Drenching in smiling colours,
The prism smiles for ethereal hours,
Hope beams, faith sings,
Humanity binds us all!!
As I walked into the hall, clinging on to my passport with the stamp of ‘ Tourist Visa’, sneaking into the pages like an outsider, I was accosted with strange faces, sparkling in alacrity. Timorous, I followed didi, as she got me settled and took my leave. It was then I noticed a cheerful Rachael, still smelling of fresh roses in her 60s who asked me if it was okay for me to sit beside her. That was the beginning of the story and within a few minutes, I found myself talking to the people around me, all of us having gathered there with similar interests. Now before my readers question why am I narrating these experiences in a serious piece where I am supposed to talk about the workshop, I would like to clarify my point by establishing the very fact that the organizers created this amiable environment which aided in bringing people from various races and gender together and unite under the spectrum of humanity. It was this friendly air which made me open up and experience the workshop. Yes, I will be calling this an “ experience” for I am filled with admiration and knowledge and this, being the 1st one of its kind in my life, obviously hits the acme of praises. Before writing any further, I would like to acknowledge my didi ( Lipilekha Dutta, T.A., WSU) who informed me of this workshop and took the whole responsibility of getting me here, and of course, my dada (Dr. Atri Dutta, Faculty, WSU) who is the whole reason of me being in Wichita. Apart from them, I am extremely grateful to Danielle Johnosn of Office of Diversity and Inclusion, WSU, Liz Hamor and Emma Lavacek of GLSEN for organizing such a brilliant workshop and inspiring us with their words and works and patiently answer my questions which helped me understand the scenario better.
Yes, now back to the story … I mean the narrative. Danielle Johnson, Liz Hamor, Emma Lavacek introduced themselves. We learnt about the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, WSU and GLSEN. After this introduction, we were given flash cards, where important events regarding LGBTQ were written, two long round tables were arranged and we were asked to arrange the cards, chronologically. It started from 1600 and continued till 2000s. After the workshop, I got a chance to talk to the organizers and finally, I am weighed by a lot of knowledge. Here are the important points from the workshop which I feel are worthy of sharing:
- The events given on the cards primarily focused on events of America.
- When asked if there was any reason behind it, they clarified that since they were a small group they retained their focus on USA only. However, they acknowledged the fact that a lot of major incidents in LGBTQ history have occurred in various parts of the world as well.
- The reason they are conducting this workshop is to make people aware of the fact that LGBTQ issues are not new and have existed since the beginning of civilizations with incidents being recorded from 1600s.
- They welcomed discussion while guessing of dates which revealed the fact that many of us believe that transgender operations (which they clarified that transgenders necessarily do not need surgeries) , etc are just recent occurrences, which in reality, ARE NOT. These guessing games not only kept us engaged, but also helped us learn about a lot of issues.
- Issues like colour triangles came up and there was a long discussion on how gay men would wear upside down pink triangle pendants and lesbians would wear upside down black triangle pendants during the holocaust (of Nazi Germany).
- When asked how could they function in a conservative state like Kansas, they explicated that it was thanks to Wichita State University (WSU) that they could organize workshops on the campus. They focus on schools and pre schools and organize workshops there too. In fact, they are often thwarted by parents and teachers, who complain that the posters have sexual content ( just because it was a LGBTQ poster with an upside down rainbow). But they try to argue with reason, and convince the parents and teachers that these are not sexually explicit posters. They use logic to outdo the irrationality.
- They follow the “window and mirror approach” as propagated Emily Style. Emily Style came up with the “Curriculum as Window and Mirror” in 1996 ( read here : http://www.glsen.org/sites/default/files/LGBT%20inclus%20curriculum%202014_0.pdf ) . They feel this is the best way to make the students aware of the existence of different kinds of human beings and also they themselves become aware of their own sexualities.
- Unlike India, the publishing house of USA is quite LGBTQ friendly and the site glbtrt.ala.org has an excellent reading list of LGBTQ fiction.
From my experience, what I could fathom was they have certain liberties here in USA, with homosexuality being legal ( which is of course is a huge plus point ) which are aiding them spread the awareness. But I believe that we have a lot to learn from them, like the techniques they are applying and the points they are focusing on, in creating LGBTQ awareness. And yes, the experience was “ amazing “ .
Sites worth looking at :
- Office of Diversity and Inclusion WSU.
- SPECTRUM : LGBTQ & allies
- WITCON ( Wichita Transgender Community Network).