But This is 2015…

….has to be my least favorite sentence out of an LGBTQ ally’s mouth. Generally it means they are experiencing a state of disbelief brought on by discovering there continue to be instances of discrimination. Some people follow that up with, “but it can’t be because you are gay!”  In the back of my head I hum “haters gonna hate, hate, hate” but, “Yes my friend, in this time of enlightenment, we fail at human rights.” If they stop at the “but this is 2015” line I usually nod at them knowingly. After all, I have muttered, “but this is the 21st century,” under my breath each time someone exclaims, “I can Google that?!”  Yes, you can Google that and yes, bigotry is still alive and well. Please Google “Ferguson police” or “People of color over-representation in prisons” or something else equally outraging for any human rights activist.

As I sip my cup of privelege, Starbucks hazelnut latte, I realize that the second sentence, “it can’t be because you are gay,” is the upsetting sentence. Yes, until I revealed my interest in LGBTQ activism & clarified their language around dress code that might impact my gender non-conformity, things were going well. My bow tie was endearing. My skills as an educator, researcher, and technologist had evoked an actual squeal of glee from one interviewer. Suggestions I made for meeting the needs of diverse clients went over extremely well. That I might show up to the company picnic with a boyfriend while wearing a lavender frock – that freaked them out.  (To be honest, the lavender frock scares me a little – I am more of a pant suit wearing non-conformist & only own one skirt that I wear with cargo pants). So yes, it was about my identity as a queer individual. If they had checked my social media they would have realized I remain hopelessly single and wear androgynous clothing & wigs. Wigs are fun. “Male” clothing lacks for the diverse vibrant colors I can find in the “Women” section of thrift stores. Yep – these were the factors that led to a sudden shut down in the interview process. No biggie. I do not want to work with bigots.

I do want my friends to realize the pervasive undercurrent of homophobia that invades almost all aspects of my life since I decided to stop “passing” as straight. Try wearing a pride shirt to your local hardware store. If you get the same service as always, awesome! Tell me where they are so I can buy my art supplies there. In the meantime, imagine having to question your qualifications for a position and where to seek to improve your CV when you suffer from an unceasing suspicion that you were looked over for tweeting “#BoycottIndiana until all LGBTQ youth receive equitable treatment”.

In all fairness and full disclosure I have simply stopped applying to any position outside of LGBTQ youth advocacy. Except for EduBlogger, those folks are beyond equitable and I really enjoyed meeting them year after year at ISTE, I am only applying for work that targets improving equity in education. Now when I ask for feedback after an interview or failed application I feel more confidence about the nature of the feedback. “Oh, you think my carelessness with my letter (I swear I thought I correct ‘the the’ to ‘to the’ but apparently my major typing error got me twice) may translate into mistakes? Great feedback, I am aware of my tendency towards that particular error which is why I view working with a team for co-editing as invaluable.” Dang! Next job….at least they did not dislike me because I like androgyny! 

Sadly I know I am a hypocrit.  I’m working on it. 

Gotta think before speaking!

   

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Anti-LGBTQ Legislation & Youth

This year, as marriage equality has gained ground, the religious freedom legislation appears to proliferate across the United States. Recently Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed a bill into law that he claims will protect religious liberty. What the law does is allow businesses and workers to refuse service to anyone they find objectionable, citing their religious beliefs. Legalized discrimination in public accommodations. If you are confused and think that, as private business owners, these places are not public accommodations let FindLaw explain:

Generally speaking, it may help to think of public accommodations as most (but not all) businesses or buildings that are open to (or offer services to) the general public. More specifically, the definition of a “public accommodation” can be broken down into two types of businesses/facilities:

  • Government-owned/operated facilities, services and buildings
  • Privately-owned/operated businesses, services, and buildings

To read more click here.

As anti-discrimination policies and laws have started including sexual orientation and gender identity as protect classes, LGBTQ people were protected from discrimination in the public spaces. With 36 states already allowing marriage equality and 56% (NORC survey) of Americans in support of this issue it is fairly clear that the anti-same-sex marriage campaign is on the losing end. Now, hiding behind religious freedom, opponents to civil rights for LGBTQ people are putting together bills that give them the right to discriminate.

