Inclusivity Is No Longer Optional

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Author: Maya C.

For a long time, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) inclusion and repesentation has not been a predominant topic of discussion in many educational spaces. It has been easy for the majority of the population to overlook the important role this community has played in our history and will play in our future.  LGBTQ inclusivity has been viewed as “optional” for American schools, but we have now reached an age in our society when it should not be optional.  As time goes by and our society becomes increasingly progressive, more and more people are starting to come out and share their identity with the world, the younger generations especially.  This isn’t because people keep “making up” new identities, it’s because more people feel able to come out safely.  The increase of positive LGBTQ representation in media, books and real life is one of the main reasons for this, but we still have a long way to go.   

Our schools need to grow and change along with the new generations.  LGBTQ resources, groups and curriculum inclusion need to be normalized and become a standard for schools everywhere.  Everyone, no matter who they are, wants to feel understood by others.  For LGBTQ students and school faculty, this kind of inclusion can make a world of difference. 

There are real dangers to not being inclusive of the LGBTQ community in schools.   Different online sources including an article published by the New York Times, report that nine out of 10 LGBTQ students give an account of being bullied or harassed.  The root cause of this kind of bullying comes from ignorance. According to Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), children who attend schools where an active effort is made to be supportive of the LGBTQ community are less likely to experience bullying.  William’s Institute, a research facility at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), states that about 3.2 million youth in America identify as LGBTQ.  This is too large a number to be ignored.  When schools make sure to include LGBTQ materials and clubs and other affirming activities, this helps with normalizing the presence of LGBTQ individuals in all spaces.  When schools take positive actions like this, it leads to more compassion and understanding between classmates, teachers and the rest of the world.  

Cuyahoga Community College is actively making an effort to become more welcoming and inclusive of everyone, including the LGBTQ community.  They have a campus-wide project going on that was started in 2004 called “Safe Zone”.  This program offers a two hour training several times per month at different campuses to students and college faculty.  During this training, Tri-C works to educate people about how to discuss LGBTQ topics and build awareness.  At the end of their training, you can even become a certified Safe Zone Ally.  This is someone who agrees to a set of rules basically saying that they will do their best to be inclusive, aware, and a safe person to talk to.   

Another program Tri-C offers is the Lambda Gender-Sexuality Alliance or Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA).  This program encourages students to support and learn from each other in a comfortable setting.  The college also does a good job hosting different LGBTQ talks and conversations. Their latest speaker will be Robyn Ochs on March 31 discussing bisexuality.  Tri-C also has something called the Sexual Orientation and Gender Equality (SOGE) Council.  They are an employee resource group, and their mission is to educate the college on LGBTQ related inclusivity and safe spaces.  While Tri-C still has some work to do for LGBTQ inclusivity in terms of their curriculum, overall they are doing a much better job than other schools in America.  All of these affirming actions help the college to have a healthier and more supportive environment than schools without any LGBTQ-friendly programs.  Tri-C makes a great effort to spread awareness and education about the LGBTQ community, and it’s making a difference.   

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