This past week-end I attended a highly informative information session. Attending the session was part of my responsibility as a member of the Teacher Action Cohorts for The Manitoba Teachers’ Society. The topic of the session was how schools can strive to be more inclusive for members of the LGBTQ community.
In my past, I have had friends or, friends of friends, who identified as part of these groups and I considered myself informed. I was wrong, there is so much more to be aware of and the terminology provided at this session was helpful (I can now correctly identify myself as a heterosexual cisgender male).
However, there was one exercise in which paper stars were handed out to the group. In the middle of the star each participant was required to write down the name they wish to be addressed by, and on each of the five points:
- their best friend whom they confide in with everything,
- trusted family member,
- community they feel they belong to,
- career that they want, and
- their deepest desire or wish.
Each participant had a different colour star, and was asked to pretend and silently “identify” as a member of the LGBTQ community. When the individual pretended to “come out”, the following happened:
- Blue star, every point on the star was kept and this meant accepted by friends, family, community, career, and free to pursue dreams;
- Orange or yellow star, some points were folded over and this meant that family friends, etc may be angry or upset, but have the potential to accept;
- Red star, all points were ripped off, and silently dropped to the ground. At the finish, the name itself was ripped up.
This final act was powerful enough to have some participants empathize with visible emotion. Understandable, considering the silence requested during the act to assist contemplative reflection. The misanthrope in me blamed society. The pessimist in me counted all the pieces on the floor. The educator in me lamented for the loss of child’s identity. Finally, the realist in me saw the opportunity for a new beginning.
Maybe it’s just me. Maybe it’s the fact I gave up my former career path to become a teacher. Maybe it’s because I choose to leave family and friends behind to pursue a career in another city. I certainly didn’t have the blue star in my own life, but my choices were made as an adult—if someone told me my lifestyle was wrong, I knew enough that they were the a**holes for judging (spend 20 min in an online debate with a postmodern writer, if you want to experience supercilious judgement—yeesh).
Or maybe it’s simply because I’m slowly shaking off archaic heteronormative views, and hoping today’s LGBTQ students know that everybody on this earth are a lot more alike than dissimilar. After all, every student has the fundamental right to a safe education within public schools.