ssues facing lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students and staff have largely been ignored or pushed aside in the schools.
There are numerous social taboos surrounding issues of sexuality and LGBT issues in particular. Bringing these issues into the spotlight may make some people anxious.
Myths may replace facts, fears may overshadow professional responsibility.
This paper looks at some of the most commonly expressed concerns and how to address them. Also included are some strategies you can use if you do encounter resistance.
Establishing a Support Network
It is important to establish a broad-based support network to help educate people that this work is about keeping students safe.
The following section provides strategies you can use to establish a support network and use your allies to not only help individual students but also to build a consensus in your community and school that this work is important and should go forward.
Having a strong, active support network will ensure that if at some point, you do encounter resistance, you will have a foundation of support and understanding from members of the student body, the faculty, the administration, and the community.
A good starting point is to develop a “personal support system, people who can help you locate and access community and school-based resources, and of extreme importance, people to whom you can turn for emotional support and comfort.
The broader the coalition you build of people supporting your work, the more effective it will eventually be in making your school safer for all students. This is true, partly because people tend to be influenced most by others who are like themselves.
For example, students will listen to other students, administrators will trust the opinions and experiences of other administrators, parents will sympathize with other parents, teachers will listen to the experiences of other teachers.
Reaching out to a broad cross-section of members of your school and community will help disseminate the information.
Further, having a broad range of support, also means having a broad range of perspectives and experiences.
This is the foundation on which a vision of inclusion is truly built, a vision that foresees a school that is safe for all students, that roots out all forms of oppression.
Therefore, emphasize to your allies that their decision to tackle the issues facing GLBT students is an indication of their personal courage and compassion and one more thing they are doing to ensure the safety of all students.
How Homophobia Hurts Everyone
(The following section comprises the theoretical foundation of the book Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price, edited by Warren J. Blumenfeld, Beacon Press, 1992.)
Within the numerous forms of oppression, members of the target group (sometimes called “minority) are OPPRESSED, while on some level members of the dominant or agent group are HURT.
Although the effects of oppression differ qualitatively for specific target and agent groups, in the end, everyone loses. By showing how oppression affects both target (in this instance LGBTs) and dominant group members (heterosexuals), we underscore the fact that, in important ways, it is indeed in everyone,s self-interest to work to combat oppression.
Such a strategy can be used to encourage those heterosexuals who may be hesitant to confront homophobia to “come on board.
Moreover, it may prevent those already willing to confront homophobia from either engaging in the dysfunctional rescue of LGBTs (inappropriately attempting to “fix it) or preventing heterosexuals from “burning out.
Listed below are some of the ways that everyone is hurt by homophobia/heterosexism.
- Homophobia locks all people into rigid gender-based roles that inhibit creativity and self-expression.
- Homophobic conditioning compromises the integrity of heterosexual people by pressuring them to treat others badly, actions contrary to their basic humanity.
- Homophobia inhibits one,s ability to form close, intimate relationships with members of one,s own sex.
- Homophobia generally restricts communication with a significant portion of the population and, more specifically, limits family relationships.
- Societal homophobia prevents some lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people from developing an authentic self-identity, and adds to the pressure to marry, which in turn places undue stress and oftentimes trauma on themselves as well as their heterosexual spouses and their children.
- Homophobia is one cause of premature sexual involvement, which increases the chances of teen pregnancy and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Young people, of all sexual identities, are often pressured to become heterosexually active to prove to themselves and others that they are “normal.
- Homophobia combined with sexphobia (fear and repulsion of sex) results in the elimination of any discussion of the lives and sexuality of LGBT people as part of school-based sex education, keeping vital information from all students. Such a lack of information can kill people in the age of AIDS.
- Homophobia can be used to stigmatize, silence, and, on occasion, target people who are perceived or defined by others as gay, lesbian, or bisexual, but who are, in actuality, heterosexual.
- Homophobia prevents heterosexuals from accepting the benefits and gifts offered by LGBTs: theoretical insights, social and spiritual visions and options, contributions in the arts and culture, religion, family life, indeed, to all facets of society.
- Homophobia (along with racism, sexism, classism, sexphobia, etc.) inhibits a unified and effective governmental and societal response to AIDS.
- Homophobia diverts energy from more constructive endeavors.
- Homophobia inhibits appreciation of other types of diversity, making it unsafe for everyone because each person has unique traits not considered mainstream or dominant. Therefore, we are all diminished when any one of us is demeaned.