Indiana is already facing #BoycottIndiana, my favorite tweet of which was:

 


Hopefully the bill is challenged in court or new legislation invalidates this but my question is how will these bills impact young people? Adults can move and boycott. Large businesses can move their operations and refuse to hold events, conferences, and conduct business. But what can a young LGBTQ kid do? What harm might come to them?

I engage in this question because the initial posts on this issue were about bakery owners refusing to bake a cake for a same-sex marriage. This action, while hurtful and definitely discriminatory did not strike the deep horror in some of my friends as it did in me. Getting a second tier cake, even given a potential bridesilla/groomzilla moment, seems harmless to them.

Lets fast forward to an instance reported in the Boston Globe: Lawmakers Approve Intolerance:

In February, a lesbian couple took their newborn daughter to her first appointment with a Michigan pediatrician they’d chosen months earlier. When they arrived, they were told that the doctor, after “much prayer,” decided she could not treat a child of lesbians.

As described in the article, all this reminds me of studying the Jim Crow tactics and racial segregation. There is a rising hostility even as LGBTQ folks gain equality in marriage. Examples already exist, such as Tyra Hunter in 1995 being denied and given inadequate care after a car accident and subsequently dying, of what this could look like at scale. News organizations maintain industry standards that discourage journalists from reporting details on suicide, thus silencing the final words of trans people as represented in the death of Aubrey Mariko Shine.

LGBTQ kids often do not have LGBTQ parents or community to support them in this adverse environment. What are they going to do? Reports from GLSEN and other youth focussed LGBTQ advocacy organizations show increased resiliency among openly LGBTQ youth even while facing increased victimization. How will this change if “public accommodation” can refuse them service?

Utah’s LGBT Anti-Discrimination & Schools: Questions, Questions, Questions

LGBT Brick Road

I think Murrur’s “Russian Embassy in Helsinki, LGBT pavement” makes a poignant reminder of the threat to civil liberty that continues to harm LGBT folks all over the globe.

This essay describes my thoughts after reading the Utah LGBT inclusive anti-discrimination bill and Oklahoma’s Religious Freedom Act that has since gone defunct. I kept looking for articles describing how these acts impact education. My research references, so heavily focussed on game design, the student experience, and increasing minority representation in the educator body, have not prepared me to understand how legislation impacts policy and the embodied experience in schools. If anyone wants to share resources I should look into I would appreciate it. What follows are my initial thoughts peppered with experiences that might better describe my concerns.

Following the passage of the Utah LGBT anti-discrimination bill I have a lot of questions about how this will play out in education: public, private, charter, higher education, and early childhood education. The bill makes it illegal to base employment, housing, or loans decisions on LGBT status. It makes an exemption for religious affiliated organizations like schools and hospitals. It also allows people to express religious beliefs in the workplace without retribution.

In education there are ethical and legal considerations around what a teacher says to their captive audience. Still would an educator see the provision for expression of belief as a loop hole? Probably not, after all that would interfere with the running of the school, right? The policies by the Utah State Board of Education as codified in this legislation protect the rights of parents with children in public schools to know about and consent or withhold consent on topics of “human sexuality”. I think any educator who wanted to share religious views relating to sexuality would need to consider this provision. By expressing religious beliefs about the nature of human sexuality they would require both informing parents about the nature of the discourse and obtain consent.

It does mean that openly LGBT educators who serve as valued community outreach agents and role models for LGBT students and families may have to put up with religiously-based homophobic discussions in the staff room. Even if no one is specifically targeted or even in the room I have observed the rumor sieve that the faculty lounge provides the entire school population.

In terms of bathrooms I am curious how the gender-specific restrooms and other facilities section with play out in schools. The wording for the rules and policies on this section was “reasonable” but sometimes what a school sees as reasonable can place an undo burden on students who identify outside the gender binary. Use of a private bathroom that also serves as administrative bathroom accommodation or a facility in the health room carries a stigma that may potentially be harmful or simply inconvenient in larger schools.

