Transition Your Views of Transphobia

Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Today is the international day of transphobia and homophobia. So what is transphobia? The definition of transphobia in the Oxford Dictionary is “an intense dislike of or prejudice against transsexual or transgender people”, while the definition for homophobia is “an intense dislike of or prejudice against homosexual people”.

I would like to focus today on transphobia.

In the USA in the last couple of months there has been some significant activity. Some laws have been passed that don’t help the issue. Although these do not directly affect the UK; these laws don’t set a good precedent. I shall talk about the North Carolina House Bill 2, otherwise known as the “Bathroom Bill”. For those who are not aware of this, the North Carolina bill denies transgender people the use of the bathroom which matches their gender identity. This is justified on various grounds; that the gender you were assigned at birth is the gender you are and if you identify as something different then there must be something wrong with you, or that you must be some sort of predator, while there is also the fear that a straight man could dress in women clothes and say they are transgender just to get in to the women’s toilets so they could assault somebody. The other side to the “Bathroom Bill” is that a transgender person who has had sex reassignment surgery could be assaulted going into the bathroom. Opponents of the “Bathroom Bill” says that laws like these help promote transphobia and should never be considered for inclusion into law. There are also large companies opposed to the law and who are trying to get North Carolina to change their mind about the bill by threatening to take opportunities out of North Carolina. There have even been musicians and other entertainers refusing to perform there until the law is changed so that the transgender community can use the bathroom that they feel most comfortable using. But this isn’t just something that happens in America, it happens all over the world. While this is happening in America, in the UK trans and homosexual people are protected under the Equality Act of 2010 as these are protected characteristics under this legislation.

Whenever I leave the house I am constantly getting dirty looks and nasty comments from strangers just for going out dressed how I feel comfortable and this happens to trans people on a daily basis. Research has found that in America alone 41% of transgender and gender non-conforming have attempted suicide. This is in stark contrast to the national average of 4.6%. While there are many factors that drive trans people to attempt suicide one of the big factors is how people react to them and how employers treat them after they come out of the proverbial closet. Many trans people don’t feel safe using public toilets and would rather wait until they get home but when that is not possible shouldn’t they be able to ‘pee in peace’ in the toilet that they feel most comfortable using. The fact is trans people just want acceptance we don’t want to be treated like outcasts or freaks

Another factor in the attempted suicide rate is people using trans people as fetishes or sexually assaulting  trans people. It seems to be something which most if not all trans people go though and I get the feeling that whenever a trans person is seriously sexually assaulted that they try to go about life as if nothing has happened. Research suggests that approximately 50% of trans people have at some point experienced sexual violence and 1 in 10 trans people have been sexually assaulted in a healthcare setting. Even I have found myself victim to this and its always on occasions when I am feeling really low or almost suicidal. People message you with compliments and play with your insecurities to get things like photos or video chats and usually these are of a sexual nature; then when the chat is over I find myself feeling even worse but also used and violated to some extent. I have even found myself contemplating suicide after one occasion; but then I thought no why should I let people defeat me. I think because we as a society don’t openly talk about Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) issues that we have enabled discrimination to spread and the longer we avoid talking about these types of issues openly then discrimination and transphobia will continue to be a serious problem.

 

the links can be found below

No, High Suicide Rates Do Not Demonstrate That Transgender People Are Mentally Ill

National Statistics

 

 

 

How Can We Promote Equality in the Classroom?

I have recently had an incident in my class recently where students have been discussing immigration and there was some language used which bordered on racist. I have to state that this incident was in a class of ESOL (non-native speakers) learners.

My tact on this occasion was to point out to the people in questions that they too were immigrants and they should consider how they would wanted to be spoken about and treated. I’m not sure whether I convinced them or not!

This got me thinking back to when other such incidents have arisen and how I have dealt with them or not? This then led me on to giving further thoughts to how do I promote equality in the classroom?

There are many in my profession who believe that we should only teach English in the class room and not seek to change peoples’ views. However, I disagree with this view on a number of key points. Firstly, I happen to believe that any form of racism or prejudice should not be tolerated full stop. Secondly, as my ‘real job’ so to speak, is as an Equality and Diversity trainer, (who just happens to teach English as a hobby) I should not be allowing this to happen. In fact I should view it as an opportunity to promote equality in the classroom and to educate people on the positives of diversity and inclusion.

This is not the first time that issues such as this have arisen in the past. Some of my students have expressed views which are sexist, disabilist, homophobic or are aligned to just about every form of prejudice known to man. As an inexperienced teacher, I must admit to ignoring such comments on occasion and at other times directing the learners back to the task at hand. This often left me feeling as if I had failed to use the situation as a positive opportunity to promote equality and I would usually question what I could have done better.

Many of my colleagues have commented on these issues in the past and how to deal with them and some have even colluded with the views expressed. This has caused me again to question myself.

I have however become more pro-active in this area over the years and often challenge learners over their prejudiced views. On occasions it seems to make an impact and I see a change in behaviour but at other times it appears that their views are well entrenched and it will take more than challenging them to alter their views. This does not deter me though.

Thoughts on this issue must also be given to the materials used. Nowadays, many of the course books produced are more reflective of ‘real life’ and indeed the Skills for Life materials that were produced a number of years ago better reflected the ethnicity of the UK and even presented issues such as non-traditional families. I have always tried to embed and promote equality into my teaching and use materials which are reflective of the diversity of the UK. Indeed I strongly believe that I have a moral obligation to do so.

