Rhode Island College
Safe Spaces: Making Schools and Communities Welcoming to LGBT Youth
By Annemarie Vaccaro, Gerri August,and
Megan S. Kennedy
" Safe Spaces show how the marginalization often comes in the form of messaging"
- Safe Spaces focuses on creating a safe and understanding environment in schools and within the community
- Discusses how many LGBT students face "physical and psychological harm inflicted by peers and adults"
- How verbal and non-verbal discrimination are at the core of our society and schools
- Heterosexuality is assumed in our culture
The Role of the Classroom....
- " Classrooms lay the foundations for an inclusive and safe society: a just community where common interests and individual differences coexist"
- Provide an enriching experience for every student
- A place where a teachable moment can happen from every member within the four walls
- To educate children not only the curriculum but also discuss other ideas and concepts that are relevant to the world we live in.
- Create an environment that is comfortable and practical and where students feel safe to talk freely
- Incorporate a multi-representational environment so everyone feels included
- Respect all opinions
- Listen to what students have to say
When I was in Freshman in high school there was a boy in my class who was accused of being " Gay", he was harassed at every moment because people thought he was gay. He was involved in theater, played in the band, and was an excellent student. This is why he was perceived as gay. At the time, I don't think there was any student in my school that was openly gay and it became quite the topic of conversation. It wasn't until our Senior year that he came out publicly and announced he was gay. The response he receive was very negative, and the harassment and bullying got much worse. From name calling, having things thrown at him in the hallways, and generally just horrible things that nobody should ever have to experience. I admired his courage, he stood tall and with the help of faculty and non-judgmental students he organized the first LGBT Club in our school. It was an amazing experience, he started making other students aware that Homosexuality was nothing to condone, he was not a terrible person, he just loved differently than the societal norm.
"Our Classrooms need to be mirrors and windows for all students-mirrors in which youth see themselves in the curriculum and recognize their place in the group; windows through which youth see beyond themselves to experiences connected with, but not identical to, their own"
As future educators it is important that we are able to value and appreciate every student's diverse background. Because if we begin to strip away identify factors such as race, language, sexuality, and cultural identity, then we will have a generation of children who can't see themselves within those mirrors and windows. I think the metaphor that Dr. Bogad used about society being a large piece of glass and how every time there is a moment or situation that challenges the stereotypical "norm", the glass begins to crack works beautifully for the discussion of LGBT recognition and appreciation. This also reinforces Richard Rodriguez's personal narrative, Aria .He discusses how not being able to speak in one's native language can be detrimental to maintaining one's own cultural identity.This is the same concept, a loss of identity not having open discussion about how every family is different, and how some relationships are comprised of the same gender and that is okay. I feel like sexuality is a taboo subject in schools, particularly with elementary children. Although, I think that there should be discussion about the different relationships that exist,one can leave out the explicit details of what that means sexually, nonetheless it should be discussed. Because if we educate children that there is nothing wrong with having two moms or two dads, we will create a generation of children who don't view a person's sexuality as a discriminatory thing, but view them as people. the world will surely become a better place.
Our society is changing, and so our the "norms" within our culture. We are making progress towards equality for all members within society, although it is not one- hundred percent, we are certainly moving in the right direction, and that was achieved with passing marriage equality. The fight still continues though, although same sex couples can legally marry, some states are fighting for their loved ones to remain in United States. for more information about the Doma Project.
The moral of the story is this.....
" Words can hurt or heal; discuss possible alternatives to offensive terms.Providing more inclusive alternatives to inappropriate or derogatory terms is always educational. Be candid. share how derogatory terms offend you- as a heterosexual or LGBT person. Knowing we have hurt or offended someone we care about can be a positive motivator to change behavior". We need to realize the power that our words have on others and to think before we speak,because even though it takes a minute to say, the effects can last a lifetime. In order to change society, we first have to start with ourselves, our idiosyncrasies shape us but they do not define us. We have the power to change the world, we just have to be willing to look within our selves and know that we are apart of the problem, but we are also part of the solution.
Like Allan Johnson says " We have to talk about it, in order to change it"
Be incredible, make a difference, share your talents with the world, be kind and considerate, but most importantly.....