Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Role Models and other Glimpses of Self

A Message from Betty Hill, Executive Director of the Persad Center, the nation’s second oldest licensed counseling center specifically created to serve Pittsburgh's gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) community:

Barbara Grier, lesbian-themed novelist and publisher, died this week. She and 3 other women founded Naiad Press in 1973 “to publish books about lesbians who love lesbians and where the girl is not just going through a phase.”

She was overwhelmed by the volume of orders for her books. While she was surprised at the demand, I am not.

Think about the thrill of a young lesbian who finds a story that reflects how she thinks and feels and loves in the world in the midst of a lifetime of stories and books where she is out of place and cannot relate.

It speaks to me about the need for evidence and reflection that is hungered for by a population of people who are made invisible in their world.

Heterosexism is institutionalized isolation.

In heterosexism, it isn’t just that GLBTQ people are a minority and so you don’t run into them as much as heterosexual people; there is deliberateness about omitting any signs of the minority population’s existence.

It sends the message that there isn’t just fewer of you, “we wish there weren’t any of you.”

GLBTQ people are seeking signs of their existence and of their realities.

You figure out who you are in the world by seeing signs of yourself in others and in aspiring to bring into life what sparks as a glimmer of you in people you admire. Barbara Grier brought stories of lives that were glimmers of hope to the reality and existence of women who love women.

We need visible signs and safe spaces to sort out our way of relating in the world.

This can happen in small and everyday ways where we acknowledge and name the relationship between a family member and his partner, or where we include the possibility that some kids may want bring a same-sex partner to the school dance, or while we watch “Dancing with the Stars” that we talk about the challenges of being transgender, and we make information available to young people about sexual or gender orientation.

Persad works with organizations to help them eliminate institutional heterosexism and homophobia. We can conduct on-site assessments of environments, policies, practices and staff /worker attitudes and understanding, as well as to assist in achieving goals to improve diversity and inclusion.

No comments: