‘Safe spaces’ need proper decoration

‘Safe spaces’ need proper decoration

More and more institutions and schools approach me and seem to be interested in catering for their LGBTQI+ learners. Some are also interested in raising LGBTQI+ awareness in their attempt to include topics that extend beyond the strict confines of (most) coursebooks.

 

The questions I am mostly asked have to do with what materials to choose or design, how to plan lessons around LGBTQI+ topics, creative lesson ideas, but also with how to deal with instances of homophobia in the class, how to properly address individuals without making them feel uncomfortable, etc.

 

What is often – if not always – under-touched, though, is the subject of space. Not in the metaphorical sense (providing a safe(r) space for our learners so as to enable them to develop their true identity/ies; the physical space: our staffroom, our office, our classes, the school’s corridors, etc.

 

Take a walk around your school and ask yourself if there is anything that suggests LGBTQI+ friendly or that signals the existence of that metaphorical space I discussed before. As much as we – definitely I – strive to make LGBTQI+ identities part of the mainstream (sic) culture, it is without any doubt that they are not. At least, not everyone, not yet.

 

In my personal relationships, I used to emphasize my negation to anything labelled ‘LGBTQI+ only’. I have been against gay clubs, gay friendly cafes, etc. This younger self of mine would have been against visible LGBTQI+ references in schools and classes, as well. My rationale for this was naively clear: the more labelled spaces we create, the more labelled people we become. The extent to which this rationale is wrong will be the topic of a later post.

 

What I have come to understand as an individual and as an educator is that we cannot take our own perceptions of reality for granted. If we, for any reason, happened to live a happy life being openly who we actually are does not mean that everyone enjoys the same privilege (sic). Bullying, homophobia, and any form of discrimination for that matter do exist and we have to acknowledge that and provide safe spaces for our learners; first and foremost, physical spaces.

 

 

I, hereby, call for action:

  • Buy a rainbow flag and put it in your office.
  • If there is any LGBTQI+ event near your school, post a leaflet or a poster on the social events notice board of your school.
  • If you have a stand where you put leaflets, or any other informative brochures, start putting LGBTQI+ related content (e.g. a glossary which explains different terms such as transgender, cisgender, gay, etc.)
  • Distribute red ribbons in December in support for people living with HIV.
  • Post a picture of Matthew Shepard on one of the school’s walls. Don’t ‘preach’, let them come to you and ask you what this means, or why it is important.

 

Next time you walk around your school, class, institution, staffroom, make sure think about this. Quite possibly, you won’t be able to do all of these. Think, though, what would fit in your context and do something about it.

 

One of your learners might need to talk to someone; by not catering for our physical space, we deprive them of a metaphorical ‘safe’ space. Let’s give our learners the space they deserve.

If you make such a change or if you have already done so, post a picture of your class, your staffroom, or your office below and inspire other colleagues do the same.

 

 

Thank you,

 

Angelos

 

All images are labeled for non-commercial use

4 Replies to “‘Safe spaces’ need proper decoration”

  1. Great post, Angelos! Look forward to reading the next one- I’m allergic to labels, so I’m curious to see your spin on that! x

    1. Thank you for your encouragement and nice comment 🙂
      Back in 2007, I wrote a paper on Heteronormativity and the Theatrical Form in which I did not use a single label-term. That was very challenging but reflected my beliefs at the time. I will write something on labels very soon (it will be a lesson, actually) 🙂

      Thank you for taking the time to read and comment.

  2. Hopefully school owners will read this post and take your suggestions into consideration, as it is not only a matter of LGBTQI+ ,but a matter of paying attention to each and every human being without putting labels. I would love to read a post about creating a learning environment where everyone feels equal and safe regardless of race , sex and all these unintelligible labels.

    1. I would love to see a time when all these posts will be unnecessary, to be honest.

      Thank you for taking the time to read and comment here – I will think about your suggestion and write something on it.

      Angelos

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