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“I purchased and read “This Is a Book for Parents of Gay Kids”. It is excellent, of course. But what I really need for my teachers’ book club is a book entitled “This Is a Book for Teachers of Gay Kids”. DO YOU HAVE A BOOK TO SUGGEST? I’ve contacted GLSEN with little success.”

- Question submitted by Anonymous

Kristin Says:

Anonymous! I HAVE TO TELL YOU SOMETHING.

Last month we went up to a conference in Massachusetts where we spoke to 70 high school guidance counselors about how to be better prepared for their LGBTQ students. Each one of them was given a copy of This is a Book for Parents of Gay Kids!

Even though the book is centered around the parent-child relationship, so so sooooooo much of what is in the book is relevant and helpful for friends, educators, co-workers, administrators, and employers of LGBTQ people! We cover so many questions that are relevant in homes as well as schools (from the more basic, ”Is it a choice?” and “Am I allowed to ask questions?” to the specific, “What do I do if they want to come out at school?” and “What is the difference between gender identity and sexuality?”), and the stories shared by young people help round out a better understanding of the complex experiences of LGBTQ humans!

My other immediate suggestion, since you already know about GLSEN, would be to reach out to the people at NYCoRE (New York Collective of Radical Educators). They have a smaller subset group called NYQueer, and they are very knowledgeable about how to help teachers “queer” their curriculums and be more inclusive in many, many ways. They have resources like reading materials for young kids, yearly planners with notes on historic days in LGBTQ history, and more. They rule, and I am certain they’d have some amazing books to recommend.

Also, remember this: reading about the lives and experiences of many queer and trans people, even though not specifically tied to educational practices, is very, very powerful. The biggest gap in teacher-student relationships as pertains to these issues is a lack of sensitivity, awareness, and understanding. If there is some flexibility in your book club, maybe you can pull a few articles on things like pronoun usage and the importance of gender neutral bathrooms, or watch videos together that cover things like bisexual awareness and the gender binary! Overall awareness will get your fellow teacher-friends in a place where they are being inclusive in their classrooms in extremely powerful ways.

Lastly! Dannielle and I have a goal this year of partnering with educators to help us create a teacher’s guide for This is a Book for Parents of Gay Kids, and to build out a teacher-specific section over on The Parents Project. If you have interest in helping us, let us know (email us at info (at) everyoneisgay (dot) com)!!

YAY FOR TEACHERS WHO ARE THE BEST ONES.
Beans, if you have more resources, reply with them!!!

xx

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"I’m a queer high school senior, and am highly considering applying to an all women’s college that happens to have very strong LGBTQ+ life. My parents are less than thrilled and want me to just go to a regular co-ed college and not be surrounded by other queer folk. How do I explain that this is more important to me than they realize?"

- Question asked by Anonymous and answered by Red Davidson as part of Everyone Is Gay: Second Opinions.

Red Says:

I could go a couple different directions with my answer.  Firstly, I’m curious about your sentence, “My parents are less than thrilled and want me to just go to a regular co-ed college and not be surrounded by other queer folk.”  Have your parents actually said or implied the part about not wanting you to “be surrounded by other queer folk”? Or do they not want you to attend a school without (cis) men?  If they aren’t specifically hung up on the “being around queer people” detail, convincing them how important going to a women’s college is to you might be easier.  Also, while I definitely want you to be able to go to a women’s college if that’s where you want to be the most, you should also keep in mind that there are co-ed colleges that are LGBTQIAP+ positive and have strong queer communities. Oberlin and Hampshire come to mind, although I don’t know exactly what kind of atmosphere you’re looking for.  For other colleges that might be more queer-friendly, I’d recommend checking out The Princeton Review’s ranking of the “most LGBT friendly colleges.” Campus Pride also has a lot of resources for LGBT college students.

On to answering your actual question, though! I think the most important thing to do is to figure out why specifically you want to go to your given college.  One of the biggest reasons I originally became interested in Smith was that, out of all of the colleges I visited, its community felt the most welcoming and comfortable to me.  But even if you haven’t visited your preferred school(s), what about it stands out to you? What about its history, current student body/politics, academics, housing system, etc.? If it will be difficult (or just impossible) to convince your parents that you should be able to go to a school because of its queer community, building an argument about the other reasons a school is important to you might be more effective. Also, a generally good argument to use about attending a women’s college (whether you think it’s actually relevant to you or not) is to point out that a lot of women in “positions of power” graduated from a women’s college.

