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Sunday, November 2, 2014

Safe Spaces

So this week's reading, was actually two readings for me. I had never read about or heard of the events of Stonewall, and when I got to the reflection points on page 89, I decided to do so. While I normally tend to avoid Wikipedia for primary source references, I think the detail in which Stonewall is discussed at least gave me a base of knowledge I did not have prior to tonight.

Stonewall Riots Wikipedia

I was specifically enlightened by the words of Dudley Clendenin and Adam Nagourney, who wrote wrote this about homosexuals prior to the time of the Stonewall Riots:

"a secret legion of people, known of but discounted, ignored, laughed at or despised. And like the holders of a secret, they had an advantage which was a disadvantage, too, and which was true of no other minority group in the United States. They were invisible. Unlike African Americans, women, Native Americans, Jews, the Irish, Italians, Asians, Hispanics, or any other cultural group which struggled for respect and equal rights, homosexuals had no physical or cultural markings, no language or dialect which could identify them to each other, or to anyone else... But that night, for the first time, the usual acquiescence turned into violent resistance... From that night the lives of millions of gay men and lesbians, and the attitude toward them of the larger culture in which they lived, began to change rapidly. People began to appear in public as homosexuals, demanding respect."

The idea of prior movements for equality prior to June 1969, was mainly (with a few exceptions), for homosexuals to assimilate and fit in, and the confluence of events in Greenwich Village seemed to mark a distinct moment of change, where people felt empowered and were able to stand up for themselves proudly, I was reminded of our first reading with Alan Johnson, and how we need to have the conversation, pay attention, and make noise about inequities.

I found this short film which asks:

What if gay was the norm, and straight made you the minority?

The comments were telling, and challenge the cultural norms which pervade society

I suppose my parochial education, contributed to the lack of awareness of the riots of Stonewall, as the Roman Catholic church is notoriously 50 years behind cultural change, but as the Safe Spaces article points out, it is the subtle ways, rather than the obvious discrimination, which often most reinforces our day to day norms. The ways family is described, or omissions in their description, the prevalence of heterosexual preferences in society's structure that cause those who are not included to feel purposefully excluded in the wake.

I liked the idea of John Kellermeier introducing enough inclusive materials so that the discussion of LBGT references became commonplace. In order for equity to exist, topics of those without privilege must become common rather than "token" or forced.

There are many approaches to increase the idea of equity for LGBT individuals discussed in the article. Curriculum inclusion, and teachable moments, clearly are important, as is the removal of the stigmatism that anything related to homosexual is deviant or abnormal. Teaching students the power of language as "Patrick" did with "Derek" is an approach that is straightforward and clear, and addresses the issue in a way that neither ignores it or places undue discipline on it.

I feel as if the LGBT community has made important gains in equity over the last 5-10 years, while I don't think there are more or less individuals who are LGBT, there are certainly more who are openly and proudly affirmative of who they are. However much improvement we have seen though, the silent curriculum, and the culture of power still combine to create an environment of inequity among all our students. This is probably seen in no larger way, than in bullying in schools.

On page 97, the article states that in the face of bullying among students directed toward homosexuals, teachers, parents and leaders often scold, snicker, or join in. The article also correctly points out that to ignore these types of bullying implicitly implies consent. I would propose that all of these approaches are harmful. Obviously snickering or joining in, would suggest gross misconduct on the part of a teacher, but scolding and ignoring speak to the subtly ways in which we can sometimes reinforce stereotypes and maintain the status quo. While lawmakers have made it popular to "take a zero tolerance policy" on bullying in schools, in reality, it exists prominently in the school culture everywhere. A major part of this is the use of the word gay to describe something in negative. As stated, reprimanding students for this will not solve the problem, it will push it further into the subculture, instead we need to be teaching our young people to look at and respect each other as individuals, and to realize that each of us with all of our characteristics, talents, and differences, contribute to a greater whole when we all have a common place from which to operate. We can accomplish this with open conversation, attentive empathy, and inclusive behavior. If we could do that, schools wouldn't be the only safe spaces.


  1. I also did a bit of research on Stonewall because I'd never heard anything about it. I think the fact that many of us are (or were) unfamiliar with the movement speaks to the subtle ways in which the LGBT community is discriminated against. We are not even aware of the fact that this demonstration took place or what it accomplished. It's as if many homosexuals are not cognizant of the plight of the LGBT community, much less apt to do anything to change the status quo. I also clicked on your link to watch the clip but ended up reading an article about the Catholic Church and its rethinking on gay marriage. I was also interested to read this because I think that the Catholic church is definitely moving in the right direction. Although, as you said, they still lag way behind in recognizing equal rights for gays in the church. Now, I'm just trying to figure out a way to bring these conversations into the classroom in a way that is inclusive and non-threatening.

  2. Brian,
    That video was very powerful. Thank you for sharing. I think that it really flipped the whole story on its head. It hurt me the way that the children teased, taunted, but what was really tough was the way that adults reacted, especially her parents. I too had to research Stonewall. I wonder how many of us did? When I think of gay rights movement all that comes to mind are recent movies which have just started to touch upon the subject, such as MILK and Dallas Buyers Club (more about AIDS). I think that the culture of power has and will continue to push back/ignore the gay rights movement unless we step in and bring these conversation up.

    1. There was a powerful moment in Dallas Buyer's Club, where Matthew Mcconaughey's character looks at his Jaret Leto's character (Rayon) in the hotel where he had set up their business, and just completely accepted him. After that, he acted completely differently, the scene in the grocery store comes to mind, how do we get closed-minded people to have that moment of clarity?

    2. Also, I checked my link, not sure why it did that, but I updated it, it should be fine now
      thanks for checking.