Did you know that today was National Coming Out Day? I didn't, until a few hours ago. I attended a "Safe Zone" training on our campus, intended to help "allies" of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Trangendered (LGBT) to, well, figure out how to be good allies. We talked about issues, from appropriate language to myths and stereotypes to Wisconsin's proposed Anti-Marriage amendment. It was really a good discussion. Of course, the people who were there were mostly people who were already aware of most of the issues. But I'm sure that at least some of them were like me. I'm very committed to respecting people's right to be who they are, and open to people who are different from me in whatever way, but I'm not sure how to express that commitment and openness without having to get up on a soap box.
One of the interesting things in the training was one of those dorky little exercises in labelling. They had three or four people come up and they put a label on one's back, and then the others were supposed to treat the person stereotypically, and see if the target person could guess what they were. So the first guy was blind, and one of his co-actors spoke to him in a loud voice, and another one kept asking if he needed any help getting around. Then the second guy was a young woman in a miniskirt and too much makeup, and the others tried to hit on her. Then the third woman was a lesbian, and one of her co-actors did something that really made me think. She walked away and sat down in her seat. It really sent a powerful message. We all know that it's bad when people beat up and villify people because they are LBGT. But I, at least, don't usually think about how bad it must feel to be ignored because of it.
Anyway, I thought it was a pretty good use of a couple of hours of my time, and I got a little logo to stick on my office door, declaring it a Safe Zone for LBGT people. I don't know that it will make much of a difference. I don't expect hoards of students to come knocking on my door wanting to talk about the issue. But I hope it will make a few of my students a little more comfortable around me, and perhaps push a few different students to ponder why such a thing would be necessary in the first place.
Yes, I did run today, 3.9 miles in the rain, on hills. It was miserable, but fun.
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