Faculty engage in queer education

Associate Professor of Education Mark Matzaganian implores Assistant Professor of School Psychology Kim Dieu to judge his purposely mismatched outfit while his heart rate is monitored in front of the audience Oct. 11 in the Abraham Campus Center Ballroom. The exercise was meant to convey how easily other people’s words can affect your health and implied that the negative comments that people of the LGBTQ community receive are doing even more harm. / photo by Kayla Salas
Associate Professor of Education Mark Matzaganian implores Assistant Professor of School Psychology Kim Dieu to judge his purposely mismatched outfit while his heart rate is monitored in front of the audience Oct. 11 in the Abraham Campus Center Ballroom. The exercise was meant to convey how easily other people’s words can affect your health and implied that the negative comments that people of the LGBTQ community receive are doing even more harm. / photo by Kayla Salas

Layla Abbas
LV Life Editor

Queer Education 101, developed by a group of faculty, will provide informative sessions about active ally education for all groups in the LGBT spectrum, along with increasing people’s awareness and knowledge for marginalized groups.

The interactive course, offered in two-hour sessions throughout the academic year in the Campus Center Ballroom, was created by Assistant Professor of Education Isaac Carter, Assistant Professor of Psychology James Garcia, University Chaplain Zandra Wagoner, Director of Multicultural Affairs Daniel Loera, Assistant Director of Multicultural Services Misty Levingston and Assistant Director of Diversity and Inclusivity Aracely Torres.

The first session was presented to roughly 70 people on National Coming Out Day Oct. 11.

“We know there is the traditional ally safe zone training, but we wanted to do something different,” Torres said. “We wanted to do something that really addresses our student demographics and challenges our community is dealing with.”

Torres mentioned they discarded the placard stickers people would place on their doors to signify they are an ally for the LGBT community.

“We want to change the culture and how we see allyship,” Torres said. “We want to have our actions convey the idea that ‘yes we are here. I am an ally and I am learning.’ It is a constant process and attending one workshop, one session or having that sticker does not automatically make [you] an ally, it is [your] actions.”

Dean of the LaFetra College of Education Kimberly White-Smith expressed her appreciation for this training considering her own experience as a mother.

“As a mother of a queer child of color, one of the things I have been having conversations with her about is what is important to her, what helps her feel safe and what does she look for in school,” White-Smith said.

White-Smith said she understands why the group is not giving out the placard cards to signify alliance, but finds it a necessity to do so.

“What has been important in my daughter’s experience and feeling safe in coming out is being able to identify folks that will not reject her,” White-Smith said.

“I hope we as a community figure out how to support our students,” White-Smith said. “Until we can get everybody on board to train we need to talk to our students and find out from them what is it that they need in order to help them feel safe and identify individuals that they feel they can talk to.”

Garcia spoke about microaggressions, which are unintentional slights that communicate hostility and get under the skin of someone’s psychological health.

Most of the research Garcia conducts looks at the physiology of when people are rejected, discriminated or marginalized and the effect it has on blood pressure, the heart and the immune system.

Garcia asked Kim Dieu, assistant professor of school psychology to comment on his outfit while he took his blood pressure. When Garcia asked Dieu, to critique his outfit, his blood pressure went up 5 points.

According to the American Heart Association, Garcia’s blood pressure was at stage II of hypertension.

“What I am trying to illustrate is how being judged looks like in the body,” Garcia said. “These microaggressions get under our skin. They affect our heart and immune system.”

Garcia said the implicit association test offered by Harvard University is a great way to address implicit biases people have.

The free test is available at implicit.harvard.edu/implicit.

“Harvard collects data on different types of implicit biases we have toward specific groups,” Garcia said. “It is a good place to start to break the notion of ‘Oh I am not racist or sexist or homophobic,’ because we are affected by our social environment.”

Torres said it is key to become an ally and knowledgeable about the many communities that fit under the LGBT community.

One community that is often overlooked is the bisexual community, Torres said.

“A bisexual person is always bi regardless of who they are dating at that current time,” Torres said. “The bi community is viewed as illegitimate, so what can we be doing to create visibility to the bi community?”

Torres said queer trans people of color may not feel an affinity to the terms used, and it is up to the ‘ally’ to learn about the specifics of each group.

“We must educate and learn that in different communities different things apply,” Torres said. “This is important and how we convey this idea that ‘I am an ally and I am taking the time to learn and be educated.’”

Torres said it is okay to ask people for their pronouns, but to avoid asking for their preferred gender pronoun.

“It is not a preference,” Torres said. “This is how people choose to identify so it is not a matter of preference.”

Carter provided a historical timeline of the LGBT community dating back to the 17th century where two women were prosecuted for lewd behavior.

The timeline progressed to the positive advancements society has made like the 2015 Supreme Court decision that legalized same sex marriage.

“We as a society are moving to a better place, but we have not got there yet,” Carter said. “Part of this movement is from the youth so this is why it is so important for us at college universities to take the time to integrate and educate our students.”

For society to keep improving, we must appreciate our differences, Carter said.

“The experiences of this community in our society is one where they often feel alone, isolated, attacked, undermined and marginalized,” Carter said. “This feeling leads to behavioral effects like suicide. These sessions can really save lives because everybody wants to feel a sense of belonging.”

Intersectionality is the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class and gender that create overlapping systems of discrimination or disadvantage, defined by the Oxford Dictionary.

For example a person of color who identifies as part of the LGBT community is placed at a higher risk for discrimination against, because of their identities.

“When we are having discussions about the LGBT community it is important to see the intersectionalities play a role and integrate other forms of oppression,” Carter said. “Hopefully we can find our similarity of experiences will lead us to appreciation of our differences and we can build more powerful coalitions instead of playing the ‘who has been oppressed more’ game.”

Levingston shared different terms like gender identity, how one identifies, gender expression, how one expresses their identity through their attire and biological sex, the physical anatomy one was born with.

“We have some students on campus who happen to identify as male, who were born biologically female,” Levingston said. “It is our job to address them by the name and gender they are identifying as. It is not your responsibility to tell them ‘oh no Joanna you cannot call yourself Joe today.’ It is not your business.”

Loera said dialogue contains an immense amount of power if people use it correctly.

“We have to care enough to remain in dialogue, because sometimes we hear things that are not in sync with our own thinking,” Loera said. “We need to care enough to hear each other out because dialogue has transformative power.”

The admissions office will roll out a preferred name policy this coming year allowing people to choose their preferred name that will go in different bases like class rosters.

The office is also asking prospective students for their gender identity.

“This is a huge step forward because we are signaling to prospective students that we are thinking about them,” Torres said. “We are trying to create an inclusive environment and this is the first step.”

The next session of Queer Education 101 will be from 11:30 to 1:30 p.m. Nov. 15 in the Campus Center Ballroom.

Layla Abbas can be reached at layla.abbas@laverne.edu.

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