“…Sexual [and gender] minority youth are at a much higher risk of experiencing harassment, victimization and physical or sexual violence, both in school and in the community. …Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning (LGBTQ) youth and young adults are also more likely to commit suicide (PHAC, 2011, pp. i, 2).” (Deepening the Discussion: Gender and Sexual Diversity 7)
Why is this considered to be okay? Why do we continue to turn a blind eye to the suffering of so many?
It’s because we don’t want to talk about it. Sex and sexuality are sensitive subjects, but only because we made them that way. They are very personal, which makes them hard to talk about. But it’s more than that – we are taught to avoid it from a young age. It makes people uncomfortable, so we ignore it. But often the things that people need to talk about are going to make someone uncomfortable, and we see their discomfort as more important than the lives of the people this affects. We don’t stop to consider who this is silencing, and the discomfort that they feel in day-to-day life because of our continued silence on this issue.
We often see protests and parades on TV, with adults of a certain community championing for their rights. What we don’t often see or even consider is the child in our class that is struggling with the same sense of hopelessness. They are constantly picked on by their peers. They feel isolated, alone, and scared. They feel like no one could possibly love them. Maybe they decide not to put up with it anymore and take a final action that will end their suffering, an occurrence that is far too common in ostracized communities.
And its our fault.
That little boy or girl is suffering because we didn’t want to make people uncomfortable, when the entirety of their existence was filled with discomfort. Discomfort that was caused by people’s uneducated, scathing, hurtful comments. We don’t want to step on someone’s toes by opening the discussion, even if it may save lives.
This is because we have an innate need to categorize. We like things to be neat and ordered, and as such we put people into boxes to gain some control over both our lives and theirs.
“You’re smart, you’re not. You’re athletic and fit, you’re not.”
This limits people’s potential by telling them “this is who you are, this is what you can do…” and it doesn’t allow anyone to step outside of their assigned box. We simplify issues we struggle with because we refuse to acknowledge that everything is not black and white. Additionally, it allows us to put ourselves in a higher position over others. This makes equality, accepting diversity, and empathy impossible, because we only see what we expect to see. We can’t empathize because we see them as the “other,” and ask ourselves “how could someone so different have anything in common with me?” Forming relationships becomes impossible, because it is impossible to see others outside of how you categorize them, so you cannot be equals.
Now, when looking at the classroom, this makes it impossible for a child’s peers to accept them for who they are, because they are taught from a young age to categorize people. It makes it impossible for you to empathize with that child’s situation because you have already judged them, fairly or not. It makes it impossible for that child to feel loved and accepted. We cannot continue to ignore the effects our society’s views have on our students. As teachers, it is our responsibility to ensure that every child feels safe. To begin to make this a reality, we need to be willing to open discussions both with our co-workers and our students, even if it makes us feel uncomfortable. What people need to realize is that even if you don’t agree with or completely understand where someone is coming from, you still need to show them love and respect. That is how relationships are formed and how change is made.
S. (2015). Deepening the Discussion: Gender and Sexual Diversity. Retrieved March 17, 2018, from https://urcourses.uregina.ca/pluginfile.php/1252238/mod_resource/content/3/Deepening%20the%20Discussion.pdf
Walton, G. (n.d.). TV Bullies: How Glee and anti-bullying programs miss the mark. Rethinking Popular Culture and Media,216-222. Retrieved March 17, 2018, from https://urcourses.uregina.ca/pluginfile.php/1252240/mod_resource/content/1/Glee%20Article.pdf.