Wanted: Safer Spaces

Safe Space: it’s a program designed to help make people–especially educators and those working with teens–more aware of and better able to deal with LGBTQ issues.  Safe Space stickers are supposed to mean that a teacher or classroom is a “safe space”, that it is an LGBTQ-friendly environment.  They mark people as allies, people that members of the LGBTQ community can talk to and know are on their side.

Unfortunately, there aren’t a ton of actual safe spaces out there.  Bullying in schools is out of control.  Employees may feel that they need to hide their sexual orientation or gender identity, even if their employer has an EO (equal opportunity) employment policy.  This is unsurprising, especially when there is still no federal protection against firing or hiring discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and not all states have this protection in place.  On top of that, even though Don’t Ask Don’t Tell has been repealed, gays serving in the military are still often made to feel uncomfortable, and Capitol Hill staffers report that they often feel their sexuality makes them feel vulnerable, especially during heated political debates about things like gay marriage (this is made worse by the aforementioned lack of legal protection).

Let’s face it: America is not always friendly towards people who are different.  It is a little ironic when you remember that the original settlers of this country came here because people didn’t like THEM because THEY were different.  For some reason, people in this country would like to think that they can tell a minority that they are not the same, that they don’t deserve the same rights and protections.

And we at the Radical Idea would like to remind those people that they are WRONG.

Recently, a counseling student at Augusta State Universtiy, Jennifer Keeton, sued because her university required her to complete coursework on LGBT counselling.  She claimed that the work violated her religious beliefs.  Today, the 11th Circuit US Court of Appeals ruled that it was too darn bad: if she wants to be a counselor and she wants to study at Augusta State, the University CAN make her take this  class.

And to you, 11th Circuit US Court of Appeals, I say, Thank you.  Thank you for supporting decisions that work towards a day when the people who are supposed to advise others are more sensitive to those people’s needs.  Thank you for supporting a decision that will lead to less bigoted counselors, for setting a precedent that says if you want to do this job, you have to actually do it.  You have to actually help people even if you don’t necessarily agree with their lifestyles.  If you want to be a counselor, you may have to counsel someone who is LGBTQ, and you can’t do that by saying “It’s wrong to be gay”.

Oh, and if you honestly aren’t willing to work with LGBTQ people, don’t be a counselor.  Sorry but if you’re morally opposed to doing your job, find a new job.

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~ by Randi Saunders on December 20, 2011.

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