UOTeachOUT 2015: Bodies, Borders, and Bridges

Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world.   -Nelson Mandela

uoteachout class of 2015


By Becca Cloe  My final term as an undergraduate at the University of Oregon was filled with life changing experiences due to my participating in the UOTeach OUT public pedagogy project.
       Through this project I was able to connect what I was reading about in my equal opportunity Homophobia class to the lived experiences of local youth in schools.
        I participated in the planning and execution of the BBQueer fundraising and awareness- raising event, the Pink Prom for high school students, and the Youth Leadership Summit for middle and high school students in GSAs. These three events were joyful, eye opening, and gave me real perspective around issues LGBTQ youth face and what can be done to make it better now.
What I learned about most through my participation in UOTeach OUT was critical curriculum and the oppression that is experienced by LGBTQ youth in schools. Critical curriculum, or critical pedagogy, as described by Kevin Kumashiro (2002)

“…involves both the critique and transformation of structural oppression (Giroux & McLaren, 1989). Knowledge about oppression is but the first step of a larger process. Also necessary are thinking skills that students can use to formulate effective plans of action”(p.46; emphasis in original).
        I experienced this in my participation in the Homophobia class; we first learned about privilege, power, and oppression (and the many forms it takes, not all specifically relating to LGBTQ issues) before we were asked to help execute events that would support and educate local youth. What has stuck with me most was how this class was bbqable to detail all the oppression, harassment, and inequitable treatment LGBTQ folks face, without painting it as being a hopeless situation.
         Through critical curriculum, I was able to view LGBTQ issues and was then given the tools to do something about it. As we worked on planning and executing the events that are a part of UOTeach OUT, we were able to see how we can and were making a difference.
         At the Pink Prom, for example, I was given the opportunity to see LGBTQ identifying folks enjoy their prom just like any other high school student would; drama, laughter, dancing, silliness, and openness characterized this event. These students who may regularly feel like they cannot openly express themselves, were able to dance with their partners, dress how they wanted, express their feelings (good and bad) about their date, and relax and enjoy without the fear of someone telling them they couldn’t be there, or should have dress differently, brought a different date, used the wrong pronoun when identifying them, etc. These are some of the milder forms of harassment these students could have experienced at a less-inclusive prom; they could have been physically assaulted, turned away from the door, kicked out, or any other number of horrible things that wouldn’t happen to a cisgendered, heterosexual couple/person.prom2
        The Pink Prom was certainly a joyful event, but the event that had the largest impact on my learning was the Youth Leadership Summit. I was able to interact with youth from many schools as we learned together. The moments that have stuck with me were when I was facilitating an activity of making identity bracelets. We provided different colored beads and string for students to make bracelets that represented parts of their identity: sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, and sex. There were many labels in each category, as we wanted to be inclusive and give everyone a chance to express their identities. However, students came up and told us we needed beads to represent pansexuality, transgender, and other labels we had forgotten (or lost, the labels were reused from the previous year).
        It reminded me that when we attempt to label something, in that moment it becomes partial. As students were doing the activity I also got questions like, “What’s androgynous?” These moments reminded me that not everyone who identifies within a group would have the same amount of education and understanding, and that we shouldn’t rely on those in the group to educate us, we must educate ourselves. Kumashiro
(2002) says this about education for the Other,
“…teaching about the Other often positions the Other as the expert, as in the case when students of color are asked to explain the African American or some other “minority” perspective (Fuss, 1989; hooks, 1994). Such a situation reinforces the social, cultural, and even intellectual space or division between the norm and the
        The youth summit reinforced so many things I had been reading about in very concrete ways; I was able to bring my education and understanding out of the classroom and into a space that made a difference in the lives of these youth. Of course, critical curriculum starts in the classroom and school before it goes out in
the world. We, as educators, must be willing to take risks in order to make schools more safe and equitable places. According to Cris Mayo (2014),
“Preparing teachers and school leaders to be advocates for all students means working against those prejudices that circulate widely and, further, making sure that school personnel learn about the ways schools as institutions exacerbate already existing divisions and biases. Because schools do more than teach basic subjects but also teach students how to become members of communities and part of the progress of the nation and the world, teachers, school leaders, school staff, and counselors all need to be prepared to work with diverse learners, community members, and parents, and to advocate for the equitable learning of all students”(p.14)”.
        As mentioned previously, understanding oppression is only the first step, but it is an important step. Looking at statistics, we can see that LGBTQ students are not safe in schools and their education suffers from the harassment, “bullying”, and oppression (see fig.1). As Mayo stated, schools are part of the system that shows young people how they participate in their communities and the world.
        C.J. Pascoe (2012) showed this clearly in her work Dude, You’re a Fag: Masculinity and Sexuality in High School. Pascoe is able to bring to our attention just how youth are trained to act out in the real world, mainly that young men are trained to be homophobic and that their masculinity is inexorably tied to their domination over women. When these ideas aren’t disrupted in schools, it leads to young people taking the behaviors out into the world as adults, and the cycle of oppression continues. For example, young men feel as though it is their right to touch young women’s bodies,
“At River High masculinity was established through gendered rituals of touch involving boys’ physical dominance and girls’ submission”(p.96). In more detail, “The flirtatious physical interactions escalated, becoming increasingly violent, until a girl squealed, cried, or just gave up. This sort of daily drama physically engendered meanings of power in which boys were confirmed as powerful and girls as weak”(p.98).
        While the data show that most LGBTQ students do not feel safe at schools and their education suffers because of it, there is hope. “Students who feel safe and affirmed have better educational outcomes. LGBT students who have LGBT-related school resources report better school experiences and academic success”(GLSEN, 2014). When schools are safe spaces and teachers are part of a support system for LGBTQ youth, the outcomes are positive and it likely saves lives. The same goes for disrupting moments of power and oppression; when we stop the moments that young men act out their masculinity through domination over young women, we pause the training in oppression and power. While there’s hope, we must continue to actively build the world we want to live in: a safe space for all students to learn, grow, and explore themselves, their community, and the wider world.                                    UOTeachOUT is part of actively building that world.

Pink Prom

By: Kayla Summers  What is Pink Prom? It’s a prom, an all-inclusive prom mainly attended by LGBTQ youth. Why is there a Pink Prom? Because there are students who feel uncomfortable or scared attending the prom that is put on by their high school. The goal of Pink Prom is to allow those students who for whatever reason do not want to attend their high school’s prom, can have a prom where they feel they can express themselves, feel safe, and have the prom experience that so many high school students dream of having.

I was part of most of the process of making this a successful event. I was there from set up, all the way to clean up. As a chaperone during pinkprom2015the dance, I was able to see all the students having agreat time. Everyone seemed so happy. And the outfits were amazing! Some had prom gowns,some were casual, and some were just creative and colorful. I was very clear that the students who came weren’t hiding themselves under fake clothes, they were all being themselves. Like any prom, tears and fighting will occur amongst couples and friends; if there is no drama, it’s not a successful prom. There was even more people on the dance floor than there was at my own prom.

As much fun as this event was, the best part of the entire event occurred before, during, and after: telling people in the community what it was and why it was happening. Of course I told allof my friends and coworkers that I was going to prom. It sounds funny, “I’m going to prom again!” I’m graduating college, college graduates don’t go to prom. Naturally I explained what Pink Prom was. The day after, everyone asked me how it was. At the prom, a group of us greeted the students as they went in (with cheers, “whoo’s”, and clapping). Having this at the Hilton,there are going to be other people coming and going. Many guests asked us what was going, and we informed them, most have very positive reactions. Being able to educpromate the community was very empowering. In classes we are taught that schools need to be part of a community. In order to be part of a community, everyone needs to know what is going on, educating them is the first step.

I’m so grateful I got to be a part of this event. I loved seeing the students having a blast. I’m honored that I got to be part of the crew that put those smiling faces on. We all worked hard to make this a success, and I’d say we pulled it off. Yes, we danced, we rocked out, we bonded, and we had the best prom ever! Because of this we are now great friends and have created a community of future teachers who are ready to jump into the world and empower the future to make a change and create a better world.

Ally is a Verb

Written by Hayley Hanson
I am here
Standing next to you
Neither behind nor in frontally is a verb

For an ally is an activist
Ally is a verb

I hear the talk
Both truths and lies
I stand up and speak what I know

For an ally is an activist
Ally is a verb

I cannot fully understand
The pain you have carried and endured
But I will never shy away from my responsibilities

For an ally is an activist
Ally is a verb

Ally is not a shield
Ally is a sword
Piercing through the darkness of discrimination
To seek the light of knowledge and acceptance

For an ally is an activist
Ally is a verb


The Event is just the Start

By Laura Robertson  The Youth Summit was a wonderful madhouse of over 200 middle and high schoolers. At first I even felt overwhelmed, and I was in a position of leadership, I can only imagine how overwhelming it was for the students.
      After the initial chaos and help from school leaders the students settled down and became very comfortable within this space we had created. Students were willing to share very personal stories, and found comradery between school GSAs which is usually not possible because of how separate schools are in these districts.
Julio Salgado       Having gone to Churchill High School, the only opportunities I found to connect with other schools was through sports and International High School, but not everyone belongs to either of these groups, so collaboration becomes difficult.
        The event was very freeing, but what I want to focus on is what happens after an event such as this. I would say the Youth Summit was a high for many of the students who participated, but with highs also comes lows.
        I was lucky enough to connect with a Thurston Middle School teacher a few days after the event who gave me a bigger picture of what something like this for students who have to go back to being marginalized within their daily school routine. She explained that even as soon as the bus ride back to school the students started to get tense. They were not going to feel as free when they stepped off that bus again.  
         The students at from Thurston, however, still had hope even with the anxieties, and showed their principal all the art they had done at the Youth Summit. Being able to show your principal, someone with a lot of power, a poster that represents something very personal is empowering. They were given permission to hang it up outside of this teacher’s classroom.
          One of the poster had a drawing of two presumably men kissing and a group of students took issue with this. By the end of the next day the heads of these kissing people were literally cut off.  This, to me, seems very symbolic to how heteronormativity is all that is acceptable in schools.
          Just to see how comfortable and safe these students feel at these types of events and then to know that is the attitudes they go back to in school everyday is heartbreaking. The teacher,however, spun the event in a positive light by saying at least it sparked conversation. In many middle schools the subject of heteronormativity is not even touched on, and having a poster such as this started a conversation.
         More conversations need to be started, so that one day it will be acceptable and normal to see a picture of two boys or two girls kissing.


youthsummit3Bow and Arrow

Written by Hayley Hanson

Being an ally is to be a bow
It could be something great
But lacks the power to do great

Being an activist is to be an arrow
It could be something great
But lacks the momentum to be great

Apart they are just things, words
Together they are a weapon
Together they are action with a cause

youthsummit2I decided to write these poems about being an ally because I was really affected by C.J. Pascoe’s critique of the term “ally”. I’ve written about his a lot in some of my field journals but I can’t really get passed it. As an educator it’s really important to see myself as an ally to all of my students, no matter how they identify. I don’t want to be passive and ignore the realities many students go through. I want to be an active ally that stands by her students and reaches out into the community. This is why I chose the picture of the Pink Prom because as an ally I helped to create this beautiful event for the LGBTQ youth in the Eugene area.

I didn’t just take the homophobia class to read literature and stay in the classroom, I took this class in order to go out into the community and walk the walk of an ally.  – Hayley (2015)