So often I speak with teachers, therapists, and other allies who want to be of assistance but are stymied by the terminology — especially about the difference between gender and sexual orientation. They’re often practically desperate to ask about these things so they can interact with LGBTQ folks in a helpful way, or at least without being offensive!
Language around issues of gender and sexuality can have real impact. Many times people stifle conversation for fear of saying the wrong thing.
Caryn B. Oppenheim, with support from Safe Schools Coalition, has produced a great new guide that can help teachers, schools, gay straight-alliances, college groups and many others answer some of these questions and problems. With sections on “Fluidity, Categorization, and Vocabulary”, “Coming Out”, “Language and Homophobia”, “Intersections of Identity”, “Testimonies” and “International Perspectives” it should really help you feel more “in the know” as you work in your community. Whether you’re a parent, trying to help your child’s school get more educated about LGBTQ issues, or a gay therapist new to the terminology around gender, this guide will go a long way toward creating some shared language — maybe helping us all understand a little more.
There’s a great article in Newsweek this week on one student’s search for an LGBTQ friendly college campus. It is often assumed that once young people are free of high school, that the traditionally liberal atmosphere of a college will be safer and better. However, many students are demanding more than just being “tolerated”. Many are looking for an active, political LGBTQ community, with supportive instructors, administration and classes that acknowledge and deal with LGBTQ issues.
In college, the Queer Alliance was an amazing resource for me to find other out students, and to begin to think of sexual orientation beyond myself — as a political, educational and activist matter. Some of my fellow students have gone on to be amazing activists, writers, and educators in their own rights. You deserve to go to school at a place where sexual orientation is at the least, a non-issue, and at the most, studied, accepted, organized around, and even celebrated.
Some tips to help you get started:
- Don’t be afraid to ask in your interview or even before about how LGBTQ friendly the campus is.
- Look for LGBTQ-related organizations on campus and call or email them to find out what the atmosphere is like. Many of them have pages on Facebook or Myspace now.
- Look at the course catalog: how many courses on feminism, LGBTQ history, LGBTQ literature or queer theory are there? You could consider contacting the instructors who teach those courses to ask their opinion about the college’s track record on LGBTQ issues.
- Find archives of the campus newspaper and look for letters to the editor, events, talks, groups or articles on the LGBTQ community.
The Advocate Magazine’s article on queer friendly colleges
A New York Times article on queer friendly colleges
Campus Climate Index
The Advocate College Guide for LGBT Students, a book available from Amazon.com
http://www.lgbtcampus.org/ The National Consortium of LGBT Resource Professionals
Remember, you’re looking for a place to call home for the next few years. And, even if you look into a school that isn’t as queer friendly as you need, the fact that you asked them will alert the school of their need to accommodate savvy LGBTQ students in the future.