Looking Through a Different Lens... • Differing Perspectives Brandie M. Oliver, Assistant Professor, Butler University
Some Background • My work with GLBTQIA • School counselor • At University • With PFLAG • With GSAs • What is the role of the educator? What is your role?
Parents, Families, & Friends • Most of focus is on the GLBTQI student; • This study looks at and gathers the stories and experiences through the voice of the parent, family member and/or friend of the GLBTQI student. • What types of interactions have you had with this group of people?
Common Themesthus far.... • Information sheet looking at specific questions to gather information regarding this population’s interactions with the school community • So much more emerged when listening to their stories... • Let’s look at the common themes thus far
Silent Diversity • Invisibility • Teachers/school not aware • Parents not aware • Do not assume heterosexuality • Understanding the stage of identity development that the student is currently functioning (Cass’ Gay Identity Development model) • How can you see this as a challenge? any benefits?
Fear • Repetitive theme of fear • Being scared for both student and for self • Allies concerned about being targeted • had been bullied because of friendship with GLBTQI students • called gay and ‘gay lovers’ by other students • How would their family be perceived now?
Guilt • How did I not know this? • What did I do wrong? • Not knowing what to do or how to help • “Want to” fix • Friends: felt guilt because stopped hanging out with the GLBTQI student for a period of time
Ambiguity • Uncertain about past, present, future • Trying to analyze and remember....when? • Struggling with own feelings • We liken this reaction to a grieving process: here, you are grieving over losing an image of your child. As you work through your feelings, you may discover that the only thing your child has “done” to you is to trust that your relationship could grow as a result of you knowing the truth about him or her.
Unconditional Love Regardless—I will always love my child.
Their ‘OWN’ Process • Needing time to process the ‘news’ • Felt pressure from son/daughter to accept immediately • Similar to grief/loss stages: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance • “First, they become acquainted with a side of their child they never knew. They now are included in their child’s life. Usually, they get closer. And the parents begin to meet the gay community and understand that these are people just like any other community.”
Safe Space at School • Somewhere to talk; safe space sign visible • If/when student tells the counselor, the counselor does not need to call the parent...what are your experiences? Why do you think counselors would tell the parent? • Teacher reactions • Student reactions • Locker rooms--not safe space
Tips for educators • GSA: the need for a GSA group in the school consistently came up in discussions • Some school staff were uncomfortable taking on role of sponsor of group in fear of losing their job--now this adds a new dimension to this issue • Harassment log kept at school GSA--way to monitor and discuss the issue in the school
About school counselors- • “fairly blandly supportive...they say nice things about us (GSA) at times, but never come to meetings or offer much visible/tangible support. They often send their college interns to see what our meetings are like.” --GSA Sponsor • “Get professional development/attend conferences related to these issues and educate themselves on local advocacy and support groups available” -- GSA Sponsor
Ideas from study... • Have support resources for both students, families, and friends (including books/videos) • “resources available should tell of the successes of gays and how gay folks have dealt successfully with anti-gay behavior--also research that proves that being gay is not a learned behavior but genetic” --father of lesbian (also retired school principal) • Currently working on educational/informational manual for all school staff
Ideas from study... • Educate ALL staff and students • Make a priority • Make GLBTQI in the language policy for discrimination/bullying/harassment • Have consequences for faculty/staff if become aware of intolerance
Thanks to.. • Indianapolis PFLAG • GSA groups • All of the wonderful parents, families, and friends that were willing to share their stories!
Internet Resources Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network www.glsen.org The Safe Schools Coalition www.safeschoolscoalition.org Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays www.pflag.org Gay-Straight Alliance Network Children of Lesbians and Gays Everywhere www.colage.org Family Equality Council, www.familyequality.org The Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law www.law.ucla.edu/williamsinstitute www.gsanetwork.org