While you’re primarily going to college to get an education, a residential college is also where you’ll be spending the better part of four years.  And having access to a community that you know will be made up of people with similar experiences to yours, and where you will likely be safer, should be just as important as academic components of choosing a college.  Having access to queer spaces and resources will diminish the presence of at least one potential stressor in your life, and will also probably make it easier to concentrate on your school work. If you think your parents might find that a compelling argument about why access to queer spaces is important to you, you can try saying that as well. I don’t think a lot of straight people—even if they aren’t overtly homophobic—really understand the value of being surrounded by other queer people. Though queer spaces aren’t without their problems or tensions, they’re still usually a lot easier to be in, because you don’t have to navigate assumptions about your sexuality in the same way.

I wish you luck in your decision making process and hope you enjoy wherever you end up!

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"Hi there.. I was at a gsa meeting recently and one of the other attendees said that it must be so hard for me to be out as queer "because black people are more homophobic than white people….. right?" I don’t think her intentions were bad but that statement was confusing and upsetting to me. Why do people think that’s true??"

- Question submitted by Anonymous and answered by J Mase III as a part of Everyone Is Gay: Second Opinions

J Mase III Says:

I remember when Barack Obama was voted into office the first time. My favorite columnist at the moment was Dan Savage and every Tuesday, I would faithfully download his podcast before my work day and listen to it while I hammered away at my computer. Then 2008 happened. The same night that Barack Obama was elected into office to become our first Black President, Proposition 8, a ban against same sex marriage in the state of California also passed- and there was Dan to give us all his real world analysis on why these things happened. You see, it was black people. At least that was what Dan said. In his podcast he described an America in which the homophobia of black people prevented LGB folks from getting their right to marriage. It didn’t matter that more white folks had voted in that election. It didn’t matter that the Mormon church poured a small King’s fortune on ensuring the ban would pass. None of this mattered. We as black Americans had simply not done our part to promote justice and equality for all. I lost an idol that day.

This sentiment is something that many people articulate every day, be they white or people of color, unfortunately. Black people are seen as being inherently more trans/homo/biphobic than their white counterparts. Where does this idea come from and what purpose does it serve that this very old idea gets paraded around? One of the biggest deceptions I think we are taught is that we are individuals with free will and access to any dream we push ourselves towards. The reality is that we are of course part of a larger system of power and privilege.

The fact that we exist as LGBTQ people does not separate us from the global history of white supremacy and colonization. When we look at mainstream LGBTQ organizations, they are primarily run by middle to upper class white cisgender folks. The narrative in this country about LGBTQ people is often by folks very segregated from black and brown people. What ends up happening then is black & brown folks are seen as the mysterious and dangerous other when we speak our minds for or against LGBTQ people. Rarely do folks who speak about black people in particular being more homophobic consider that the anti-LGBTQ laws we have had (and continue to have) on the books comes from a legal and judicial system that is primarily white. We ignore systems. We are taught to. If we look at systems and pay attention to the inherent racism in a statement like that and we pay attention to the lack of representation of people of color in leadership positions, change would be required.

Of course your classmate did not think about the larger implications of what they were saying. They merely stated something they perceived to be a fact. Unfortunately, the dismissal, degrading of black and brown people is a fact that rarely goes unchallenged regardless of how dangerous the implications can be.

As you navigate spaces in which the whole of your identity as a queer black person is not valued, I hope you are paying attention to spaces around you made for and by queer folks of color. If there are no physical spaces in which you feel this is happening where you are, I hope you look at online spaces like the Trans Women of Color CollectiveBlack Trans MediaBlack Girl DangerousSon of BaldwinElixher and others. There is also a slew of qpoc specific conferences popping up all over the country that your school may even have some funds to support you with in going. If you need someone to help you facilitate conversations, on what it would look like to address structural racism where you are, feel free to check out an organization I run called awQward. The point being in all of this, is there are so many places where you can have your black and queer identity validated. It is important that white supremacy in our concepts of queerness be addressed. We as people of color are more likely to not only identify as LGBTQ than our white counterparts, but also, more likely to face discrimination in the larger community because of it. The queer community has a responsibility to talk about the ways we perpetuate violence through these limited ideas of queerness, and you as a young black person have a responsibility to take care of yourself and find spaces you feel safe.

PS: If you’re interested in some further reading that addresses your question, check out this article!

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"So, hi. I just arrived at college. I hadn’t really been nervous at all until now realizing: I AM SO UNPREPARED IN MY GAYNESS. I haven’t kissed a girl / ever had a girlfriend, and I’m starting to freak out a little. Help?"