With the introduction of citizenship and the ‘Life in the UK’ test over recent years this has also led to there being presented a more complete view of the values and social make-up of the UK as a whole. I have indeed used some of the materials in my ‘project’ lessons at university. I believe one of the greatest advantages of using such materials is that it gives a clearer understanding to foreign residents in the UK what the expected norms of behaviour are and what the majority of the people who live in the UK think. Ultimately, they should be aware of what could even be illegal.

Some of my colleagues may disagree with me and I would welcome their views. However, two of the main reasons that people want to learn English is so that they can communicate with the people who reside in the country they live in and secondly, many foreign students at university are learning English so that when they graduate and go into business they are able to communicate with people from other countries and indeed other cultures.

There could also be great benefit in introducing topics such as ‘Gay Marriage’ in the language classroom as it can lead to debate and generate lengthy discussion which is after all one of the aims of language teaching. When I have presented topics such as this in the past it has led to much more fluency as learners undoubtedly have an opinion either way.

Perhaps teachers may feel uncomfortable and less in control if they introduce topics which are likely to provoke strong debate but when all is said and done if you have a greater opportunity for meaningful language learning and you can tackle prejudice does that not give us a win/win situation?

Diversity in Teaching

I just thought I would take the time to write something about my profession, which is teaching. In particular, I would like to focus on diversity in teaching. However, I want to talk about diversity in teaching from a different perspective. By this I mean, diversity of thought, creativity and processes among others.

In our profession there are often many hoops that we have to jump through for various bodies.

I work in a variety of educational settings and as such they all have different ways of working and expect different things of the lecturers, teachers, tutors or whatever the many other titles they give to educators is. I am usually called all 3 at various times.

The expectations of me from the various establishments I work in vary greatly. They range from being given a largely free reign to deliver my teaching as I see fit, to having to complete numerous pieces of paper to justify my existence or so it would seem.

There of course has to be a plan of action in order to meet our learners’ needs but I do often wonder why as educators we have to complete schemes of work (an outline plan of the whole term or length of course) and lesson plans?

In my experience the best lessons I have ever had are when I have a general idea in my head of what I need and want to cover. I then follow the lesson through responding to learners’ needs as appropriate. This does often mean that I have a range of teaching materials that I may or may not use, but the lessons themselves are often a great success.
One of the greatest enlightening moments for me (which I stumbled upon by chance) has been, rather than seeing the necessary forms to complete being viewed as bureaucracy; instead to look on them as part of the lesson. This has helped me to view them not as bureaucracy but rather as practical ‘real life’ examples for students. This has the given students practice at everyday skills like completing forms.

Best practice would say that you plan your scheme of work and then lessons to meet the aforementioned. All of these should ultimately help you to achieve your goal. I do agree that you need an idea of where you want to be and plan accordingly but this should be left up to individual teachers to decide how they implement this. After all the best measure of success is students’ achievements.

I do however think there is far too much bureaucracy involved in teaching and despite every government saying over the years that they want to reduce the amount of paperwork, it has steadily increased. In my personal experience I have felt that this has led to my creativity being stifled.

Sometimes when planning lessons, it can take me 3 times as long as the lesson actually lasts. Clearly this can be viewed as a waste of time.

Let me get back to the bureaucracy itself. I believe that the amount of it is suited to a particular type of teacher. In my opinion, this is the kind of teacher who needs or prefers to see things written down and who has a very analytical and organised brain. Over the years we have lost a lot of teachers who have complained about the amount of paperwork they have to complete.

The result of this is that, there is a lack of diversity in teaching. I don’t believe and I am sure that many of my colleagues would agree that we don’t want to create robotic students who are all the same. So, why then when it comes to the very profession that is responsible for facilitating learning do we expect all teachers to operate in the same way? I am of the strong opinion that we are losing far too many people who would love to teach but are dissuaded from doing so for fear of bureaucracy.

Therefore the question to ask ourselves is. Do we want all teachers to be constrained by bureaucracy or do we want to unleash creativity?

I would very much welcome other peoples’ insights in this area, and then we can truly engage in debate about the future of the teaching profession.

Are Boys More Likely to Fail in Schools?

I read an interesting article recently which carried out a Q&A session with the researcher of a study on the ”self-fulfilling stereotypes surrounding boys at school”.

The aim of the study was to try to identify at what age children acquire the stereotype that boys are not as good academically as girls. It goes on to look at the whether the messages that support this perception add to the stereotype.

Stereotypes in general, I have found can often be self-fulfilling. In other words because you are expected to do something you end up doing it.

Distinctions between boys and girls are often reinforced very early on by parents, who dress little boys in blue and little girls in pink. As the children grow, they are often given stereotypical toys to play with. Such as, girls with dolls and boys with toy guns. I’ve often wondered what would be the result if children had a choice of what their first toys were to be.

I recall being in my first class at primary school and being absolutely fascinated by the Russian doll that sat on the window sill. However, at the end of the day when you were given a choice of toy to play with I was never allowed to play with this Russian doll. Don’t worry; I’m not going to get all upset here as I’ve got my own collection of Russian dolls now. I also believe that recognising diversity in teaching is the corner stone of many teachers’ practices these days. So, this is not a criticism of teachers.

Returning to the study itself, it was discovered that some children were as young as 7 or 8 when they began to associate girls with working harder and doing better. The worrying thing for me is that these gender stereotypes are having a negative impact on the academic achievements of boys. It concludes in the article that ways to challenge this are to promote positive gender expectations and to challenge negative academic stereotypes.

It is clear that we should recognise gender diversity in schools as much as we do cultural diversity but this should not fall into negative stereotyping based on gender.

The full article can be viewed here. http://www.scienceomega.com/article/808/self-fulfilling-stereotypes-surrounding-boys-at-school