Post submitted by Milagros Chirinos, Bilingual Media Manager-Spanish
Jorge Herrera and María Orozco of Mexico City share a passion: advocating for LGBTQ students. These young leaders, inspired to action by the lack of inclusive practices and procedures in their own schools, are the founders of DILO, a non-profit organization dedicated to creating discrimination-free spaces and inclusive classrooms for LGBTQ students all across Mexico. The organization offers a comprehensive program that evaluates levels of classroom inclusion, designs action plans and embraces antidiscrimination policies for K-12 and college students.
Herrera and Orozco are in Washington, D.C., this week, participating in HRC’s Welcoming Schools Facilitator Certification Program, an HRC Foundation initiative that trains professionals in delivering Welcoming Schools professional development modules to create safer, more inclusive schools in their communities.
After the training, Herrera, Orozco, and the rest of the 2017 facilitator cohort of 22 education professionals, will work toward achieving benchmarks over the next two years to earn the certification to become certified Welcoming Schools facilitators, applying their skills to promote inclusive and safe classroom environments for all students.
How did you become LGBTQ advocates?
María: It all started because we wanted to have an all-gender bathroom in TEC (Tecnológico de Monterrey, Mexico), our school. The hateful comments and discrimination spread out quickly and we thought it was time for us to do something about it. We are both part of the LGBTQ community and we know how hard it is for students to be accepted and welcomed in the classrooms.
What is it like to be the founders of DILO?
Jorge: We were having a conversation with some friends about the bathroom controversy in our school and we knew it was time to take action. Maria and I noticed the importance of having not only an all-gender bathroom for all students and families, but classrooms and school spaces where everyone can be who they are without having to be bullied or stigmatized for it.
What are the challenges of working with this initiative?
Maria: We live in a very conservative society where machismo and homophobia are intrinsic parts of who we are as a country. We really lack acceptance and tolerance. On the other hand, parents are very involved in school decisions; student voices are put aside and do not necessarily count in the policy making process.
What are the goals of DILO?
Jorge: Our mission is to empower and train all LGBTQ students, teachers and volunteers so that they can create initiatives and practices to generate inclusive spaces and non-discrimination policies in schools across Mexico. We must work hand in hand with parents, school board members and students to leverage inclusive policies.
How did you hear about HRC Welcoming Schools?
María: We were researching organizations that could help us better understand the inclusive processes and practices to create safe classrooms. Being part of these trainings will help us implement the tools and techniques to achieve our goals. We have a clearer picture of what needs to be done back home.
What are you planning to do when you return to Mexico?
Jorge: We plan to train our volunteers and help them spread our message. The Welcoming Schools modules will be translated into a Latin American context and we hope that we can apply all that we learned here to overcome the obstacles LGBTQ students face in Mexico.
HRC's Welcoming Schools is the nation's premier program dedicated to creating respectful and supportive elementary schools in embracing family diversity, creating LGBTQ-inclusive schools, preventing bias-based bullying, creating gender-expansive schools, and supporting transgender and non-binary students.