This night offered a lot of valuable insight for me – probably the biggest thing being that we are now fortunate enough in Saskatchewan to have some awesome individuals who are willing to come to schools and talk about diverse sexualities and genders, and struggles that are still being faced today by students (and staff) today. Overall with this, combined with the documents Milissa posted about diverse sexualities, it was really refreshing to know that, although us bringing up LGBTQ+ rights and acceptance can still be met with negativity by many, there seems to be more support as well as protections in place for if we do struggle or face harassment for bringing this topic up in an anti-bias way in schools.
A lot of things were not new to me, but were unfamiliar to be spoken out in the open, with me being an active listener and participant in the workshop. For example, I know that many bisexual people have faced stereotypes: they may be seen as lost (pick a side – facing the pressure of conformity to a dichotomy from both homosexuals and heterosexuals, instead of being respected for their ability to break the dichotomy by asserting “No – I can like both”). Also, they are often assumed to all be promiscuous, when – like everyone – some individuals are and some are not (I am glad Leo mentioned that promiscuity is not necessarily a bad thing either). I was glad to see someone else acknowledging, and rejecting, those stereotypes.
I like how Leo discussed (with our table – unsure of if the whole group heard) that we should never single students out and ask them questions about their gender or sexuality. It may bring up past traumas, or simply make them uncomfortable and less likely to trust opening up to you about other things. Rather, make it obvious to the entire class that you support LGBTQ+, and then let them come to you and indicate what they want you to know, and accommodate from there. I was told that bringing up the topic of diverse sexualities with the whole class, and explicitly stating that you will accommodate and be a safe person for them, is definitely encouraged, and I understand the importance of that.
A person who is LGBTQ+ can be terrified to “make the first move” in a new environment and test the waters to see if someone is accepting of LGBTQ+. You may think “it’s their business, not mine, I don’t need to know”. This is a very closed-minded view, because you will find that heterosexuals announce their heterosexuality (or part of their bi/pan-sexuality) on a daily basis – it is jut normalized and accepted and isn’t consciously noted, like it is if someone who is LGBTQ+ announces it. I would like to personally ask everyone to try to consciously pay attention, to see how often heterosexual couples (or couples with one/more bi/pan sexual partners) get to talk freely in public about their significant others, or who they find appealing (that is of an opposite gender – as bisexuals may only share the “accepted” people of the opposite gender) in their lives. Shouldn’t LGBTQ+ individuals be able to do this without fear of persecution? Especially in schools, where it is so important to have students embracing – not hiding – their identities – to grow as learners and as human beings overall… this is crucial. It is similar for transgenders/transsexuals – ensure they have a space to, if they feel they want to, share their journey thus far.
Therefore, it’s best to just get your support out in the open as quick as possible as a teacher, and save your LGBTQ+ students some stress – let students know right off the bat that they are safe to say what they want about themselves to you, and you will try your best to make the classroom community a safe environment as well. Then, as the year progresses students can choose to share, or keep to themselves if that is what makes them most comfortable, while still knowing that you are someone safe. And don’t be afraid to include LGBTQ+ literature on the bookshelves. Make it visible, just like making diverse nationalities, races, genders, and so on visible in your classroom through your learning resources.
I also like how Leo stressed that none of these definitions are quick and simple (lesbian, gay, bisexual, pansexual, transgender, and more) – if they are, they are most-likely leaving someone out or adding too many people in – they are either too generalized or too specific. I also like how Leo drew attention to peoples’ tendency to refer to LGBTQ+ community as the ‘gay community’, and although it is assumed that all genders/sexualities go along with that, it can get quickly forgotten when the only term to associate back to that was said is ‘gay’. A two-sided divide can be created – black and white, gay and straight, instead of realizing it’s really a bunch of intersecting circles of a variety of sexualities and gender identities.
There are three more things I want to mention that were highlights of the night. First, Leo touched a lot on gay slurs like “That’s so gay” and I articulated that it is difficult when you hear things like that, to know whether the speaker is actually homophobic, or just ignorant to what they are saying. Therefore, if you want to be seen as a safe person (not necessarily an activist of diverse sexualities, and also not necessarily a member of the LGBTQ+ community) it is better to just avoid these kinds of sayings altogether, and to explain this to your students if you hear the vocabulary in your classroom.
Also I reflected on my knowledge that sexism and heterosexism intersect quite often. For example, calling a boy “feminine” and meaning it as an insult – insinuating he needs to change – both insults females (because it is insinuated the action of the victim is typical of a woman, but not suited for the superior man) and insults the gay community if it is used specifically along with gay taunts/inferences. A lot of times the idea of femininity, as well as the idea of people who identify as males being attracted to other males, are assumed to go together hand-in-hand – but there are also couples with two individuals who identify as the same gender/sex, who seem to match more traditional ‘masculine’ traits. It is so important to realize this. Some people think, if you are a girl who is traditionally feminine (has feminine looks, wears makeup and jewellery, and so on) you must be attracted to women who look/act ‘masculine’ – because it is falsely assumed that someone in the couple has to emulate masculinity – and that could not be further from the truth.
Lastly, I want to end on a bit of a tense note – I realize how, unfortunately, children may get anti-bias messages at school, encouraging respect for diversity, and then go home to where bullying (both of sexualities/gender identities, and perhaps other aspects of a person) may be normalized and encouraged. Imagine if the child coming from this family is LGBTQ+, how difficult that must be for them. I hope that what we say and do in school will help influence parents as well, as homophobia is unpacked and looked at, and hopefully those who are homophobic start to realize that the world is not going to go to hell as ‘the gay (or more appropriately referred to, LGBTQ+ agenda’ is ‘pushed’.
There’s my novel for tonight! Thank you, Milissa, for encouraging us to attend this event. It was well worth my time.