Years ago, as a quite new teacher, I referred a student to my administrators for calling another a "faggot." Prior to this event, I'd tried other disciplinary steps for the student and had observed a pattern of harassment. Still, I was worried, simply because of the conservative area and the nature of the referral, that admin would write it off.
To my surprise, they didn't.
To my greater surprise, the parent came to school to contest the punishment. "Why shouldn't my kid get to call a faggot a faggot?"
About a month or so ago, while brainstorming topics for my state's Planned Parenthood Advocates blog, I learned about the existence of the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, which happens to be this Friday. My first thought was that confronting anti-gay and anti-trans prejudices shouldn't need its own day because it's something we should be doing every day.
Because there are plenty of people energetically doing the opposite.
I know that VP isn't a space for politics, but I'm going to go there for a bit -- because I think treating all people respectfully shouldn't be a politically controversial act.
You may have heard about Arizona's proposed "bathroom bill"? It would have made it illegal for someone to use a restroom if the sex designation of the restroom did not match the sex designation on that person's birth certificate. It could well have made it tricky, triggering, or outright dangerous for trans or genderqueer people to enter a public restroom. After receiving some negative national attention, the bill's sponsor decided to pursue a different angle. Unfortunately, that legislation is even worse as it would actually make it illegal for municipalities to enact certain anti-discrimination ordinances or policies based on gender identity or expression.
People shouldn't have to be afraid to pee. People shouldn't have to fear being legislatively barred from using a locker room, particularly when there's already so much social baggage tied up in locker rooms -- especially for anyone whose appearance doesn't fit current standards for what is acceptable and normal. In that vein, both proposals have the potential to harm people who have non-normative gender expressions -- women who appear "too masculine," men who appear "too feminine," not coincidentally some of the same people who are likely to be bullied with words like "dyke" and "faggot" -- regardless of whether those folks are trans.
What makes me fearful is that this isn't just one school student; this isn't just one student's parent. These are multiple people -- the bill's sponsor and the committee members who approved the first version, at least -- in positions of power. As I'm sure at least some members of their constituencies are trans, these are legislators who -- as part of their professional actions -- are actively seeking to harm a portion of the people they're supposed to represent.
And I don't know what to do with that. I mean, yes -- I've contacted the legislators who've supported the bill, my own legislators, and any other legislators I think will listen. But I also fear that -- if these are the public words and official acts of people we've elected to help and safeguard -- this is just the tip of a very big iceberg.
How have you, or people you know, worked to confront anti-gay and anti-trans prejudices? What suggestions do you, or they, have for others looking to do so?