This quote by Vaccaro, August, and Kennedy spoke strongly to me upon reading the except from their book. In high school, but even more so now that I'm in college, I have made numerous friends who are part of the LGBT community. These friends are some of the most genuinely caring and wonderful people I've ever met, while also being some of the most popular and well-liked people in my department. But, I do have to admit, they wouldn't be the amazing individuals they are today if they hadn't gone through troubles of their own to help shape them into who they are now. Some of these friends were ridiculed in their past while others were not, but they all had to face the judgement and assumptions of those closest to them. Coming out to their family and closest friends was one of the hardest things a lot of them had done, but they do not regret it at all; they have each felt that by being truthful with who they truly are to those close to them has made them better people and allowed them to be themselves without fear that they'll be unloved or judged by their loved ones.
"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. Creating safe spaces for all students means not ignoring or erasing the experiences of LGBT in K-12 and higher education curricula." (Page 88)
I absolutely loved this quote from the excerpt of "Safe Spaces". I loved it not just because it expresses how classroom environments should treat their LGBT students equally, but it relates to how all students, no matter who they are, what they look like, where they come from, what their sexual orientation and identity is, should be treated as equals, none being better than another and getting fair treatment. This made me think of "Aria" by Richard Rodriguez because of the fact that he was being treated differently for a while based on his language orientation. Because he spoke Spanish primarily and little to no English, he was discriminated against by his peers and his teachers, which resulted in him failing academically and socially, much like bullied and discriminated members of the LGBT community. Having difficulties or being picked on because of your language and culture is the same as being gay, bisexual, or transgender; it isn't anyone's faults. Being different from others isn't a choice, is a part of who we are, it's in our DNA as much as our eye color, hair color, or voice is. Everyone should be accepted for who they are, or at the very least be respected as being happy with who they are even though others may not agree.
"What messages did you receive about the LGBT community when you were in school? Which messages were explicit, which were implied? Did you ever question these messages? If so, what empowered you to do so? If not, what would have helped you to question them? What do you know about the gay civil rights movement? (Stonewall, for example?) Do you talk to the youth in your life about what they are learning about the LGBT community in their curriculum? If not, what would help facilitate this conversation?" (Page 89)
I thought it was very clever of the authors, including Gerri August who is a member of the RIC faculty, to directly address their readers with these questions. It makes it that more interesting to read and connect with the authors' points that they're trying to convince the audience of. In my own high school, we spoke very little information about the LGBT community while in school except for the yearly presentation from a LGBTQ support group speaker. Most of the messages were very similar to the messages expressed in "Safe Spaces", such as that LGBTQ students are just like everyone else, so they shouldn't be treated any differently solely because of their sexual orientation or identity. Personally, I never questioned these messages because I believe that everyone deserves to be treated the same way as everyone else and deserves their own form of happiness. In early high school or late middle school, my history teachers did instruct us about the gay civil rights movement, even about Stonewall, but it was a very vague and touchy subject, something that the teachers obviously had some discomfort discussing because they didn't want to offend any of the students. Now though, I don't really speak with the youth in my life about what they're learning about the LGBT community in their curriculum. I still stand by my beliefs that everyone deserves their own forms of happiness and that people have every right to believe in or have an opinion about whatever they please, so if they have taken any interest about learning about the LGBT community, that is entirely up to them and their own choice, and I respect that.
Point to Share:
Much like one of my past points to share, I again hope that the people of the world can at least show respect for others' differences. By showing others that you acknowledge that their beliefs, opinions, or ideals are valid, at least to them, you're giving others respect that we should all share for each other to make the world a better place, even if it's just a little bit. The last time I spoke about this, I related it to race and one's personal culture/background, but this equally important concerning those of the LGBT community. Everyone is different in unique ways; everyone in the world knows this. But that doesn't mean that being different is a valid cause for hate.
(One of my favorite YouTube celebrities, "Sassy Gay Friend", who typically reenacts famous works of literature if the protagonist had a "sassy gay friend" to help them, talks about life getting better for him once he finally accepted who he was and came out.)