- Question submitted by Anonymous

Dannielle Says:

You and EVERYONE ELSE, you know!?!? It doesn’t matter who you have or have not held hands with, kissed, slept with, been heartbroken by, etc, college is a whole different ball game. You feel so prepared until you stand in front of someone you like, someone NEW, someone you are soooooo attracted to, someone who likes you back, BREATHE BREATHE PASS OUT RINSE REPEAT.

It doesn’t matter. You could think you’re super-over-prepared and you will learn very quickly that you are not. So, you’re actually ahead of the game by being AWARE that you are not prepared. Most of us are just acting like we know what we’re doing and then being slapped in the face by all things new. Most of us watch two episodes of the L Word and we’re like “oh, i get it, Shane looks like she doesn’t care but SHE REALLY DOES… that’s what I’ll do” so we sulk around wearing lots of necklaces and everyone thinks we’re mysterious, but really it’s just confusion and nerves all bundled up inside screaming to get out in the form of ‘OK I ADMIT IT I HAVE NEVER KISSED A GIRL.’

So, own it. Own that fear and those nerves bc nerves when meeting someone new are kind of great. PLUS, regardless of how prepared you might have thought you were, it wouldn’t matter. We’re all underprepared for new loves. Stand up straight, ask a girl to dinner, kiss her if you feel like it and be okay with the fact that you might tremble with nerves the entire time.

Kristin Says:

Listen. I legit have nothing to add to this — Dannielle has given you the truest words of wisdomy wisdom that exist: no one is more or less prepared than anyone else, and the best thing you can do is know that you are currently surrounded by swarms of people who, when confronted by the prospect of interacting with someone they really like for the first time, are like:

image

So, with that in mind:

Take it one moment at a time, one kiss at a time, one heart-flutter at a time. Be as open with yourself as possible. Know that exploring and discovering things for the first time is magical, even when it’s comical or terrifying or everything all at once.

<3

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"quick! help! my sister (who I never get to see and love very much) is coming into town for graduation and staying with me. so obvi i want to see her and hang out with her bunches BUT it’s also my last chance to have final goodbye parties with all my friends. I think I’d feel weird inviting her, she’s older and less about the college party scene, but leaving her at home while i go out sounds like the worst. HELP."

- Question submitted by Anonymous

Dannielle Says:

One cool thing about parties is that they start sort of late. So, you can TOTALLY get away with leaving your house at 10pm, which is reasonable, IN MY OPINION.

I think you just have to be super real with your sister. It’s graduation weekend, i MEAN COME ON. She HAS to understand you’re going to wanna get your party on, right!? Just make a plan with her.

“Hey, PICKLES (your sister), I’m so glad you’re here and I wanna hang out every second, but also I want to spend certain seconds at parties so I can celebrate entering the real world with my friends SLASH be irresponsible, etc. I’m totally down for you to come with, BUT I know you hate this kind of thing, so I am also down to leave a little later so we get the most possible hang time before the parties starts, tell me your thoughts.”

Boom. You’ll have a conversaysh and you’ll figure out the best possible thing for the both of you. OOOORRRR wait until she falls asleep and sneak out.

Kristin Says:

YOU ARE SUCH A GOOD SISTER. I love this. Probably because I am an older sister and I know how much I care about / totally understand my younger sister, so I am picturing you being sensitive to my feelings during my visit and me being like OMG I LOVE YOU LET’S HAVE A GLASS OF WINE BEFORE I TAKE A NAP LOVE YOUUUU. You know?!

I agree with Dannielle, you can totally rock the best of both worlds in this situation. My master plan would be: Talk to your sister and let her know you are so psyched to see her. Tell her there are mad graduation parties and you know they might not be totally her scene, but she is invited to all of them HOWEVER NO PRESSURE. Ask her if there is a night you guys can have for just the two of you, maybe go to dinner, get a couple of drinks, talk about life and love and Orange Is The New Black and stuff. Go to your parties on the other nights and have a blast.

You only get that holy-shit-I-finished-college (or high school for that matter) feeling one time, and there’s nothing quite like it. It’s full of so many scary feelings and excited feelings and overwhelming feelings and holy-fuckballs-wtf-is-life feelings. Your sister will get it. We all get it. Have a blast, speak your feels, and be sure to fall asleep with your clothes on in the living room when you get home tipsy at 4am so she can make fun of you / instagram you / etc.

YOU DID IT, YOU GRADUATED. PROUDA YOU. *shoulder punch*

<3

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