Thursday, August 13, 2015

Different Sides of the Same Coin: Education, anti-LGBTQ bias, and Ableism

This was originally a facebook post set to "public" but I believe it is long enough and important enough to put on this blog. I will be moving this blog to a wordpress associated with my campaign for Bellevue School School Director (School Board) soon. I don't have money for it, yet, because I haven't set up the ability for people to donate yet but I should have that soon! 
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In education, as in all other advocacy, there is no such thing as a single issue. Take school safety for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer/Questioning (LGBTQ) youth, for example.
[Note: this will be a bit simplistic because complexity is an inherent part of social issues.]

Cultural attitudes around LGBTQ people and ideas of deviance being abhorrent are huge factors in the systemic harassment of LGBTQ youth. These cultural attitudes are upheld by the gender policing in elementary, middle, and high school AND the policing of disabled people, their bodies, and their movements.

What I mean by gender policing are the acts done by teachers, para-educators, school administration, and parents that establish a clear binary of boys and girls and what is acceptable behaviors for their assigned genders. 

What I mean by disability policing are the acts done by teachers, para-educators, school administration, and parents that establish what are acceptable behaviors of human beings--no "odd" movements, eye contact, speaking/using speech as a primary mode of communication/speaking "correctly," not using assistive technology, walking/walking "normally," as well as a myriad of other things that essentially amount to "be this body/neuro-type."

Combined with the violence of restraint and isolation and the segregation of resource rooms, this creates a climate of fear and eventually a stigma theory that is influenced by existing culture that deems deviant bodies as worth less than normative bodies. Within this framework that is anti-deviance, anti-LGBTQ cultural attitudes find a good home.

So if we want to combat homophobia, we need to combat ableism and vice versa. This is also true of racism, sexism, classism, xenophobia, etc. No one issue can be solved without the other. In addition, most of us don't fit into neat little groups of this marginalization or another. There is not what Elmindreda calls a "difference slot." (The essay on the "difference slot" can be found here.)

I, for example, am not only disabled (autistic and otherwise neurodivergent), but I am also Transgender and Bisexual and all of these marginalizations color my life. If you somehow solved homophobia without addressing, I would still have to deal with transmisogyny and ableism.
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Another thing we have to consider is HOW we address these issues and that intersects with the issues of class size, teacher pay and professional development, special education reform, and community engagement to name a few, (Again, heavily complex.) The truth is that resources are there to go around especially when we consider the intersectional nature of education issues and how to address them but advocacy that only considers a single group divides us and leaves us in a situation where we are fighting for scraps in an ineffectual, inefficient system.


It is my hope that we can move past that and consider education issues from all angles and realize that the issues are all different sides of the same coin.

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