I remember one student who, on an average day, had no problem accessing the staff bathroom. However, when the secretary was out sick her replacement forbid the student from accessing the appropriate facility. The student, unable to use other facilities, spent several hours in discomfort as well as enduring verbal harassment from the substitute. Eventually, after the young student gained access to a faculty advocate, the situation reached resolution.

Is this reasonable?

This brings me to other legislation that includes religious exemptions. Oklahoma’s Religious Freedom Act would allow business owners to refuse service to people in the LGBT community. In a sly twist Rep. Emily Virgin added an amendment that would require business owners who refuse service to the gay community to post their refusal publicly on websites and their front door.

“If you want to discriminate under this law if it passes, then you’re legally allowed to do that, but you need to own it. You need to fess up to it,” Rep. Virgin said.

Of course I decided to imagine what this might look like if teachers were required to post their bias on their classroom doors. As a student I would never have stepped inside a couple classrooms that it took me months to see the extent of an educators racism, sexism, and a host of other prejudices. As an educator I am curious how millennials would react to this system. The ability to clearly see and avoid places refusing to serve diverse communities would definitely impact and drive home the economic repercussions of such discrimination.

Last I heard the bill had been pulled. If another bill arises, and other similar bills in other states go forward, I hope to see similar amendments. I like the juxtaposition of legislation providing acknowledgement of religious freedom but actually highlighting the hypocrisy and prejudice underlining the reason for its creation. Yes you are free to practice a religion that encourages prejudice – but no skulking around feigning tolerance.

I want to see what this would do in education. I expect something messy and scary. Almost a year ago I interviewed an administrator who spoke positively about a diverse educational communities. Later data collection revealed this same administrator consistently denied students access to programs or the ability to form students organizations that supported diversity. If they were required to post their bias before denying these programs the community would have them out of their position immediately. Instead, because they are allowed to operate obscurely, they continue to marginalize diverse members of the student body.

These are complicated issues and I am probably simplifying ideas and not quoting the theorists who could support or refute my statements. Instead this essay has allowed me, in a semi-critical way, to think through current scenarios in education. While the laws tend to focus on domestic and business interactions they impact the culture of school in more ways than I have expressed. I am curious how this will all play out.

 

LGBTQ Issues 2015

LGBTQ-Issues-2015What are the biggest LGBTQ Issues of 2015?

My top three:

LGBTQ Youth Homelessness

  • Depending on which resources you reference it is estimated that gender and sexual minority youth make up 40 percent of homeless youth in the United States.
  • At the intersection of race and gender and sexuality diverse young people the fact that the Congressional Research Center shows double the proportion of black homeless youth makes this and the following issues even more troubling.

Law & “Order”

  • LGBTQ youth on the street often face harsher penalties for petty crimes.
  • In some states running away from home (which an intolerant home environment may have precipitated) is considered a criminal offense if the individual is a minor.
  • Survival sex, detailed a bit in this article, becomes a last resource but police may use condom possession in general as evidence of prostitution for transgender women.
  • An inequitable percentage of queer and transgender youth, especially youth of color, are detained or imprisoned.

Safety and Violence

  • In addition to facing heightened police attention for prostitution and other crimes transgender women face the danger of physical violence. With at least twelve trans women of color’s deaths under investigation as hate crimes it is especially frightening.
  • The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs report (2013) indicates that LGBT people of color experience physical violence almost twice as often compared to white LGBT people.
  • Issues of domestic violence in same-sex partnerships do not have adequate resources allocated.
  • According to GLSEN’s 2013 School Climate Survey, while things are improving, there are still large gaps in LGBTQ student safety and support at school.

Other Issues:

There are tons of other issues that remain important. The prior three are just the ones that stand out to me within the United States. Conversion therapy, marriage equality, representation in media, employment discrimination, and the struggles faced by LGBTQ senior citizens are among the big areas of concern. I suppose as an educator and youth advocate I am more aware of safety, homelessness, and police interactions than the others. Outside the United States there are much more intense struggles. The international LGBTQ advocacy scene really interests and frightens me. Even suspicions result in treatment that is beyond anything I could have imagined even in totalitarian societies. Those folks remind us that, as a global society, we have a long way to go.

Queer Coffee: LGBTQ Apartments for Elders Article