGBTQ youth center in Providence to talk just about the community itself as well as the center he works with and provide resources for anyone who would want them. While these two men were obviously not the first gay people I had met in my life, they were the first ones who I had ever met who talked about their experiences, and I was not very happy about it. Looking back I can quote my fourteen year old self saying "I don't have a problem with it, I just don't think they should be encouraging their lifestyle and they shouldn't be talking to a classroom about it". 

Throughout my experience in high school, beyond those two men who came to talk to my health class, the discussion of the LGBTQ+ community now nor its history were ever really discussed in the curriculum of the classroom. Through my own experiences I know that as I began to interact with a community of people who were open to and discussed the LGBTQ community and issues I found myself becoming more and more accepting, as well as realizing my own identity. Had the curriculum in the schools and school systems I had attended been more inclusive, I would have been able to begin to form a more open opinion from the beginning, and so could other students, and lessen issues of homophobia and heterosexism. 

The authors of this piece make another point following this saying, "Most educators do not set out to marginalize LGBT youth. They simply follow paths of least resistance. They put one foot in front of the other in what seems the natural, even the right, direction..." (84). Heterosexism is a norm in our society and often times is not given a second thought and is then applied to the curriculum in schools. Whether that is in classroom examples in stories, or word problems, or picture books, the people are almost always straight, and this furthers the continuation of heterosexism as well as not allowing a space to feel accepting to those LGBTQ students. With it being seen as the norm, it allows for teachers to use that as a crutch for not including it in their curriculum as they have just not thought otherwise, but changes need to be made to provide teachers with that information and allow them to have the knowledge to create a safe space in their classroom. 

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