P-Town Family Week Workshop Day Two: Tools for School
August 5, 2009
Ed. Note: This is the next in a series of posts from Alison Delpercio, HRC’s Workplace & Family Project Coordinator, who is spending the week in Provincetown, Massachusetts volunteering at Family Week.
For those of you familiar with Provincetown, I’m coming at you from the Purple Feather, a café on Commercial St., where I’m enjoying an iced chai and free WiFi. On my way here, I walked to MacMillan Pier and took a couple pictures. It’s a little foggy off the shore this morning but very calm and beautiful. And to top off this nautical morning, the Titanic movie score just started playing on my iPod (Take Her to Sea, Mr. Murdoch). How terrific! Yesterday was a productive and thought-provoking day. I worked closely with Liam Cooper, one of my co-facilitators in the middle school group, to plan a workshop for the youth about school issues. We split the group of 60 kids into small groups and lead a series of role play activities. The scenarios for the role playing covered a range of topics from coming out to friends about our families to strategies for dealing with kids and adults who use homophobic or transphobic language and responding to bullying. I was nervous about the workshop for a few reasons – there were the usual nerves that come when you’re about to see a project come to fruition and those due to the fact that it’s not every day that I facilitate discussions about these issues (What if they stare blankly at me? What if I don’t have all the answers? What if five of them have to go to the bathroom at once? Ahh!). I was also feeling pressure because I know how important this workshop is. My dad came out to me when I was 15 and I didn’t tell any of my friends until I was 20. Looking back, negative experiences in high school are a large part of what kept me from feeling safe to do so. (I have very vivid memories of a favorite teacher of mine calling something “gay” (meaning stupid) and the knots in my stomach when Dawson’s Creek introduced a gay character and I watched to gauge my friends’ reactions to Jack’s first on-screen kiss with another guy. Would they be really disgusted or just mildly disgusted?) I really wanted to create a space for the youth to learn from each other. A space I didn’t have while growing up. I was extremely impressed by the youth in my small group. Many spoke more articulately about their experiences dealing with homophobia or decisions to come out to friends about their families than I can today. I read about these issues all the time but the impact of reading reports on school climate from organizations like GLSEN pales in comparison to that of sitting and talking to kids about their experiences. Bullying is an everyday reality for many. It’s also clear that the majority of adults in these kids’ school communities are ill-equipped to support them. What do you say to a 12 year old who is bullied relentlessly for having lesbian parents, who has gone to teachers and has not gotten help, who has gone to parents and found them powerless in changing the situation as well? Sometimes the people who are supposed to make them feel safe are unable to do so. These stories definitely give me a new perspective on the importance of my work at HRC. I support Welcoming Schools, the HRC Family Project initiative that produces resources for parents, educators and administrators to help create welcoming elementary schools for all children. The main resource is the Welcoming Schools Guide, an LGBT inclusive curriculum guide that covers all types of diversity including family diversity, gender stereotyping and bullying. Let’s just say next time I’m asked to ship out a Welcoming Schools Guide, I’ll be sure to do so before the end of that same day. We also played our own version of Jeopardy with the youth yesterday! We called it Queerpardy and categories included: LGBT Movement History, GSAs & Safe Schools, and Famous COLAGErs. Let’s test your knowledge, shall we? Famous COLAGErs:
- Actress Ally Sheedy (who had a lesbian mother) starred in this 1980s movie about a group of high school students stuck in detention on a Saturday. Her character was notable for her quirky personality and black clothing.
- This star of Transformers films and the most recent Indiana Jones film is a “GOLAGEr” (grandchild of an LGBTQ grandparent).
- This 2ndgeneration COLAGEr is an Oscar-winning actress most well known for her role as Special Agent Clarice Starling the lead in Silence of the Lambs.
- The first ever high school GSA was created in this year.
- GSAs began in this state.
You’ll get the answers tomorrow. Yes, googling is considered cheating. Try to resist until then!