State Flag of Oregon

Discrimination in Oregon: LGBTQ Education: Random Musing

State Flag of OregonOregon confuses me. LGBTQIAAP (I think there are more letters and the P may stand for poly or pan – maybe there are two “P’s”) people in this state lead an interesting life.

Within Portland sexual and gender minorities enjoy relative high acceptance compared to the rest of the state. There are examples of discrimination and I think trans folks, while they have gained some traction, still have a long way to go. Still, for the most part there is an acceptance here that allows me to wear a rainbow wristband without fear. My own discomfort examining my gender identity is, I think, the reason I feel the trans community has not quite achieved the same level of safety. Totally subjective.

With some trepidation I admit to confusion around trans issues particularly. I tend towards more gender-fluid or non-gendered perceptions of myself but realize that most folks will outwardly identify me as male. Before living with a roommate who was gender non-conforming and my current roommate who had a trans girlfriend, I just thought I was more feminine than other men. Now I have reinterpreted this gender-confusion that I had conflated with my sexuality as something like non-gendered self perception. People still outwardly identify me as male and I accept male pronouns but I find non-gendered language to be more comfortable. Once I finish this doctorate I can truly have non-gendered titles. (Not a good reason to pursue a doctoral degree but a nice side benefit).

Portland is a fairly welcoming community at least outwardly. The number of Human Rights Campaign stickers I see while biking to work everyday certainly exceeds the queer population. Community organizations abound. Many shops proclaim their support for sexual, if not gender, minorities. Many of the largest companies in the area have explicit language around discrimination. Even a couple of the private, religious universities have language around non-discrimination. At least three religious buildings have the rainbow flag on their signage. All in all there is at least a veneer and a bit of depth to inclusivity in the area.

This changes as you move further from the small city of Portland. There are pockets of inclusivity around the state and I hope these are growing. There are also swaths of Oregon where I wish I owned cargo pants and a plaid shirt. My family lives in one such town. When asked why I do not visit I usually hold my silence but if my parents ever read this blog: last time I visited home a store clerk in our home town glared at me and said, “We don’t serve your type.” I am pretty sure I was wearing khaki pants, loafers, and a button up shirt as my disguise but this clerk’s gaydar was better than mine. The fact that I feel I need to try passing when outside Portland or one of the other small nests of inclusivity seems evidence enough for me.

Wait a second….! Isn’t this all fairly subjective? In keeping with my current need to provide better evidence for this suspicion I have been keeping track of news articles that show discrimination of various types over the last several months. I have to say these scare me:

  • Oregon mother ‘fatally beat her four-year-old son until his intestines tore because she thought he was gay’ – Link
  • Oregon Lesbian Couple Claims Cab Driver Kicked Them Out Because They Are Gay – Link
  • Four teens facing charges after allegedly torturing boy – Link
  • Oregon: Christian Businesses Must Follow Demands of Gay Customers – Link
  • Religious Oregon teens wear ‘Gay Is Not OK’ shirts to school to protest lack of ‘straight day’ – Link
  • Candidate admits to posting anti-gay slurs – Link

These articles do not all explicitly deal with discrimination against sexual and gender minorities. Instead they represent ideas and attitudes that marginalize folks of non-sexual and gender dominant groups.

A careful reader will note that many of these occur in the Portland region. Why am I more uncomfortable in the rural areas of Portland? Because events that precipitate news articles like those above rarely makes it to the paper. Friends that live in rural areas have reported that they would never feel safe enough to complain about a business refusing them service due to their sexual or gender orientation. I have also heard from past students that homophobic language in clothing and speech is often overlooked in schools around the state. This seems to be an atrocity yet I grew up in one of those towns and change comes slowly to these places. In some ways this makes small towns charming and quaint. In others was this makes little hamlets feel hostile to outsiders and those who are unable to conform to the local norms.

So – Oregon confuses me.

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About the author: Rurik

Known both as Ru (or as the title suggests, Ru Ru the Ruiner), Rurik studies ways games can designed to improve society, especially in the realm of education.