Monday, April 27, 2009

GSA Monday Topic: Gay Geography For Straight People - a new game!

I spent part of my Junior year in college abroad in France. Invariably, wherever I was, when I was talking to someone new in my grammatically "original" French, with my accent that I prided myself sounded "Parisian," it would come up in the conversation, mysteriously, that I was from America. "America?" They'd ask.

"Do you know Stephan B., he lives in Toronto?"

Um... well, it was the same continent.

I always felt a bit silly, but even today this happens a lot. You meet a new person, and you try to figure out how you might be connected. Who you might know in common.

It's like the 6 degrees of separation game, where the idea is that you can connect to ANYBODY on the whole planet in 6 steps or less. Like me to President Obama. I've never met him, but my friend and amazing author Jacqueline Woodson has. There. One degree of separation.

Okay, so Gay Geography for Straight people is a game where you try to figure out how someone is connected to anyone in the Gay (GLBTQAI) community. Try to help them realize that there is someone out there who is Gay, or Lesbian, or Bisexual, or Transgender, or Queer, or Gender Non-Conforming, or Questioning, or Allied, or Intersex that THEY CARE ABOUT.

For some people, the closest they're going to come is that their mother loves watching Ellen DeGeneres' talk show, and Ellen's a lesbian.

For others, they're going to realize that they DO have someone they know personally whom they care about that's part of our "rainbow" community. A sister. A grandfather. A cousin. A friend.

I bet that EVERYONE, if they're honest about it, has SOMEONE they care about that's part of the Gay community.

If Newt Gingrich can have a lesbian sister (Candace Gingrich), and Dick Cheney can have a lesbian daughter (Mary Cheney) and a granddaughter with lesbian moms, every single person at your school (students and faculty) has SOMEONE they care about who is GLBTQAI, too.

Now clearly from those last two examples, having someone you care about be part of the Gay community doesn't necessarily mean you're going to be a supporter of Gay rights. But imagine the impact it would make if every single person in your school, or in our country, or in our world, had to stand up and say how they were connected to us:

"My brother John is gay. And I care about him."
"My second cousin Eden is gay. And I care about him."
"My little sister Suzy is gender non-conforming - a Tomboy. And I care about her."
"My friend's husband Brett is a cross-dresser. And I care about him."
"My friend Adam is questioning his orientation. And I care about him."
"My teacher Ms. Jackson is a lesbian. And I care about her."
"My grandmother Odetta is bisexual. She's awesome, and I care about her."
"My friend's father, Lee, is gay. I care about their family."

Imagine what that would be like.

The idea is to show that there really isn't such a line between "us" and "them."

Our world is really made up of "we."

Try out a game of Gay Geography in your GSA this week. And see where it takes you!


ps- I found the gay globe image here in this article on Gay life in Shanghai!


fairyhedgehog said...

My best friend is lesbian and I care about her.

Not that I see an exact dividing line between different forms of human sexuality anyway. I get the impression that it's highly complex and that straight, gay, lesbian etc. all cover a spectrum of habits, activities, thoughts, dreams and daydreams.

Hayden Thorne said...

My brother-in-law-in-law is gay (that is, he's my husband's brother-in-law via his sister's marriage), and we all love him. It means a lot since my husband's family is very Catholic and conservative, and they welcomed his boyfriend of seven years with open arms (too bad they broke up). Even the kids are pretty down with him (he and my husband are their favorite uncles to hang out with).

One of my store managers is gay, and another store manager is bi. We've had former employees who were gay and lesbian. It helps that I work in a family-owned shop in a very liberal city (Berkeley), so sexual orientation was never an issue with us. We openly discuss girlfriends/boyfriends (past and present) with them and don't spare them the usual teasing that happens between straight folks.

From my side of the family, my brother-in-law's best friend from college is gay, and he made him and his partner the godparents of his and my sister's oldest child. :) The family visits them every so often (they live in Wisconsin), and the pictures they take back with them are pretty cool.

In that sense, I've been very fortunate in being surrounded by open-minded straight people.

Karol Ruth Silverstein said...

Lee, I just love this exercise! I hope it catches on.

I have far too many GLBT friends (and a family member) to list here...and I care about them ALL!

Thanks you for doing this. I'm going to send out a link to my peeps.


Sarah Laurenson said...

Love this post. I think I'm the only one in my family, but there are a lot of family members I don't know or don't talk to anymore. Hard to say.

I had a friend once who I asked if she knew anyone who was gay. She said no. It was an interesting conversation.

Did you see the article where they say men are firmly fixed in one spot but woman are more fluid in their sexuality and can wander the apectrum? Not sure if they're trying to say it's a choice for women but not for men.