Monday, April 18, 2016

Day of Silence 2016

It's been an entire year since I posted a blog...

As a new faculty member at a traditional and historic boarding school, I admit I have been quiet and even reticent.

I have spoken up at chapel (See January 11th), sharing a bit of my story while encouraging the community to engage in the important conversations that we are having at The Hill School.

Today, April 18th, some Hill students participated in the National Day of Silence (article on Friday the 15th).

Not talking at a school is a challenge where we talk all day.

We may take for granted our daily conversations and kind gestures and questions such as, how are you? how was your weekend?

However, it's important to remember that not all in our community can speak their truth without being judged harshly or shamed. 

In my fourth and fifth form English classes, we did the following lesson in class:

TODAY's CLASS: I will be silent...

And I ask that you listen to the videos today with an open mind.

I believe we need to be better informed about why today is a Day of Silence.

From North Carolina to the U.S. Presidential Race to The Hill School, LGBTQ issues are making headlines.

Regardless of where you stand on these issues, I believe we all need a fundamental understanding of the issues which includes knowing important vocabulary - if you are to be culturally competent in 2016.

The goal is to be more conscious.

And to BE KIND as Ms. Dana Hunter said in chapel.

This quote is often attributed to Plato.

Understand that words and their meanings matter.

You may disagree with this lesson or skeptical, but best to be informed on these matters before making an ignorant judgment.

So, how can you be an ally?

1. Understand Your Privilege

2. Listen and Do Your Homework

3. Speak Up, but Not Over

4. You'll make mistakes! Apologize when you do. Understand this: it's not intent; it's impact.

5. Ally is a verb. Do the work - see 1-4 above.

So, to begin, please review this vocabulary:

Gender Terms from "The Gender Equity Resource Center, fondly referred to as GenEq, is a Cal community center committed to fostering a safe, equitable and inclusive experience for all. GenEq is the campus location where students, faculty, staff and alumni connect for resources, services, education and leadership programs related to gender and sexuality."

1. What words are new or interesting to you? 
How does vocabulary matter in understanding LGBTQ issues?

2. Please read my blog post from last year's Day of Silence. 

Feel free to reply in the discussion below.

My thinking on the Golden Rule has evolved to the Platinum Rule since reading this article "Creating an Equitable Community in The Andover Magazine.

Credit: "Creating an Equitable Community" (see page 25)

3. Watch these videos I embedded in my blog post.

Please comment on any of them in the discussion below.

(Today in class we watched Ash Beckford plus the following videos in this playlist 10, 11, and 12 in class.)

Interactive transcript to Ash Beckham's TED Talk from class today.

4. Please share your thoughts below. What resonated with you? 

If you have articles or videos that you wish to share, please do so!

You may finish this later tonight.
Listen to the words of others today with empathy.
We will talk tomorrow. Thank you in advance for being thoughtful today.

If you're thoughtful in your replies - an easy 100 points - please be sure to reply to one another as homework.

HOMEWORK: What did you hear and learn today?

I know some of you may be thinking...
This doesn't apply to me. 
Or why does this matter? 
Or why do I care?
For me, it's a human rights issue - and a civil rights issue.
And it's a matter of compassion.
I think of the kids that are struggling in silence - and many die by suicide.
• Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among young people ages 10 to 24.
• LGB youth are 4 times more likely, and questioning youth are 3 times more likely, to attempt suicide as their straight peers. 
• Suicide attempts by LGB youth and questioning youth are 4 to 6 times more likely to result in injury, poisoning, or overdose that requires treatment from a doctor or nurse, compared to their straight peers. 
• Nearly half of young transgender people have seriously thought about taking their lives, and one quarter report having made a suicide attempt. 
• LGB youth who come from highly rejecting families are 8.4 times as likely to have attempted suicide as LGB peers who reported no or low levels of family rejection. 
• 1 out of 6 students nationwide (grades 9-12) seriously considered suicide in the past year. 
• Each episode of LGBT victimization, such as physical or verbal harassment or abuse, increases the likelihood of self-harming behavior by 2.5 times on average. 

In each class today, this assignment begins with a sigh or an eye roll or more than mild resistance, yet the comments posted to the online class discussions are heartening. 

I believe much of the fear around this conversation comes from a lack of understanding, fear of saying the wrong thing, and fear of the unknown, "the other", but once we know more we have more compassion and empathy. 

While we may wish that everyone would be kind and everyone would be treated equally, we must understand the harsh reality: there's much hate, anger,  judgment, shame, and violence in this world.

With education, there's greater compassion, but we must be active in being an ally.

And I confess that fear and frustration holds me back at certain times. 

I worry if this community is ready for this conversation around sexuality and sexual orientation, especially since there's been such resistance to talks around gender and race.  

As usual, I turn to my alma mater and offer a must read for educators and students. 

Head of School John Palfrey at Phillips Academy shares these sage words that we need to understand:
One point that is more subtle: Gender and sexual orientation are unmistakably a part of any discussion about sexual health, but the conversation should not be thought of as exclusively heteronormative. OK – there were a lot of big words in that sentence. Let me unpack. By that, I mean that a discussion of sex is not only about a dynamic that exists between boys and girls. It is hard to have a conversation about sexual health, and especially about differences in expectations and power dynamics, without talking about differences in gender. I’d urge you, at the same time, not to let stereotypes dominate these conversations. On our campus, we have community members who are boys; we have those who are girls; and we have those who do not self-identify as either or who are in transition. (My PGP is: he/him/his.) And we have a range of sexual orientation at Andover. Every student is learning about their sexuality during this period of life, but not everyone is experiencing the same thing. That diversity is important. We respect everyone equally at Andover.         
[Read his entire all school meeting talk here.]

Or as Ms. Dana Hunter would say, we need to eat our spinach.